EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – New Mexico State and UTEP athletics have not competed in the same conference since the old Border Conference disbanded 60 years ago, in 1961.
If modern day realignment chatter is true, the Aggies and Miners could soon find themselves playing in the same conference again.
With Conference USA imploding this past week, as six teams officially left for the American Athletic Conference and three others reportedly heading to the Sun Belt Conference, New Mexico State has surfaced as one of the options for the league moving forward, according to Pete Thamel of Yahoo! Sports.
KTSM has learned that an official invitation has not been sent from C-USA to New Mexico State as of yet, but there are many ways for C-USA and NMSU officials to discuss the possibilities of joining forces without an official invitation being sent.
NMSU president John Floros, chancellor Dan Arvizu, director of athletics Mario Moccia and other high-ranking NMSU officials will meet on Sunday to discuss potential avenues for conference realignment and possibilities that might lie within C-USA, sources confirmed to KTSM on Saturday afternoon. Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports was the first to report the planned meeting in Las Cruces.
New Mexico State has been an FBS Independent for football and in the WAC for all other sports since 2018, when they were booted out of the Sun Belt. The Aggies have won just seven total football games in that time frame as an Independent and Moccia has long-said that the athletic department’s top priority, bar none, is to return to an FBS conference.
With Conference USA suddenly possessing a bevy of potential openings, it appears that this could be a chance for NMSU to jump in.
C-USA president Judy MacLeod made it clear in a statement on Friday night that the league will not go quietly into the night and plans to add new universities to remain an FBS conference. The league must have a minimum of eight schools to compete at the FBS level.
“We have a strong core of members to build around and are continuing to work to strengthen our league as we move forward. There are several institutions interested in joining Conference USA, both across FBS and FCS, some of whom we’ve already met with in person,” MacLeod said in part.
As for UTEP, the Miners are one of just five teams still remaining in C-USA as of now. The Miners are joined in the leftover league by FIU, Louisiana Tech, Middle Tennessee and Western Kentucky.
UTEP athletic director Jim Senter told KTSM on Friday evening that UTEP is committed to Conference USA, no matter what universities are in the league. His comments cleared up speculation that UTEP might become an FBS Independent in football if C-USA were to implode. According to Senter, UTEP does not see being an FBS Independent as a viable option. At this point, that means C-USA is basically its best option.
“We have to try to put the best product we can out there to help UTEP’s national brand,” said UTEP head football coach Dana Dimel, with regards to how the Miners can help attract new universities to C-USA. “That’s what we have to do. They’re working side-by-side on this and they’re ahead of the game on this. They’re working the best angles for UTEP and we’re going to be fine.”
With UTEP vowing its commitment to C-USA, it would seem to make sense for the Miners to work alongside New Mexico State to help the Aggies into the league. NMSU joining Conference USA would be mutually beneficial for both the Aggies and Miners moving forward; NMSU wants to rejoin a conference and UTEP does not want to join the Aggies wandering the college football desert as an Independent.
It’s been 60 years since the Battle of I-10 was played as a conference clash, but with how quickly conference realignment has happened in the last week, it might not be much longer before NMSU and UTEP are conference rivals once again.