|NMSU head coach DeWayne Walker has his work cut out for him as coach of an FBS independent. (US Presswire)|
In an open letter titled "Conference Update" issued Wednesday by NMSU athletic director Dr. McKinley Boston, Boston confirms that the Aggies will become the sixth FBS independent, joining the Vandals, Notre Dame, BYU, Army and Navy.
"NMSU is committed to continuing at the Division I level and we are committed to our football program," Boston wrote. "Our focus is to win WAC championships and to be the best mid-major program we can be. Looking ahead, we are planning to play as an independent football program in 2013.
"Nine of 12 football games have already been scheduled with at least five of those games to be played at home."
Boston said the schedule would be available "in mid-October," clarifying that the Aggies would remain a committed WAC member in sports other than football.
As with Idaho, which all but begged the Mountain West for an invitation before finally announcing their independence in August, the Aggies did everything in their power to secure a conference invite -- all to no avail.
"We have talked to other conferences, including the Mountain West, Conference USA, Sun Belt and Big Sky, about membership opportunities as either a full member or a football-only member," Boston wrote. "And, at every step along the way we have promoted NMSU, our commitment to a quality athletics program, and the city of Las Cruces, telling the good story about what is going on here. Seemingly every hour of every day, President Couture and I continue to contact university athletic directors, university presidents and conference commissioners to explore options and build a sound plan for NMSU's future conference membership."
The Mountain West announced in July it would not be admitting any more new members after adding San Jose State and Utah State for the 2013 season. Those defections left the WAC with just the Vandals and Aggies as football-playing members after the 2012 campaign, and in August the league announced it would not sponsor football after this year.
That's left only two choices for NMSU and Idaho: go independent, or fall back to the FCS (and likely join the Big Sky). Both have opted for the former, though Vandals AD Rob Spear has already said he doesn't believe independence will be a viable option for longer than two seasons.
At this point, Boston and NMSU have made no indication of any kind of timetable for abandoning FBS football or, more optimistically, finding a conference. To their credit, it appears their scheduling -- one of the most challenging aspects of FBS independence, along with media revenue -- is ahead of Idaho's.
But that's a small victory in what seems like a losing battle. We wish both the Aggies and Vandals the best of luck in their journey through the FBS hinterlands -- they'll probably need it.
HT: Ernesto Garcia