(The following story appeared on the Sun-News website Monday evening and will be in Tuesday's print edition of the newspaper)
New Mexico State University will likely have a football-playing home in 2014, expected to be football-only members of the Sun Belt Conference.
The school is expecting a membership offer from the Sun Belt within the next 24 hours and is in the process of going through approval from the NMSU president's office and board of regents according to multiple sources, who were not identified because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.
The Sun Belt is expected to name Appalachian State and Georgia Southern as its newest members on Wednesday, which will bring the conference to 10 members.
By adding New Mexico State and Idaho as football-only affiliates, it will allow the Sun Belt a two-division football format that will provide a league championship game at season's end.
The Aggies have ties to the league — they were Sun Belt members from 2001-04 before joining the Western Athletic Conference for all sports.
In turn, they have a relationship with Sun Belt Commissioner Karl Benson, who was long-time commissioner of the WAC before taking the same position with the SBC last summer.
Such a move can be considered a step in the right direction, if for no other reason than the Aggies needing a Division I conference for their football program.
While they compiled an intriguing 2013 football schedule as an independent program, such a model doesn't seem sustainable officials say. Having the Sun Belt as a conference home will provide a level of stability from a scheduling standpoint, as well as a league NMSU can compete in while trying to get its football program off the ground.
For now, the Aggies remain a Western Athletic Conference member in all non-football sports. While the league has taken a hit from a competitive standpoint, it's also added enough members to retain automatic qualifying bids into respective NCAA Tournament fields.
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