Sunday, December 30, 2012

Sports Year in Review: Conference realignment and NMSU timeline

It was a busy year in Las Cruces sports. There were plenty of champions, success stories, some failures and everything in between.

The biggest ongoing story, though? Clearly conference realignment and how it affected the Aggies, who were adversely hit throughout the entire process.

In short: The Aggies entered the 2012 year hopeful a new Western Athletic Conference could be an up-and-coming league for the years to come. With the 2013 campaign on the horizon, the WAC is now a defunct football conference (NMSU will play an independent football schedule next year) and it's non-football sports affiliations are a shell of their former selves.

Here's a timeline of events that took place throughout the past year as it pertains to the realignment rat race, and how it impacted NMSU. Simply because a 25-inch story on the topic wouldn't have done justice:

Feb. 15: With speculation swirling of a possible merger of the Mountain West Conference and Conference USA, New Mexico State Athletics Director McKinley Boston says the Aggies could be a part of such an agreement, adding if other schools are taken from the Western Athletic Conference, NMSU has a plan to counteract.

Feb. 23: WAC Commissioner Karl Benson leaves for the Sun Belt Conference.

March 9: WAC names Jeff Hurd as Interim Commissioner.

April 30: Reports surface that WAC schools Utah State and San Jose State will leave for the Mountain West; Louisiana Tech will head to Conference USA; and Texas-San Antonio will join Conference USA. Such moves (which did in fact happen) would in turn cripple the Western Athletic Conference as a football entity.

May 2: Another WAC school, Texas State, leaves for the Sun Belt Conference. The move leaves New Mexico State and Idaho as the only football-playing entities in the Western Athletic Conference.

May 7: Sun Belt Commissioner Karl Benson says further Sun Belt expansion, and in turn New Mexico State's inclusion, "hasn't even been discusses."

May 8: NMSU President Barbara Couture (who was also Chair of the WAC) says school's primary goal is to a member of the Mountain West, adding the school never had a face-to-face presentation with the MWC.

May 23: Sun Belt welcomes in Texas-Arlington, a non-football school from the Western Athletic Conference. Meanwhile, Benson said the announcement "allows Idaho and New Mexico State to know what direction the Sun Belt is headed. Personally, I wish the best for the University of Idaho and New Mexico State."

June 13: University of New Mexico Athletics Director Paul Krebs says while Lobos would support an Aggies move into the Mountain West, "there's not a lot of support from the other members of the league to have New Mexico State come in."

July 25: Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson tells reporters that he informed New Mexico State "that they will not be members of the Mountain West. Go on with Plan B, whatever Plan B may be."

Aug. 16: The University of Idaho seeks permission to possibly seek membership in the Big Sky Conference. As of today, Idaho is still a WAC member, although could be move to the Big Sky in the future.

Aug. 20: Long a foregone conclusion, NMSU Athletics Director McKinley Boston declares Aggies football independence for the 2013 season.

Sept. 12: NMSU administration sends letter to fans updating its conference standing. In summation, NMSU addressed its media market, its plan going forward, its commitment to Division I football, its student-athletes academic accomplishments and the need for continued support from Las Cruces.

Oct. 1: Barbara Couture ousted as President of New Mexico State University.

Oct. 9: WAC adds California State University Bakersfield and Utah Valley to non-football membership.

Nov. 26: WAC non-football member Denver leaves for Horizon League.

Nov. 27: In turn, the conference adds Grand Canyon University as non-football member. Grand Canyon is a Division II institution in Phoenix, Ariz.

Nov. 29: With league also in flux, Sun Belt Commissioner Karl Benson revisits possible league expansion once again: "We haven't had that conversation yet," he said. "One of our primary goals has been to maintain a tighter geography. But this is a new set of circumstances."

Nov. 1: A once-proud football league ends with whimper, as New Mexico State and Texas State play in the last WAC football game. Texas State won big, 66-28, over the visiting Aggies.

Dec. 5: The WAC continues to add faceless programs, as Chicago State becomes the next non-football member.

Dec. 12: One final addition to the WAC: Northern Colorado as a baseball affiliate.

For more Year in Review coverage from throughout Las Cruces, click here

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