Pac-12 joins Big Ten in eliminating nonconference games, NMSU & UTEP lose fall opponents

College Sports

The Pac-12 has become the second major conference to shift to a conference-only fall schedule amid growing concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.

The announcement came after a meeting of the Pac-12 CEO Group on Friday, a day after the Big Ten opted to eliminate nonconference games for all fall sports.

The Atlantic Coast, Big 12 and Southeastern conferences are still weighing options for fall sports.

The decision covers football, women’s and women’s soccer and women’s volleyball. Conference-only schedules will be announced no later than July 31.

The conference is also delaying the start of mandatory athletic activities until a series of health and safety indicators become more positive.

New Mexico State football was slated to open the 2020 season at the Rose Bowl against UCLA, a game that would pay the Aggies $1.2 million.

NMSU athletic director Mario Moccia told KTSM that the school will work to secure the money from UCLA despite the game’s cancellation. The Aggies are also scheduled to play Florida this season, which would pay the Aggies $1.5 million. In all, if the Aggies lose both games, they could be out around $2.75 million.

“I think not having the money from those two games would be a potential knock-out blow,” said NMSU athletic director Mario Moccia. “That’s 2.75 million dollars, there’s no remedy for that, no cuts for that, there’s no trimming for that. we’re at the minimum for sports so it’s a pretty serious scenario if those games aren’t played.”

There are force majeure clauses written into both contracts with UCLA and Florida that provide protections for the Bruins and Gators, should the game not be played.

The game contract with UCLA says in the force majeure clause that if either school is unable to fulfill its obligation due to, “acts of God, fires, flood, earthquake, war, public disaster, strikes or labor difficulties, governmental regulations or order or any other similar cause beyond the parties reasonable control, such party shall not be liable to the other for breach of its obligations.”

Moccia said New Mexico State legal counsel will look over the contract, with the hope that the reasons for the game being canceled do not apply to the force majeure, thus meaning the Aggies would still receive the $1.2 million payment from the Bruins.

“If a school says I can’t play team A, but I can play teams B, C, and D in my conference, that’s something that doesn’t jive to me as a lay person,” Moccia said.

The force majeure clause in the game contract for Florida is similar, but also adds provisions for the NCAA and the SEC among its circumstances that would make it, “impossible or impractical to play the game,” thus releasing both Florida and New Mexico State from the game.

If it comes to it, expect NMSU legal counsel to look over that contract as well.

Moccia told KTSM that they are currently working to find another opponent to fill the vacancy UCLA left, and have had conversations with other Power-5 schools. Discussions with other FBS Independent schools have also been had, in case they have to schedule each other en masse if other conferences revert to conference-only schedules.

Meanwhile, UTEP soccer was slated to host Arizona State this season. That game will also be canceled with the Pac-12’s choice not to play nonconference games.

That’s not all; on Thursday, New Mexico governor Michelle Lujan Grisham said that while she does not have the authority to prevent collegiate sports in the state, she is strongly advising against NMSU or the University of New Mexico taking the field this fall.

Under current COVID-19 guidelines, teams coming to New Mexico to play would have to quarantine 14 days. NMSU would have to do the same upon returning from road games.

“We’re a very public institution so there’s a lot of eyeballs on us. People will know when we travel, when we don’t. So we have to get that one figured out,” Moccia said.

The college sports world has been put on hold since the coronavirus pandemic wiped up the lucrative NCAA basketball tournaments and all spring sports. Athletes recently began returning to campuses for voluntary workouts, but many schools have scaled back as more than a dozen schools have reported positive COVID-19 tests among athletes in the past month.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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