EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – After a special meeting of the New Mexico State University Board of Regents on Friday, and after nearly 60 years, the Aggies will re-join UTEP in a Division 1 conference.
Regents decided to become an all-sports member of Conference-USA beginning July 1, 2023, marking the first time since 1961 and the days of the Border Conference that NMSU and UTEP will be in the same league.
It’s a huge move for NMSU and gets them back in a conference for the first time since 2017. Both financially and from a stability standpoint, it’s a very important move for NMSU.
“Ever since our last football game we played as a conference member, the 2017 NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl win in front of 25,000 members of Aggie Nation, my primary goal for that program was to return to a conference,” commented NM State Director of Athletics Mario Moccia. “Today that goal has become a reality. Playing football as an FBS Independent in 2018, 2019 and this season has been a challenging experience. Becoming a member of Conference USA is a significant day in our athletic department’s history.”
Joining NMSU in the new C-USA lineup will be Liberty, Sam Houston State and Jacksonville State. Both Western Kentucky and Middle Tennessee, existing members of the conference, are expected to leave for the MAC, however, as of Friday night both universities were still officially members of C-USA.
In the past two weeks, Charlotte, FAU, North Texas, Rice, UAB and UTSA left for the American Athletic Conference (AAC), while Marshall, ODU and Southern Miss left for the Sun Belt. With MTSU and WKU now rumored to be on the move, it would leave C-USA with UTEP, LA Tech and FIU.
New Mexico State will pay a $1.5 million entry fee to join Conference USA, in $250,000 increments. The first $250,000 will be paid to the league from the NMSU athletic department budget in June of 2022. After that, payments of $250,000 from 2024-2028 will be made by a deduction of the Aggies C-USA College Football Playoff distribution money.
The Aggies will also owe an $85,000 exit fee to the WAC, which will also be paid from the athletic department budget.
“We are incredibly excited about adding these four new members and feel there is tremendous upside in these moves for our conference,” Conference USA Commissioner Judy MacLeod said. “This is a quality mix of established and emerging universities that provides us with a compelling group to continue to build with, focusing on competing for and winning championships well into the future. We have been deliberate in our efforts for the past few weeks to get us to this point and will continue to evaluate and consider our additional options for membership.”
Yahoo! Sports’ Pete Thamel first reported on Wednesday afternoon that NMSU has finally received an official invitation from Conference USA to join the league, alongside fellow FBS Independent Liberty and FCS schools Jacksonville State and Sam Houston.
“We’re delighted to be counted among the outstanding universities that make up Conference USA,” said NMSU Chancellor Dan Arvizu. “Finding a home for all of our athletic teams, in a league that sponsors FBS football, has been a priority for us for many years. Today’s agreement puts our university in the best position for success and we are looking forward to the bright future ahead of us.”
Friday afternoon’s announcement means NM State’s football program, which is currently one of seven FBS independent teams, will be affiliated with a conference for the first time since being a part of the Sun Belt from 2014-17.
In addition to the Aggies’ football team, all 15 of NM State’s other NCAA Division I men’s and women’s athletic programs will become full-fledged members of C-USA.