Thursday, May 31, 2012

3 keys for NMSU in this weekend’s regional

(Aggie pitcher Michael Ormseth/Photo by Niki Rhynes)

Field the ball cleanly: A key stat going into today’s NCAA regional — when the Aggies make zero errors they’re 18-3 on the season; one error, 7-4; two or more errors, and their record drops to 10-15. These simple statistics were on display this past weekend in the Western Athletic Conference Tournament, when, in the second inning of their opening game against Fresno State, NMSU committed three errors and surrendered 10 runs in the process. The Aggies need to get back to playing clean, fundamental baseball if they want to have a chance in this weekend’s competition.

In their element: The Aggies hold somewhat of an advantage in today’s game against Louisville, when considering NMSU is used to playing in the southwest. The Aggies come in surrendering 5.50 runs per game, not a bad number when playing in Las Cruces, and in hitter’s haven Presley Askew Field, as the Aggies also launched 47 home runs on the season. As for the Cardinals, while playing in the Big East, they have a 3.36 ERA, and 31 homers, which ranked second in their league. The point is that power numbers and run production can hit an uptick when playing in the desert, a game the Aggies should be used to.

A new leaf: The Aggies essentially had two seasons — strong at the outset, before tailing off badly down the stretch. But the team seemed to be in good spirits since qualifying for postseason play as an at-large bid, and perhaps will play loose and with a healthy respect for the opposition, now that they have nothing to lose.

A look into the Aggies 2012 NCAA Regional

Can a berth into the NCAA Tournament breath life into the New Mexico State Aggies baseball season? At this point, why not?

NMSU will be seeded No. 2 in the Tucson regional this weekend, set to face No. 3-seed Louisville tonight at 5 p.m. On the other side of the regional bracket, No. 1-seeded Arizona will take on No. 4 Missouri at 9 p.m. tonight.

It’s not an easy regional on paper – all four teams won conference championships, with Arizona, NMSU and Louisville capturing there’s in regular-season fashion, while Missouri took home the Big 12 tournament title.

All games in the double-elimination Tucson regional will be televised on ESPNU, while Aggie games can be heard locally on the radio at KSNM-AM 570.

For now, a look at the matchups, and how each team stacks up heading into postseason play.

No. 2 NMSU vs. No. 3 Louisville, 5 p.m.
NMSU: By now we know the deal with the Aggies, a team that started out the season extremely well and ended it extremely cold. NMSU does seem to have perked up after getting an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament by playing a quality early-season schedule, and winning the WAC regular-season championship to close out the year. There could be runs scored in Friday’s game between the Aggies and Cardinals, the top two teams in the regional in home runs. While NMSU launched 47 long balls on the season, Louisville hit 31, and the Cardinals will now get their crack at hitting in the Desert air.

Louisville: This is a solid-looking team, one that has good numbers both pitching and offensively. The Cardinals — who won the Big East regular-season title with a 39-19 overall record and 18-9 mark in conference — have 93 stolen bases on the year and could test Aggie catcher Zac Fisher’s ability to gun down runners. Louisville also comes into the game with a 3.36 ERA, although this will be their first series of the year playing in the desert, and at the launching pad known as Hi Corbett Field.

No. 1 Arizona vs. No. 4 Missouri, 9 p.m.
Arizona: The Wildcats finished in a tie for the Pac 12 regular-season championship with UCLA, finishing the year with a 38-17 overall record, and a 20-10 mark in conference play. They’re a top-10 program in the nation and it shows — the Wildcats have athletes that can run, and cover the field defensively. They will play a hot team in Missouri, and also lost to New Mexico State this year — twice actually — in separate games played in Tucson.

Missouri: A hot team, Missouri finished in sixth place in the Big 12 standings — a fine league — although managed to win the conference tournament with wins over Texas, Texas A&M, Kansas and Oklahoma. They also have experience — head coach Tim Jamieson is in is 18th season with the school and just picked up career win No. 600. This is the eighth NCAA regional appearance for the Tigers in the last 10 years, and 22nd NCAA Tournament appearance in program history.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Aggies receive NCAA Tournament berth

(The Aggie baseball team celebrates alongside head coach Rocky Ward, right, during an NCAA Tournament selection show watch party at The Game Sports Bar and Grill/Photo by Niki Rhynes)

First off, congratulations to the New Mexico State baseball team for receiving an at-large berth into the NCAA Tournament — it's always a good accomplishment for an NMSU sports program to get into such a postseason tournament.

It also goes to show what a challenging out-of-conference schedule can do for a team.

The Aggies obviously didn't get into the NCAA Tourney because of their last month of the reason, rather because of their early-season wins over quality programs, which established an unshakable RPI and solidified their overall body of work.

They took three of four from Wake Forest to begin the year; took three of four from the University of New Mexico during the year; played Rice tough, as well as Baylor; won games against Minnesota and Texas Tech; and swept Sacred Heart and split with Kent State — two teams that also made the NCAA Tournament field.

Yes, NMSU tailed off badly late in the season — although their RPI didn't — which made them a bubble team — or were they?

I believe they were, although they'll be the No. 2 seed in their Regional in Tucson — Arizona is No. 1, Louisville is No. 3 and Missouri is No. 4.

This will not be an easy road for NMSU.

Arizona and Louisville both won their regular-season conference championships, while Missouri won their conference-tournament championship.

In other words, these are good teams, and the Aggies will have to shake their late-season slide.

An odd year: That it was in the world of Aggie sports.

To think NMSU went to NCAA Tournaments in men's basketball and baseball, and are still in limbo in terms of their future conference?

And it's not just that. Football was improved this year too — really, the only two sports that were very down were women's basketball and softball.

We've said it before, conferences are looking for markets, football success and overall financial investments in the athletics department. You can't tell me that NMSU's football history isn't playing a factor, and yes, the Aggies just haven't developed and produced enough resources — in other words, money — to be attractive at this point. I think if both of those areas were solidified, in many respects the market would take care of itself.

I'll also say this though — overall the Aggies have a good group of coaches. In short, they get more with less, as seen this year.

A link: Former Aggie forward Wendell McKines' workout with the Golden State Warriors went “Wenderful” — click here for more.

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Friday, May 25, 2012

Aggies being eliminated wasn't a surprise; the way they, however, was in fact one

No, I was not surprised that New Mexico State was eliminated from the 2012 WAC Baseball Tournament.

Lets be honest here — this team hasn't played well the past month of the season, and has a history of faltering in postseason play.

Was I surprised they lost their only two games they appeared in? And was I surprised in the fashion they lost — a 15-8 defeat on Thursday to Louisiana Tech and a 15-12 loss on Friday to Nevada where they had to pull together six runs in the ninth inning? Absolutely, I was surprised by those results.

I expected this team to play much better, not play rotten.

If they had lost a 3-2 battle, or a 5-3 game in extra innings, that would have been one thing.

But NMSU trailed virtually throughout their two games — they fell behind 10-0 to Fresno State by giving up 10 runs in the second inning. And while they took a 4-2 lead in the third inning against Louisiana Tech on a two-run home run from Tanner Rust, they gave up three runs in the bottom half of the inning to fall behind again.

In other words, NMSU played with scoreboard pressure throughout and didn't play particularly well from a pitching and defensive standpoint, giving up 30 runs and six errors combined in their two games of the tournament.

Now, their NCAA Tournament berth appears to be in jeopardy, and they'll likely need help at this point to get in.

Going into this week's tournament, a couple wins, maybe an advancement into the championship game, and an at-large bid would have been likely.

Yes, they have a good overall body of work — a 35-21 record, and some very quality wins over some very quality opponents, had them looking like a very good baseball team earlier this season.

But with their past month — where they lost nine of 10 games — and their performance in their two WAC Tournament games, NMSU is now on the bubble.

We'll find out on Monday where they'll land — in or out of the NCAA postseason — but there are no guarantees at this point.

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Around the web: News and stories surrounding NMSU and college sports

Some links to news stories and notes around the web that could, or could not, affect NMSU.

The Pre-Snap Read college football guide previews the upcoming Aggie season. Always a good job done by Paul Myerberg.

Head coach DeWayne Walker speaks to the Sporting News about conference realignment and NMSU, and his views on the upcoming football season. This coming after the publication interviewed University of Idaho head coach Robb Akey, who’s school finds itself in a similar predicament.

Saturday Blitz also addresses the issues facing NMSU and Idaho, while Miami says it remains committed to the ACC.

That, and Louisiana-Lafayette AD defends his school's case, a link provided by our good friends at

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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Sun Belt announcement says no to NMSU

It wasn't entirely unexpected that the Aggies would be shunned by the Sun Belt Conference.

As stated on the Cruces Sports Blog over the past handful of months, the Sun Belt is happy with its geographic footprint, and the Aggies need the conference itself more than the conference itself needs the Aggies.

Despite it being a somewhat predictable scenario, it doesn't mean it isn't bad news for NMSU. Their options are limited regardless of what some might say, and this is one of a few to scratch off the list.

NMSU used to be a part of the Sun Belt and commissioner Karl Benson used to hold the same position in the WAC. The Aggies actually had some connections to this pipeline, but it didn't matter.

So what are the Aggies options going forward?

The school has made no secret that it would like a Mountain West invitation. The Mountain West will exhaust some options before inviting NMSU, however — the Aggies won't be the league's first choice if it does in fact want to move to a 12-team football membership. Far from it, actually.

I do think the likelihood of NMSU becoming an independent football program increases by each move that's made here. This is not a long-term answer — recruiting and scheduling could well be a nightmare. And who would want to coach an independent NMSU football program? It would be a tough sell. Regardless, NMSU might not have a choice — I do not see the Aggies dropping to FCS, not immediately anyway.

A third option could be the WAC essentially becoming a glorified FCS league — grabbing schools looking to make the jump to the FBS level such as Montana, Montana State, Eastern Washington, Cal Poly, Appalachian State and Georgia Southern to name a few. These schools could feel pressure to make the jump and, if this were the case, the WAC wouldn't be a bad starting point, with a relatively level playing field and a chance to get your feet on the ground on the FBS level.

Either way, NMSU continues to run out of options. Don't know any other way to put it — it's just is a bad situation in Aggie land.

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Grading the Aggies chances as they open 2012 WAC Baseball Tournament competition

What are New Mexico State baseball's chances of winning the 2012 Western Athletic Conference Tournament?

As good as any other team, and the fact that they're seeded No. 1 overall makes them even better.

They get to role ace pitcher Ryan Beck up an extra day, and is there any team in the field you would give an advantage to over the Aggies? The answer is no.

As stated all year, NMSU's pitching has been much better in 2012, and their talent level in general is high.

Holding the No. 1 seed in the tournament is a bit eye opening, when considering the Aggies haven't played great baseball over the final month of the season.

But they did go into the tournament on an up-tick — after losing nine of 10 games, they took three straight from San Jose State.

Not that there aren't other contenders in the field.

No. 4 seed Hawaii swept the Aggies earlier in the year — granted, that series was in Honolulu — but looks a bit scary.

Louisiana Tech, seeded No. 6, played the Aggies tough in Las Cruces earlier this year — NMSU won consecutive games on walk-off hits — and didn't look bad.

The Aggies also lost two of three to Fresno State two weeks ago, although didn't play their best ball in that particular series.

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Friday, May 18, 2012

One option for Aggies: A winning season

This past spring, a slogan for New Mexico State football was, “It’s Time.”

Perhaps more fitting entering the 2012 season would be, “It’s (Do or Die) Time.”

For the team, the program, and Division I football in Las Cruces.

It’s about investing money into the program, and going for a winning season instead of simply hoping to fall backwards into one.

It’s about fans coming out and supporting the team, and showing that, yes, Division I football can happen in Las Cruces.

It’s about finishing the season with a winning record, going to the New Mexico Bowl, and beating a Mountain West team.

Even if all these things happen, could it still be too little, too late for NMSU? Absolutely.

These above moves should have been made years ago — and it seemed like they were when the Aggies first entered the Western Athletic Conference with then-president Mike Martin at the controls.

But recent years have seen a downturn — not a good time for such things to take place, why with conference rivals Utah State, San Jose State and Louisiana Tech planning an escape route, while the Aggies were busy trying to strengthen the WAC.

The fact that the football program is in this position is, well, depressing.

But the reality is that realignment isn’t done yet either.

More pieces are going to shift, and perhaps a conference will actually figure it needs the Aggies to fill out its membership.

It’s like playing basketball in the park with 10 dudes, and eight have been selected to a team. Two are left to fill out the roster, and, even if they aren’t any good you need them to play five on five. The Aggies just might be that guy.

NMSU has aspirations of being in the Mountain West, and maybe Sun Belt Commissioner Karl Benson will do them a brother-in-law favor and extend his league’s footprint to Las Cruces.

But neither seem to be an ideal fit at the moment — while the Mountain West would place the Aggies well regionally, and would seem like the best long-term home, could NMSU compete financially with such programs? And the Sun Belt simply isn’t a great geographic fit for the school or its current recruiting base.

Never mind that neither league seems very eager to add the Aggies at this point anyway.

Having an independent football program? What coach in his right mind would try to lead the Aggies to the promised land under such difficult circumstances?

One other option, however, is simply having a winning football season in 2012, then winning a bowl game for the first time since 1960. You don’t think that eyesore isn’t working against the Aggies in the present?

At the very least, it would provide a little recognition for the school, and give the decision-makers something to consider.

Every year is important, but this one would seem to elevate to a higher level.

The reality is, it could be one of the Aggies final hopes at survival.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Can slumping Aggies heat back up again?

There's no need to sugarcoat it — the Aggie baseball team isn't playing well.

Any time a team loses nine of 10 games — and the Aggies have done that going into Wednesday night's game against Cal-State Bakersfield — it doesn't look good.

Yes, their hopes at an NCAA Tournament at-large berth look dim.

Could the Aggies have a chance if they finish tied atop the regular-season standings going into WAC Tournament play next week? Perhaps. But, more realistically, the Aggies are going to have the win the WAC Tournament to get into postseason play. Simply put, you just can't lose nine of 10 down the stretch — including two of three at home to last-place Fresno State — and expect to hold that standing.

Can the Aggies win the WAC Tournament? It's not out of the question.

For one, their bats have been slumping ever since playing No. 1-ranked Baylor in late April, although broke out in their 12-10 extra-inning loss at UNM on Tuesday.

And that will be the key with NMSU — yes, their pitching has been better and their fielding hasn't been a strength — although this team's success is still largely predicated on their ability to hit, particularly with runners in scoring position. They do not use the running game to their advantage and they do not play small-ball — they have to swing the bats well to generate their big offensive numbers.

NMSU has slumped in past years down the stretch of the season although there is one difference — this year's team is not a bad one. They proved that earlier in the season when they were ranked in the Top-25. I do think it will be important that they break out this weekend at San Jose State, and going into the WAC tourney next week in Mesa, Ariz.

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Friday, May 11, 2012

Can Martin help Aggies cause in MWC?

Can Mike Martin — the former New Mexico State University president who is the lone finalist for the chancellor position at Colorado State — be a voice in terms of helping New Mexico State University into the Mountain West Conference? Of course he can be.

We've said it before, NMSU doesn't have a ton of friends to lend a helping hand in this respect, and needs a power player — whether it be Sun Belt Commissioner Karl Benson, a University of New Mexico, or a Martin — to help open a door in terms of getting them into a football-playing conference.

I wouldn't count too much on UNM being of assistance. And, yes, Martin is only one voice. But the former NMSU president also has a soft spot for the Aggies. It certainly can't hurt.

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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Q&A with NMSU President Barbara Couture

A sit down question-and-answer session with New Mexico State University President Barbara Couture on NMSU athletics, and Aggie football.

Sun-News: Do you think New Mexico State University should continue to compete on the Division I-A level?

Barbara Couture: Absolutely ... Division I says a lot about the standing of a school, in terms of its athletic competition as well as in other areas of competition. Whether or not those other areas of competition are directly related to the athletics program. Division I also has a standing when it comes to state funding, so it's an extremely important parity issue, I think, for a school within the state to have that Division I standing. Those are statistical facts that are borne out when you take a look at how Division I schools fare historically with regard to state support.

SN: Is dropping the football program an option?
BC: This is certainly not something we are looking at at this time.

SN: Is going to the FCS level an option?
BC: We are right now committed to assuring a good home for New Mexico State University as a Division I, FBS player.

SN: Is going independent an option?
BC: We're looking at all options, and as some get open to us, we'll explore those, as some get eliminated from us, we'll (eliminate) those. As I said, the most obvious option for us right now, and it should be, quite frankly, where we are in the region, is the Mountain West Conference.

SN: Do you know to what level the University of New Mexico supported New Mexico State University being in the same league?
BC: I've had some very good and friendly conversations with the University of New Mexico. All of the conferences I think are still in quite a bit of flux in terms of realignment. My position right now, as both of president of NMSU and I'm also president of the WAC, I've been looking both at the future of the WAC and also the future of New Mexico State University. We have two directions we have to look at as a university, one, our future in the WAC; and two, if that doesn't appear to be the best future for us, a future elsewhere. And, certainly, the Mountain West Conference is one that we would need to take a look at. I have no reason to believe the University of New Mexico wouldn't be supportive of us. I certainly have received good support from President Schmidly when I talk to him. I think it makes all kinds of sense for New Mexico State University and UNM to be in the same conference and right now, the conference that has more football-playing schools in it is the Mountain West.

SN: Have you had any conversations with UTEP's president and/or athletics director within the past month concerning conference realignment?
BC: I have talked, not with the athletics director - presidents, not that we don't talk to athletics directors, but when we do talk about issues like this, go president to president. And I have had that conversation with (UTEP President) Diana Natalicio at Conference USA. Of course, given the situation the WAC is in presently, certainly New Mexico State University is exploring all of its options and I have talked with her. She has offered her support, she understands our situation and I probably will be talking with her again.

SN: There's a wide-ranging perception that those schools have blocked NMSU's inclusion into their conferences. You haven't gotten that impression?
BC: I've learned one thing as a university administrator is that perceptions often have long-standing historical precedence. I think there has been long-standing historical precedence where those kinds of....blockages, that was your word, may have been in fact conversations of the past. I'm not going to say all three of these schools are necessarily in an extreme partnership now, but think we do try to be supportive of one another.

SN: Did you ever have or request a face-to-face presentation with the Mountain West Conference?
BC: Not to date.

SN: Why not?
BC: We're a member of the Western Athletic Conference right now and we still are a member of the Western Athletic Conference. We still are working hard to ensure that we would have a good, strong presence in that conference and to strengthen that conference, that's what the remaining presidents of the Western Athletic Conference are doing. That being said, New Mexico State has made some explorations with other conferences and we know there's still quite a bit of change in the wings. We have not yet made presentations. It requires mutual agreement to have such a presentation.

SN: Were you aware that Texas State made a face-to-face presentation with the Sun Belt (Conference) and did New Mexico State make or request a face-to-face presentation with the Sun Belt?
BC: We have made overtures to the Sun Belt. The Sun Belt, I think, has not completed its program of the shape of its particular conference. We certainly would welcome an opportunity to talk with the Sun Belt as we would with the Mountain West, or with Conference USA, while we are still working hard to strengthen the position of the WAC. We are leaving all of those positions open at this point.

SN: Prior to conference realignment what were the plans and timeline for facilities upgrades in athletics and have those plans been altered or accelerated?
BC: We had, of course, quite an extensive renovation of the (football) stadium not too long ago. And we're happy with that, and of course we've had improvements to our soccer field. We have a list of other minor improvements that we're going to be taking care of this summer. We do have some long-range plans for additional improvements to our (football) stadium. I've had the opportunity to visit other (football) stadiums in the WAC. I think we have a....very comparable stadium to other stadiums in the WAC. I actually read one rating of stadiums recently, it was I think on a blog post recently rated our stadium as being more attractive in many ways than either UNM's or the Sun Bowl's. We have certainly adequate capacity here and we have, I think, a very good sports venue for any of the competitive FBS schools.

SN: We've heard this before - athletics is the front porch of a university. How do you think your front porch looks at the moment?
BC: I think the Aggie athletic teams can be extremely proud of the last couple of years of progress at New Mexico State University. We had more Academic (All-)Americans than any other team in the WAC last fall. I think we'll come in second this spring for the number of Academic All-Americans. We've won two (WAC men's) basketball championships in three years. Our men's baseball team looks to be nationally ranked, our women's basketball team is getting stronger. Golf has always been a very strong, competitive sport for us. Of course, women's volleyball stands up to teams that are the best in the country. I think it's an extremely strong mid-major program that does very, very well on a very modest budget.

SN: If the football team did not find a home, would you consider making a change at the top of the athletics department?
BC: I think that the situation that we have here at New Mexico State University in regard to conference realignment is not of our making. It's not of the making of the leadership of our athletics department. Right now, the situation that (is) creating conference realignment now is really not being driven by the strength of athletic programs .... at all, but rather by the strength of television markets and the ability to attract external revenue. When you look pound-for-pound at the actual achievements of New Mexico State University'a athletic programs, on every indicator, those programs have been getting stronger and better. Add to that that we have....the integrity of the programs and the behavior of our students, their academic progress, a very strong and a very clean program thanks to the good work of our coaches and our athletic director, I think we have a lot to be proud about in terms of the leadership of the athletic program. As I said, the conference realignment issues really are due to external issues that those leaders can't really control, such as our television market, and frankly the actual location of the school in an area that makes our travel a challenge.

SN: Have you or are you going to ask Gov. Susana Martinez for help in this project?
BC: I think it's very important that the Governor be aware of the situation, and certainly we will be sure that she is.

SN: Is she aware of it?
BC: We're certainly assuring that she will be.

SN: Senator (Tom) Udall, Senator (Steve) Pearce, Senator (Jeff) Bingaman, could they be of assistance to you?
BC: I think the way that our congressional leaders at the national level might be involved in this is probably not necessarily going to help us at the regional level with our current issue of needing to be placed within a specific region. Certainly, the more of our legislative leaders that understand that this could be an important issue for New Mexico State University, I think that always can be helpful in terms of support.

SN: What was the plan when conference realignment started really rolling a couple of years ago? How did we get to this point and did you ever anticipate this being a possibility, where NMSU stands today?
BC: I think two years ago, as a member of the WAC, the WAC was also working on its own efforts at realignment. You'll recall the WAC added some non-football-playing schools to strengthen our basketball and other olympic-sport alignments. And we were also looking at the potential of adding some more FBS schools. A number of external factors occurred that made things change dramatically in other directions .... Sort of a domino effect, as a couple of teams leave and go elsewhere, our prospects have changed as well. And of course we now had a commissioner in the WAC (Karl Benson) who has gone to the Sun Belt, so that's changed the dynamic dramatically too. Did we know that the landscape was changing? Yes we did. Had we been thinking about multiple ways to address that? Yes we have. Among them are adding additional FBS schools, even potentially adding invitations to FCS schools that may want FBS membership, which over the next 10 years may be limited for FCS schools given the new conference alignments. And looking even, to the potential of the WAC being an all-olympic sports team (league) with the remaining football members having alliance memberships perhaps in other conferences. So we've been looking at all these factors over the last couple of years.

SN: What are you and your administration doing to make NMSU more attractive for these conferences that are seeking members?
BC: In the case of New Mexico State, I think the overall strength of our athletic programs and the strength of the university, in themselves are attractive to other conferences. The difficulty we have is in our travel relationships. We will consider some ways that we might be able to make those travel relationships more attractive to others. With regard to the facilities, at least as they currently stand .... it has not been brought to our attention that the facilities that we offer here at New Mexico State University are a major drawback to this institution. We would like to see some improvements. Our football stadium is, like I said, a very attractice stadium, but there are some improvements that certainly can be made to that and we're thinking about that in our overall capital planning.

SN: Is there anything being done to assure that the University of Seattle and the University of Denver are retained in the WAC?
BC: I was on a phone call with all of the remaining WAC presidents just a week ago and my understanding is .... those two schools are committed to the WAC.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Karl Benson: NMSU invite “has not even been discussed”

This morning, Sun Belt Commissioner Karl Benson said that, at this point, an invitation to New Mexico State University “has not even been discussed.”

Click here for the story.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Aggies to the Sun Belt Conference?

According to this website, it's a part of the rumor mill.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

For Aggies, options seem limited

The New Mexico State Aggies find themselves between a rock and a hard place in conference realignment.

If they want to remain an FBS member, I only see a couple.

• The Sun Belt Conference, although after listening to Karl Benson's press conference the other day, it's safe to say, at this point, the Aggies need the Sun Belt more than the Sun Belt needs the Aggies.

• Going independent, something NMSU did a long time ago. Don't think this would work now, and most certainly not long term.

(Really, either of the two options above would seem like short-term ones — perhaps two to three years)

• Perhaps a door will open in the Mountain West. But the Aggies don't have a lot of allies in that league — can't imagine the University of New Mexico or Nevada going to bat for NMSU. Maybe not even Fresno State.

The Aggies need a power player — whether it be a UNM or a Benson for instance — to help open a door for them. They need some political pull, although the issue is that it's nobody else's job to make sure NMSU survives this. It's the Aggies job to pick up their level of play and make themselves more attractive to other conferences.

Really, how did it come to this?

I realize Las Cruces isn't a burgeoning TV market, but is Ruston, La.? Does Logan, Utah and Utah State offer that much more that Las Cruces. I could make the argument that these two locations and schools face similar dilemmas to that of NMSU.

The truth is that a school's brand is very important in all this, and NMSU has clearly not made itself marketable enough. Their national perception — whether it's true or false — is not where it needs to be. Everyone saw this train barreling down the tracks, yet nothing appeared to be done — or at least not enough was done — to stop it, and now it's at the edge of a cliff. What if these options don't work out? It's a scary time.

Obviously if the Aggies were a top-20 team in football and had good attendance figures, they'd be in the Mountain West by now. But that obviously isn't the case — and with that being said, you still have to make yourself marketable and sell yourself. You have to be aggressive in this whole process and believe in what you're selling. I know NMSU's plight isn't an easy one, but it's also seemed reactive, not proactive.

With that being said, I do not see the Aggies dropping to the FCS, at least not when the dust settles on this most recent round. I just don't think Athletics Director McKinley Boston is going to allow it to happen.

Think worst case scenario is that they'll wind up as an independent, or that something will open up in the Sun Belt.

Again, the Aggies could really use a winning year and a bowl appearance in football. A couple winning seasons in a row would be ideal, and would make them instantly more attractive.

Again, either of the above options — Sun Belt or independent — would seem like short-term BandAids, but not long-term answers.

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