LAS CRUCES, New Mexico (KTSM) – New Mexico State’s four-year journey through the college football desert appears to be nearing its end.
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.
NMSU officials would not comment on the matter, but multiple sources confirmed to KTSM on Wednesday that NMSU had indeed received its invitation to join the league.
The last big snag in the process, per Thamel, is a potential entry fee of $2 million for the incoming quartet of teams. That is consistent with what sources told KTSM on Monday – that a potential entry fee could be a detriment in the process for NMSU.
There are ways around the entry fees, including the influx of money Conference USA will receive from exit fees from the 11 schools leaving the league. However, sources told KTSM that while NMSU fully expects to have to pay an entry fee, it’s also very possible the fee gets reduced from the $2 million Thamel reported on Wednesday.
However, even with the entry fee, it would be a short-term investment for a long-term payout. Simply by being in an FBS conference, NMSU would be guaranteed millions each year in revenue from television contracts and the College Football Playoff. For instance, last season C-USA received $17 million from the CFP to split amongst its 14 institutions, a payout of $1.2 million. As an FBS Independent, NMSU received the CFP minimum of $300,000.
With C-USA rebuilding itself and potentially only being an eight-or-nine-team conference, the payout could be larger for all teams. For instance, splitting that same $17 million across eight teams would yield a $2.1 million payout from the CFP; nine teams would give NMSU and all other teams in C-USA a CFP payout of $1.9 million.
The Athletic reported on Wednesday that C-USA would like to add more schools to get to at least 10 teams. Additionally, the Aggies have long said their top priority is to return to an FBS conference and this is the chance they’ve been waiting for.
Multiple reports earlier this week had the Aggies – as well as Liberty, JSU and Sam Houston – joining as full members of Conference USA, for all sports.
C-USA has officially lost nine of its 14 current members to realignment in the last two weeks; however, Middle Tennessee and Western Kentucky are reportedly heading to the MAC, leaving only UTEP, FIU and Louisiana Tech in the league.
Conference USA needs a minimum of eight full members to remain an FBS conference and keep its College Football Playoff fiscal distribution, a $17 million cut, split among 14 different institutions last year. Therefore, even by adding NMSU and the three other universities, at least one more one be needed as an addition in order for the school to remain an FBS league, assuming MTSU and WKU do leave for the MAC.
It’s possible the conference would dive once again into the FCS ranks to get one or more schools as additions. The Athletic reported on Wednesday that the league would like to get to at least 10 teams and maybe more than that.
On Friday, the New Mexico State Board of Regents will hold a special meeting, where the only agenda item is the, “Consideration of a proposal for an athletic conference change.” NMSU chancellor Dan Arvizu and director of athletics Mario Moccia will be presenting that item, presumably a pitch to the Board to allow NMSU to join Conference USA after Wednesday’s official invitation.
In their policy manual, regents reserve the authority to, “approve changes in conference membership. Such approval is typically given upon recommendation(s) of the Chancellor and the Director of Athletics.” The meeting will be streamed live on Zoom and public comment is expected.
The timeline of NMSU’s Board of Regents meeting would be consistent with reporting from The Action Network’s Brett McMurphy, that an official announcement of NMSU’s addition to C-USA could come as soon as next week.
If NMSU does indeed join Conference USA, it would be in the same conference as rival UTEP for the first time in 60 years, after the Border Conference folded in 1961.