Saturday, June 30, 2012

2012 high school football schedules: a breakdown from a local perspective

With the 2012 high school football season right around the corner — opening night of the season will be Aug. 30 — we take a look at our local District 3-5A teams, along with Class 4A Centennial High School in the Hawks’ inaugural season, and see how they stack up with the competition.

Of course, Mayfield and Las Cruces High could very well be atop league play once again, and Oñate will need a bounce-back year in head coach Caleb Hull’s second season.

Centennial will be on the ground floor of their building project.
Here’s a look at who and how the local pigskin programs will play in the upcoming campaign, as we unveil the 2012 high school football schedules.

Aug. 30 @ El Dorado (El Paso) 7 p.m.
Sept. 6 @ Franklin (El Paso) 7 p.m.
Sept. 14 Carlsbad 7 p.m.
Sept. 21 Manzano 7 p.m.
Sept. 29 @ Eldorado 1 p.m.
Oct. 6 Volcano Vista 1 p.m.
Oct. 12 @ Gadsden* 7 p.m.
Oct. 19 BYE
Oct. 26 Oñate * 7 p.m.
Nov. 2 @ Alamogordo* 7 p.m.
Nov. 9 Las Cruces* 7 p.m.
* District 3-5A game

Schedule analysis: It’s a fairly typical Mayfield schedule, at least at the outset. The Trojans will open with two tough opponents right out of the chute in road affairs at El Dorado and then Franklin. Things could lighten up as the pre-district schedule winds down, however — Manzano could very well have a drop off with the departure head coach Aaron Ocampo, and a home tilt with Volcano Vista shouldn’t provide much trouble for the Trojans. Once again, a good record seems well within reach.

Las Cruces High
Aug. 31 Chapin 7 p.m.
Sept. 7 Eldorado 7 p.m.
Sept. 15 @ Cibola 1 p.m.
Sept. 21 @ Rio Rancho 7 p.m.
Sept. 28 La Cueva 7 p.m.
Oct. 5 @ Artesia 7 p.m.
Oct. 12 @ Oñate* 7 p.m.
Oct. 18 Alamogordo* 7 p.m.
Oct. 19 BYE
Nov. 2 Gadsden* 7 p.m.
Nov. 9 @ Mayfield* 7 p.m.
* District 3-5A game

Schedule analysis: This tough docket doesn’t leave a whole lot on the table. Chapin and Eldorado to kick things off and then a road game at Rio Rancho promises to be a battle in a playoff rematch from 2011. La Cueva at home and then a road contest at Class 4A power Artesia won’t be easy either. Still, it’s better than the alternative — last year LCHS rolled through an easy pre-district schedule, although such domination didn’t do them many favors once the state playoffs rolled around. This year’s schedule is much tougher, which likely isn’t a bad thing for a team that has the potential of a state title contender.

Aug. 31 @ Bel Air 7 p.m.
Sept. 6 Socorro 7 p.m.
Sept. 15 Cleveland 1 p.m.
Sept. 21 @ Hobbs 7 p.m.
Sept. 28 @ Volcano Vista 7 p.m.
Oct. 5 West Mesa 7 p.m.
Oct. 12 Las Cruces* 7 p.m.
Oct. 19 Gadsden* 7 p.m.
Oct. 26 @ Mayfield* 7 p.m.
Nov. 2 BYE
Nov. 9 @ Alamogordo* 7 p.m.
* District 3-5A game

Schedule analysis: Last year’s Knights schedule was entirely too difficult and it showed — OHS was blitzed during a pre-district lineup that featured Franklin, Cleveland and Rio Rancho, not the ideal recipe for a team under a rookie head coach in Caleb Hull. This year’s lineup is better in that respect — it’s not quite the same murderer’s row — although certainly isn’t filled with cupcakes either, with some legitimate Class 5A programs still prominent on the docket. It will be a big year for Hull, now in his second year with Oñate, which is now truly his program.

Aug. 30 Americas JV (El Paso) 7 p.m.
Sept. 6 @ El Paso High JV 7 p.m.
Sept. 14 @ Atrisco Heritage 7 p.m.
Sept. 20 Fabens 7 p.m.
Sept. 28 BYE
Oct. 5 @ Hatch 7 p.m.
Oct. 12 @ Truth or Consequence 7 p.m.
Oct. 19 @ Socorro 7 p.m.
Oct. 25 Santa Teresa* 7 p.m.
Nov. 2 @ Chaparral* 7 p.m.
Nov. 8 Deming* 7 p.m.
* District 3-4A game

Schedule analysis: This probably is exactly the schedule the Hawks should be playing in their inaugural year on the football field — a couple junior varsity teams, along with Class 3A programs Hatch Valley, Truth or Consequences and Socorro. With that being said, none of these contests are going the be easy, and should prepare Centennial for a District 3-4A lineup that should hold an edge on the Hawks — Centennial will not have seniors on its roster, and will essentially be an expansion team in 2012. Year 1 will be Year 1 for Centennial, and the question will be in the subsequent years that follow, as the program looks to grow onto the Class 5A level. Building a football program is about establishing not just numbers, but quality numbers. And this is literally the ground floor of a building project that can be arduous.

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Friday, June 29, 2012

LCHS has potential of legit contender

On paper, the Las Cruces Bulldawgs have the look of a good football team.

Potentially a very good one, as in one of the top teams in the state.

Yes, it’s still the summer time, and there is a long way before the season begins, let alone before the state playoff run in November.

And, last year at this time the Bulldawgs looked strong as well, eventually rolling through an easy pre-district schedule — and, outside of rival Mayfield, an easy District 3-5A docket as well — before succumbing down the stretch of their season and eventually falling to Rio Rancho early in the state playoffs.

But last year’s team was one-dimensional — the ball was going to running back Xavier Hall, or would be kept by quarterback Devin Perez who would look to create something with his legs.

It worked early in the season, but as the year moved along those predictable deficiencies really hurt the Bulldawgs.

But that’s also football — you play to your club’s strengths, and last year’s Las Cruces High squad was a run-first outfit.

Before that, it was a balanced attack because quarterback Jeremy Buurma could do both — he was equally adept at running and throwing the football, a dual threat.

And, this year’s team figures to be more of the throwing variety, attempting to implement a vertical passing game into its repertoire.

Joy will be key — he showed flashes last year of being a capable quarterback, but will now need to do it every week. If he can play, LCHS could very well be a force to be reckoned with.

Ditto for the running back position, which replaces Hall, a player who did it every week, for a handful of successive years.

And, of course, defense will always be of critical importance in terms of being a legitimate championship team.

But, with that being said, the Bulldawgs have the pieces, weapons, and coaching to be a strong offensive club this year.

Certainly a more balanced one, that should be more of a threat through the air.
Yes, it’s mid-summer.

But the high school football chatter has officially begun.

The 2012 season kicks off in two months.

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

It's decision time for Boise State University. Just don't hold your breath waiting

So, the Boise State Broncos must declare their intentions to either leave or stay put in the Mountain West Conference by Saturday.

Well, they don't necessarily have to do anything, but if they do in fact decide to take their football program to the Big East and don't announce it by Saturday, such a move in the immediate future would become much more expensive, and they could be locked into the MWC for the 2013-14 academic year.

If BSU leaves the Mountain West — which has long been the expectation — it could open a door for New Mexico State's inclusion into the league.

If the Broncos do in fact go to the Big East for football, where will their Olympic sports wind up? BSU is currently slated to place such sports in the WAC — although the WAC clearly has its fair share of issues at the moment, like, being a Division I conference let alone a football-affiliated one. Perhaps Boise State could go to the Big West for it's non-football programs, although the California-based league could balk at such inclusion.

Again, to a degree the Aggies fate rests in the Broncos hands — if BSU stays in the MWC, it, for all intents and purposes, eliminates any hope the Aggies have at landing in the league. If the Broncos elect to leave the MWC, it provides NMSU with some level of hope — even if such hope is minimal, perhaps false.

Again, the Mountain West is going to exhaust other options before settling for the Aggies. And does the MWC have to move to a 12-team league? Only if such a league would guarantee them better financial opportunity — such as a more lucrative TV deal. Yes, a 12-team league would ensure a football championship game, and surely retaining Boise State and San Diego State would help provide them such financial backing. But bringing in NMSU and Idaho? It wouldn't seem so.

This is about providing assets — money — and what do the Aggies bring to the table at this point? Right now, not a whole lot.

Which leads us to the final point that we at the Cruces Sports Blog have been harping on for some time now: NMSU will still, in all likelihood, be an independent football program if and when the WAC football model folds following the 2012-13 school year. This is a scary thought, simply because outside of a Notre Dame, being an independent program is close to impossible. In the long-term at least. The Aggies could hold it together for a year, two years tops. Then hope that another massive realignment shift comes, where the haves — the major BCS powers — really break away from the have-nots — the mid-majors of the world — which would possibly cause conferences to realign once again, more geographically this time, and make NMSU's search for a new home easier, and more attainable. That, or the WAC could add some FCS football programs to its agenda and try to remain afloat as a football conference.

There are still questions in the present. How are the Aggies even currently recruiting to their football program, which is in such an unfavorable position? And, will the WAC hold together as an Olympic-sports league? One would think it will. But, as it's currently comprised for the 2013-14 campaign — NMSU, Boise State, Idaho, Seattle and Denver — it's not an ideal, or feasible model, particularly for the long term.

There are major issues indeed.

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Monday, June 18, 2012

Away for a few days

Going home for the week on a little vaca. Feel free to post on the blog, I will monitor it from afar.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Aggie volleyball releases 2012 schedule

(Mike Jordan, head coach of the New Mexico State University volleyball team, shakes the hand of fan and friend Bob Glazier on Friday during the first-ever schedule release party in the Barbara Hubbard Room of the Pan American Center/Photo by Shari V. Hill)

The New Mexico State Aggies released their 2012 volleyball schedule during a gathering Friday night at the Barbara Hubbard room on the second floor of the Pan American Center Annex.

Head coach Mike Jordan hosted fans and supporters of the program to unveil the 2012 docket.

Below, a full listing of the schedule:

2012 Aggie volleyball schedule
Aug. 8 NMSU Alumni Match 4 p.m.
Aug. 24 vs. Wichita State^ 4 p.m.
Aug. 25 vs. North Dakota State^ 11 a.m.
Aug. 25 vs. Northern Illinois^ 6 p.m.
Aug. 31 vs. Cincinnati% TBA
Sept. 1 vs. Drake% 12:30 p.m.
Sept. 1 vs. Northwestern% 7 p.m.
Sept. 7 vs. Florida International$ TBA
Sept. 8 vs. Colorado State$ TBA
Sept. 8 vs. Pepperdine$ TBA
Sept. 13 at Seattle* 8 p.m.
Sept. 15 at Idaho* TBA
Sept. 20 vs. Louisina Tech* 7 p.m.
Sept. 22 vs. Texas-Arlington* Noon
Sept. 26 at UTEP 7 p.m.
Sept. 29 vs. Denver* Noon
Oct. 4 at Utah State* 7 p.m.
Oct. 6 at San Jose State* 8 p.m.
Oct. 11 vs. Texas San Antonio* 7 p.m.
Oct. 13 vs. Texas State* 7 p.m.
Oct. 18 at Texas-Arlington* 6 p.m.
Oct. 20 at La Tech* 6 p.m.
Oct. 27 at Denver* 7 p.m.
Oct. 29 vs. Seattle* 7 p.m.
Nov. 1 vs. San Jose State* TBA
Nov. 3 vs. Utah State* 7 p.m.
Nov. 8 at Texas State* 5:30 p.m.
Nov. 10 at Texas-San Antonio* 6 p.m.
Nov. 15 vs. Idaho* 7 p.m.
Nov. 18-21 WAC Tournament at Texas-San Antonio
^ Northern Illinois Tournament
% NMSU Tournament
$ Colorado State Tournament
* WAC match

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Friday, June 15, 2012

Interpreting Paul Krebs' comments, and what they mean for New Mexico State University

Earlier this week, the University of New Mexico's Board of Regents reportedly gave full support for New Mexico State University's inclusion into the Mountain West Conference.

The following day, Wednesday, UNM Athletics Director Paul Krebs (pictured) went on 610 The Sports Animal, an Albuquerque-based radio program, and talked about the move from the board of regents and what it meant going forward. The question-and-answer session from The Sports Animal:

Question: How beneficial is it for the University of New Mexico to have New Mexico State as a member of the Mountain West?
Krebs: I think what the Board of Regents did yesterday was show support for a sister school in the state. Obviously, New Mexico State's a big rival for us. Rivalries are no good — it takes two hands to clap. You got to have competitors to make rivalries. And New Mexico State finds itself, from my view, in a very difficult situation. The Board of Regents thought it was in the best interest for the state of New Mexico and the best interest…to support their candidacy. I don't think it changes what happens in the Mountain West Conference, I don't think it changes or has any impact on their ability to get into the league. But clearly it was the right thing to do, to show support for a sister school in the state and I think that's why the board did what they did.

Question: From a competition standpoint, especially when you look at sports like baseball, basketball, when you look at sports where you'd play them multiple times a year, how much is it a benefit to have that be a conference situation versus being an out-of-conference situation?
Krebs: I think the point to recognize here is that I don't think what the Board did has any impact on New Mexico State getting into our conference. It will have zero effect. I think it was an important statement for our university to make, it was an important show of solidarity. But in the end, it's not going to change anything in my view in terms of their ability to get into this conference. It was really a show of good faith and an appropriate show of good faith. It's important for us to continue to play New Mexico State and I think you'll see us continue to play them. From our perspective we'd like to play them twice in men's and women's basketball like we do, we think the rivalries in the olympic sports are great and our fans pay a lot of attention to it. But, again, I don't think what the board did yesterday will have any impact whatsoever on New Mexico State getting into the conference.

Question: From that last statement, can we gather that UNM won't be very active in politicking for New Mexico State to get into the Mountain West Conference and has there been any discussions of maybe getting Gov. Susana Martinez involved in this as well?
Krebs: No, I don't think you can gather that from that statement. I think President Schmidly before him, and President Frank, have both helped make the case for New Mexico State to come into the conference. I think what you can gather from that statement is that there's not a lot of support from the other members of the league to have New Mexico State come in. We are just one vote. Both presidents, former and current, have advocated for New Mexico State. But, based upon the discussions that I hear in those meetings, there just isn't the support for New Mexico State to come into the league.

Question: What would be the next step (in the process of conference membership) and what do you feel is the time frame for the conference to ultimately decide on New Mexico State or any other school for that matter?
Krebs: I'm not sure that that's the question to be asked. Our league is at 10 schools right now, Hawaii in football, and nine other schools moving into the future. And I think that's where you're gonna see our league stay for the time being. Krebs: We continue to look at options, we continue to explore the landscape and look at options that make the most sense for the conference. When they happen, they happen. New Mexico State's made it known they've wanted into the league and we continue to look at the landscape. There isn't a timeline that says we have to make a decision by this day or that day. I think there is not a lot of support for New Mexico State. Having said that, I think the conference continues to look at all options and keep all options open. But we're comfortable with who we are moving forward.

Question: What are some of the objections that you are hearing about New Mexico State coming from the other schools?
Krebs: I don't think that's the question, that's not the way it happens in meetings. It's more, the issue's been raised. Understand that I'm not necessarily in the room when the presidents are discussing it. But I know that both presidents have raised the issue. The issue's been raised and…..that's the end of the conversation essentially. In other words, ‘hey, we're advocating for New Mexico State’…..It's not as though people sit around the room and ‘OK, here are the pros and the cons. The schools typically send volumes of information to the ADs, to the presidents, to the conference office. It's not as though they sit and decide what are the pros, what are the cons of adding somebody. There simply is not a lot of interest. And so it essentially dies.

My take:

I feel the same way about this issue now than I did before I heard the Krebs interview on Wednesday evening.

That is, NMSU getting into the Mountain West is a longshot, and a few things would have to break the Aggies way for such a move to take place.

For starters, the Mountain West has to decide to move to a 12-team football league (which I believe will in fact come to fruition).

Then, Boise State and San Diego State will have to decide to stay in the Big East in football and not move their programs back into the Mountain West (they'll be in the MWC for the 2012-13 academic year before moving on).

Then, the Mountain West will exhaust other options — perhaps a UTEP or a BYU. Perhaps some other options as well — before considering the Aggies. In other words, at this point, I believe NMSU is a last resort for the league.

I do think there could be more support coming for the Aggies than Krebs indicated. Mike Martin, the new chancellor at Colorado State, used to be president at NMSU, and has a soft spot for the Aggies. Gene Bleymaier built Boise State from the ground up, and is now the athletics director at San Jose State, another former WAC program that's recently made the move to the MWC. I don't think Utah State would stand in NMSU's way, nor do I believe will UNM.

For the record, I do believe the Mountain West would be the best option for NMSU. From the standpoint of overall financial investments into their athletics program, I don't think the Aggies would be on equal ground with some of the MWC programs, which would be an issue. But from a geographic standpoint, rivalry standpoint, and just a cache standpoint, it's clearly the best option.

The one thing for the Aggies: much of their current future, i.e. getting into the Mountain West, at this point, is based off of hope more than anything else.

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Some possible FCS targets, if the WAC is in fact looking for possible candidates

(Would Jacksonville State be an option if the WAC looked to add some FCS schools to its Division I membership? Perhaps.)

Is there any new news on the future of the WAC, or the New Mexico State Aggie athletics program beyond 2012-13?

At this point it seems that things are stagnant and that NMSU has to wait for some further shifting — will Air Force remain in the Mountain West? What schools will the Mountain West reach out to — perhaps a UTEP or BYU, or a San Diego State or Boise State — prior to NMSU, if NMSU is in fact an option for a league that would like 12 football teams? And what changes will occur atop the BCS conferences, that in turn would affect FBS schools?

As addressed before, NMSU could become an independent football program for the 2013. This seems to be a short-term option, if any at all.

Or perhaps the WAC will remain a football league by adding some FCS schools to its membership, and giving such schools an opportunity at Division I eligibility. Below, a list of possible FCS candidates that the WAC could be targeting. In order for the league to remain a football-playing affiliate on the Division-I level, this looks to be its lone viable option:

North Dakota
North Dakota State
South Dakota State
Montana State
Eastern Washington
Portland State
Sacramento State
Jacksonville State
Georgia Southern
Appalachian State
Sam Houston State

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Thursday, June 7, 2012

Storylines that defined New Mexico State athletics during the 2011-12 academic year

With the close of the New Mexico State baseball season this past weekend, the 2011-12 Aggie athletics season is officially over as well.

On the playing field, it was a productive year for NMSU sports, with two NCAA Tournament teams — men’s basketball and baseball — and, outside of a couple programs, fairly competitive play across the board.

Below, we take a look at the Aggie sports season, and what defined this past year as a whole.

Aggie baseball goes to the NCAAs
The Aggie baseball team became the school’s second sports program in 2012 to qualify for the NCAA Tournament. NMSU had a talented team — a deeper pitching staff was a big reason for the improved play — and it showed early in the season, as the Aggies had quality wins over a handful of strong programs. The team did not close the year strong — it dropped nine of 10 at one point in the final month of the season, were blown out during Western Athletic Conference Tournament play, and dropped their only two games of the NCAA Regional against Louisville and Missouri, two winnable ones at that. Still, getting into the postseason was a good accomplishment, and a positive way to end the year at NMSU.

Aggie basketball also reaches the NCAA Tournament

For the second time in three years, NMSU went back to the NCAA Tournament in men’s basketball under head coach Marvin Menzies, finishing with a 26-10 overall record and winning the WAC Tournament championship. NMSU was up and down early in the year, but took off once again during conference play and down the stretch of their season into March. At one point of the year the Aggies didn't look like a Tournament team, although shuffled their lineup — freshman Daniel Mullings was inserted as the starting shooting guard — and improved as an overall unit.

Aggie football improvement

Despite winning just four games — a whole four! — the Aggies were clearly an improved team in the 2011-12 season. NMSU won at Minnesota and knocked off Fresno State for the first time in 18 tries — yes, these opponents were in for down years, but such victories qualified as high-quality ones for the Aggies. Alas, four wins could have been six or seven — NMSU either could have or should have beaten UTEP, San Jose State, Nevada and Utah State, all nip-and-tuck games where, in some cases, the Aggies appeared to be in the driver’s seat. Going forward, the question now becomes, can the program build off that success heading into what will be a critical 2013 season.

Other success stories
Aggie volleyball and golf remain consistent programs in terms of producing WAC contenders and winners. Aggie equestrian, ranked No. 9 (western) and No. 6 (hunter seat) in the nation, qualified for the national championships. Aggie cross country finished second in the WAC Championships in both men's and women's competitions, while sending Courtney Schultz to the NCAA women's national meet, while Aggie swimming and diving had Aliena Schmidke qualify for the NCAA championships. NMSU soccer picked up its first win in the WAC Tournament, coming in the third year of the program's existence. Overall, Aggie athletics ranked third overall in the WAC Commissioner’s Cup standings.

Realignment issues
The above facts indicate that it wasn’t a bad year within Aggie sports — quite the opposite actually. A tip of the hat must go to NMSU coaches who continue to get more with less, while keeping their programs competitive. Still, uncertainty regarding conference affiliation continues, as the Aggies future looks murky as the WAC around them crumbles, and no viable replacement for the league stepping to the forefront. And, a twist of irony is present — despite having a productive year on the field of play, away from the field the Aggies have fallen short. Yes, NMSU does not compete in a major market nor possesses much of a positive football history to draw from, but the school also hasn’t made itself attractive in the conference realignment rat race. Add everything up, and it’s been an odd year in Aggie sports land — one with some nice accomplishments on the field, and a dark cloud hanging above it.

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A look back at the year in Aggie sports

A timeline look into the 2011-12 sports year at New Mexico State University

Sept. 10 — Aggie football team wins at Minnesota 28-21. It was NMSU’s first road win since 2009.

Sept. 16 — A week later, Aggies lose to UTEP at home 16-10, and quarterback Andrew Manley to a season-ending knee injury.

Oct. 1 — Aggie football trounces New Mexico 42-28, for their third-straight win over their in-state rivals.

Oct. 6 — Head vollleyball coach Mike Jordan picks up career win No. 300 in a straight-set sweep at Nevada.

Nov. 3 — Women’s soccer team beats Hawaii 2-1 in WAC Tournament’s opening round. NMSU women’s soccer finished the season with a 10-8-3 overall record.

Nov. 4 — Star men’s basketball forward Wendell McKines calls out rival UTEP on Twitter after the Miners lose to Eastern New Mexico.

Nov. 11 — Head coach Mark Trakh opens his women’s basketball career at NMSU with a 63-62 win at Houston.

Nov. 16 — Nathalie Castellanos, a star volleyball player at Gadsden High School, signs National Letter of Intent with the Aggies.

Nov. 16 — In holding the New Mexico Lobos to 28-percent shooting, Aggie men’s basketball team wins 62-53 at The Pit.

Dec. 22 — Offensive coordinator Doug Martin leaves Aggie football program for Boston College.

Dec. 28 — In a tough home loss, Aggie men’s basketball falls to UNM 89-69.

Jan. 1 — Guard Christian Kabongo and the Aggie men’s basketball team go their separate ways.

Jan. 20 — Running back Kenny Turner announces his departure from NMSU to enter the NFL Draft.

Feb. 1 — Wendell McKines joins Sam Lacey as the only two Aggies to score 1,000 points and pull down 1,000 rebounds in NMSU’s win over Cal State Bakersfield.

Feb. 19 — Aggie baseball wraps up season-opening series by taking three of four from Wake Forest.

Feb. 23 — Former WAC Commissioner Karl Benson leaves for the Sun Belt, which eventually leads to other WAC schools departing as well.

Feb. 23 — Freshman basketball player Daniel Mullings records triple double in Aggies home win over Hawaii.

March 10 — Aggies win WAC men’s basketball tournament by beating Louisiana Tech 82-57 in the finals.

March 15 — Men’s basketball falls to Indiana 79-66 in opening round of NCAA Tournament.

March 20 — Aggie softball team splits doubleheader at No. 14-ranked Arizona.

March 21 — Aggie baseball team completes two-game sweep at No. 5-ranked Arizona.

April 3 — With 7-5 win over UNM, Aggie baseball team wins 14-straight games. NMSU took three of four games overall from Lobos in 2012.

April 28 — Jonte Green, a former New Mexico State cornerback, is drafted in the sixth round of the NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions.

May 20 — Aggie baseball sweeps San Jose State to get share of WAC championship.

May 23 — Benson brings Texas-Arlington to the Sun Belt, while shunning NMSU.

June 6 — Aggie baseball shortstop Zach Voight (round No. 20) and catcher Zac Fisher (No. 22) are drafted by the Chicago White Sox.