LAS CRUCES, N.M. (KTSM) – The last year has been arguably the most tumultuous in the history of the long-standing rivalry between New Mexico and New Mexico State.
A fight at the Oct. 15, 2022, football game in Las Cruces between UNM students and members of the NMSU men’s basketball team eventually led to a retaliatory event in Albuquerque on Nov. 19, 2022, in which four UNM students are seen on surveillance video assaulting former NMSU men’s basketball player Mike Peake.
Peake and 19-year-old UNM student Brandon Travis then exchanged gunfire, with Travis being killed and Peake injured. The three other UNM students were charged by police with multiple felonies; authorities determined that Peake acted in self-defense and neither him, nor anyone affiliated with NMSU has been charged with a crime in relation to the shooting.
With that as a backdrop, the Aggies and Lobos will meet once again on the gridiron on Saturday night at University Stadium in Albuquerque. UNM is expecting over 30,000 people to attend the game.
UNM athletic director Eddie Nunez told the media this week that extra security and police will be brought in to ensure that nothing escalates like it did in 2022, especially given the number of people that will be attending.
The two universities famously traded security plans in the offseason, the Aggies handing over their plan for a December men’s basketball game at the Pan American Center in Las Cruces, the Lobos providing theirs for Saturday’s football game. The trade was a big sticking point for Nunez to even continue the men’s basketball rivalry, as KTSM reported over the summer.
Now that everything is in place, Saturday’s game could, in theory, be a big step forward for the two schools in coming together after the events of last year. While there having been UNM-NMSU sporting events since the fight and shooting, this is by far the biggest one. It’s a chance for the Land of Enchantment to put its best foot forward.
“I think we really respect their program. While I know Danny Gonzales (UNM head football coach) wants to beat us and we want to beat them, I know he’s got a really good relationship with (NMSU head football coach) Jerry Kill,” said NMSU athletic director Mario Moccia. “When both coaches respect each other and have a relationship, it’s a good start to having a good, solid, competitive game.”
On Wednesday, news emerged that UNM would be charging NMSU’s band $20 per person to attend the game, something Moccia told KTSM is a departure from what has happened in the past.
“The game contract calls for 450 complementary tickets for the visiting team. Those tickets may be used however the visiting team sees fit, and each athletic department always has an option to purchase tickets above and beyond the complementary allotment for their respective students and fan base. When this occurs, common practice, and a practice we follow at UNM, is to purchase those tickets for our students,” Nunez said in a statement.
Moccia said that historically both universities’ marching bands have gotten into each other’s stadiums for its football rivalry games for free despite the ticket allotment. Moccia added that the allotment tickets are usually used for players and coaches’ families.
Moccia told KTSM on Thursday that 15-20 donors are paying for the NMSU band’s tickets to play at the UNM-NMSU game in ABQ on Saturday. Travel and hotel accommodations had already been built into the band’s budget for the game.
While that back-and-forth certainly did nothing to assuage the social media masses, with the NMSU band now in place, it’s time to look forward to having a peaceful game, both on and off the field.
“We have two very passionate fanbases that love their teams and going to cheer on the Lobos and the Aggies. For us, it’s about having an event that we’re all proud of at the end of the day. When it comes to the overall event, we want to do it to the best of our ability,” Nunez said.
The Aggies and Lobos will kickoff at 6 p.m. Saturday night in Albuquerque.