LAS CRUCES, N.M. (KTSM) – New Mexico State’s application for a waiver to be bowl eligible at 5-6 was granted by the NCAA on Thursday morning.
For the second time in five years and just the second time since 1960, the Aggies will be bowl-bound thanks to the waiver. New Mexico State will find out what bowl it will play in on Sunday.
NMSU’s waiver request hinged on two points. First, that the Aggies were not able to play their full 12-game schedule due to tragic circumstances. Second, that since they were not able to play that game due to no fault of their own, the Aggies should jump ahead of teams that are 5-7 and played their full allotment of games because, effectively, a 5-6 record looks better percentagewise than 5-7.
“We were heard. We had discussions with people and were able to make our case,” said NMSU Director of Athletics Mario Moccia. “That’s really all you can ask for. The Football Oversight Committee, I’m very thankful that in effect they saw it the way we did.”
NMSU’s Oct. 22 game vs. San Jose State was postponed, then subsequently cancelled after the sudden death of Spartans running back Camden McWright the day before the game was supposed to be played in Las Cruces.
Aggie officials say they exhausted all options to find an FBS team that could play them and fill out their schedule. They were unable to do so, but will play FCS foe Valparaiso on Dec. 3 at 1 p.m. at Aggie Memorial Stadium.
There are 79 bowl-eligible teams (with at least six wins) for 82 spots with Buffalo (5-6) playing Akron Friday in a rescheduled game. Depending on that result, either two or three five-win teams will be needed to fill the bowls, which would be filled based on Academic Progress Rate scores (APR).
When five-win teams are needed to fill the bowls, the NCAA uses the most recent APR scores to select the order the teams are taken. Rice had the highest APR score of the five-win teams, followed by UNLV, so Rice is guaranteed a bowl.
If Buffalo wins to become bowl eligible at 6-6, New Mexico State and Rice will get the bowl bids as five-win teams. If Buffalo loses, five-win teams NMSU, Rice and UNLV would get to go bowling.
If New Mexico State beats Valparaiso on Saturday, the Aggies would close the season at 6-6. However, since two of their wins would come against FCS teams, that’s why a waiver for bowl eligibility was necessary. The NCAA requires teams that play more than one FCS game per season to win seven games for bowl eligibility.
New Mexico State is one of just two teams in the history of college football. The Aggies are 3-0-1, with wins in the 2017 Arizona Bowl, the Sun Bowl in 1959 and 1960 and a tie in the 1935 Sun Bowl.
NMSU currently has a contract with ESPN’s family of bowls that would allow it to be selected by one of ESPN’s bowl games. That contract will end when the Aggies enter Conference USA in 2023, but one of the bowls that ESPN operates is the New Mexico Bowl.
The Aggies would love to get the chance to play just three hours from their home stadium, but they know they won’t get a big say in the matter.
“You’re happy primarily that you’re in a bowl, how much it helps recruiting and for the future,” Moccia said. “The secondary thing is, ‘boy wouldn’t it be great if it was convenient for the fans to get to it easily?’ So, we’ll let the chips fall where they may.”