The Daily Aggie :: 06/18/10

It appears as though the conference expansion business has settled down for now. With Utah officially joining the Pac 10 yesterday, the Mountain West's Commissioner Craig Thompson stated in a press teleconference (as reported by Chris Murray of the Reno Gazette-Journal) that the league is not looking to add any more teams at this time.

“Our intention is to move forward for the 2011 season with a nine-member conference,” Thompson said.

“We are done. Parroting what fellow commissioners in the Pac-10 and Big 12 and to a degree in the Big 12, I think our endeavor in expansion is over for the time being.”

That is certainly good news for the WAC for the time being as it looks like they'll only have to replace Boise State, which in itself will still a major undertaking.

We would caution WAC fans to take Thompson's word with a grain of salt however. This is the same league that last Monday had a press conference stating that they would not be inviting Boise State to join the Mountain West, only to turn around and invite Boise State a few days later.

It's clear (at least to us) that Fresno State and Nevada wish to be the next two WAC teams to head to the Mountain West. Matt James of the Fresno Bee has some strong words for Fresno State supporters:

"The only realistic upward move for Fresno State is the MWC, and the only thing that matters to the MWC is becoming an automatic qualifier BCS conference.

For better and worse, it's a football world, and Fresno State needs to put its resources and efforts toward that team. Every coach and administrator on campus should be asking, "How can I make the football team better today?" Silly? Of course it is. But football pays the bills and eventually changes your department.

If that's not your vision, then become I-AA and move on."

Chris Murray of the Reno Gazette-Journal reports that Nevada was one of the teams that inquired about potential Mountain West membership.

Nevada was among the schools to express public interest in joining the MWC if a spot opened up in the league.

Wolf Pack athletic director Cary Groth said neither she nor UNR president Milton Glick ever contacted Thompson, but that she will continue to monitor future opportunities.

We're afraid it's just a matter of time before the WAC loses Fresno State and Nevada (and Louisiana Tech for geographical reasons).

Blue Ribbon Yearbook announced their Preseason All-WAC team and Davon House was named to the Preseason All-WAC team. The Blue Ribbon Yearbook folks predict that the Aggies will finish 8th in the league ahead of San Jose State.

On the subject of Aggie football, NM State is shooting for 9,000 season tickets to be sold this year. According to the Sun-News story, the Aggies have increased season ticket sales in each of the past two years from 5,499 in 2008 to 7,438 in 2009.

The Aggie football season ticket prices start at $44 which according to a report by Olin Buchanan of Yahoo! Sports and Rivals.com, only Florida International ($40), Western Kentucky ($30) and Kent State ($30) have cheaper starting price points for season tickets. Basically, Aggie football season tickets are one of the best deals in the entire country. (UNM's cheapest season ticket is $72 and UTEP's cheapest season ticket starts at $99).

Aggie fans who renew their season tickets before July 15th will receive a Pistol Pete bobblehead.

On to today's links...  Continue Reading This Post >>

Forty Eight Aggie Freshmen And Transfers Earn 2009-2010 Academic All-WAC Honors

DENVER -- The 2009-10 academic All-WAC freshmen and transfers have been announced and NM State had 48 student-athletes honored. The Aggies' soccer team led the way with 11 honorees, swimming and diving had nine honorees, Chelsa McDonnell, Camille Schultz and Courtney Schultz earned honors for three different sports, women's cross country, indoor and outdoor track and field. The softball team had seven honorees, baseball had five, men's cross country had four, volleyball, women's basketball and football each had two and the men's and women's golf teams each had one.

The following is the list of freshmen and transfer honorees:  Continue Reading This Post >>

Thirty Three Aggies Earn Academic All-WAC Honors For Spring 2010

DENVER, CO - The 2009-10 academic All-WAC baseball, softball, men’s and women’s golf, men’s and women’s tennis and women’s outdoor track and field teams have been announced. A total of 33 NM State student athletes have been honored for their work in the classroom. To be eligible, a student-athlete must have completed at least one academic year, have at least a 3.00 cumulative grade point average and have participated in at least 50 percent of the team’s contests.

The women's track and field team led the way with nine honorees followed by baseball with seven. The softball team had five, the women's tennis team had four, the men's tennis and women's golf team had three and the men's golf team had two honorees.

The following is a list of the Aggies' spring sport honorees:  Continue Reading This Post >>

The Daily Aggie :: 06/14/10

Everyone will be waiting with bated breath this week as Texas (and in turn the rest of the Big 12 south) makes its decision on which conference it will end up in. Earlier in the day ESPN.com was reporting that Texas was leaning toward the Pac 10 only to change that report a couple of hours later reporting that Texas is leaning towards staying in a 10-team BIg 12.

The latter could actually be more disastrous for the WAC than a mass exodus by the Big 12 south to the Pac 10. Why? Because the Pac 10, at 11 members needs to add one more to have a championship game in football (which was probably part of the goal to begin with, championship games mean more television money). That means that they would likely turn to Utah to fill the 12th spot in the league. That move could in turn could send the Mountain West back to the WAC cupboard to fill a couple more spots (it's our belief that the Mountain West wants to have 12 teams and a championship game in order to try to earn an automatic BCS bowl bid). That would mean that the MWC would likely try to pluck Fresno State and Nevada from the WAC and perhaps Houston (a travel partner for TCU) from Conference USA (who in turn might try to get Louisiana Tech to join to replace Houston, a bid that if offered would be hard to turn down for Louisiana Tech as C-USA is a better geographical fit for the Bulldogs than the WAC is). That would leave the WAC with just five members, New Mexico State, San Jose State, Idaho, Utah State and Hawai'i and in code-red status.

On Saturday we discussed what we believe to be the situation facing the WAC with regards to filling Boise State's spot.

We've had some more discussions with a few very bright people that we know and it's there's a general feeling that it will be at least two years before any of the schools mentioned in our post on Saturday would be ready to jump to the FBS level (based on the factors we outlined: facility upgrades, additional scholarships, etc.). It's entirely possible that the WAC could play three seasons (2011, 2012 and 2013) with just eight teams. As for the rest of the WAC's sports, the impact might not be lengthy. As we mentioned, all of the teams that are rumored to be candidates for the WAC play the remainder of their sports at the Division I level.

We've done some more digging and we've found that there are a couple of other obstacles standing in the WAC's path to conference expansion (for football) via adding FCS teams.

The biggest hurdle for the WAC is the current four-year moratorium enacted by the NCAA which prevents Divisional reclassification (i.e. FCS to FBS, Div. II to FCS, Div. III to Div. II). What that means is that no FCS school can even begin the paperwork for an FCS to FBS move until August 9, 2011.

In addition to the moratorium, there is a two-year transition period in which the team making the move cannot be a member of a conference. This means (if we've read everything correctly) that the earliest the WAC could add any of these teams into the conference as football members is 2014.

Perhaps the NCAA could step in and help the WAC by waiving the two year transition period, however, based on the statement put out by the NCAA this weekend regarding the expansion/contraction of conferences we find that somewhat unlikely.

"Much has been and will be written regarding conference realignment. Some “experts” have questioned where the NCAA is in this process. The answer is the NCAA is exactly where it should be—not directly in the discussion but standing ready to work with the conferences when realignment is finalized.

In reality there is neither historical precedent nor legislative authority for the NCAA to be involved in conference matters such as these. Realignment and conference expansion is solely between the individual institutions and the conferences. Over the last two decades there have been about 30 conference realignments and none involved direct discussions with the NCAA. However, we are closely monitoring the developments and potential impacts. By doing so we ensure the most appropriate and responsive support to our membership."

Through this research we've found that there is another big hurdle for a team to become an FBS member which can be found in the NCAA bylaws:

Schedule and play at least 60 percent of its football contests against members of Football Bowl Subdivision. Institutions shall schedule and play at least five regular season home contests against Football Bowl Subdivision opponents. [Bylaw 20.9.7.2]

Now, obviously if the WAC is interested in adding one of these FCS teams, then Commissioner Benson may "force" each remaining WAC team to schedule a game against the prospective member in order to help them meet that requirement. But what if the WAC loses more teams than just Boise State (such as our scenario in the beginning)? Things will definitely get a little dicey for everyone should that happen (let's hope it doesn't come to that point).

Going back to Saturday's post, one of the key hurdles for an institution making the jump from FCS to FBS is finances. Texas State put together a committee to research that move and they have published a roughly 20 page report on the subject (which you can download here).

There are a couple of key statements in there that apply not only to Texas State but to any of the six or seven FCS football playing schools rumored to be on the WAC's radar.

"Not so obvious is the relationship between student support, external support, and a successful FBS program. The Committee believes that it will be necessary for student support through the Athletics Fee to increase substantially (to a total of about $10 million per year) for a move to FBS football to be feasible. However, support from student fees is a necessary but not sufficient condition for FBS football. Strong evidence suggests that institutions that have moved to the FBS based primarily on student fees have charted a course to the bottom tier of FBS competition. For a transition to a truly competitive program, a funding pattern showing balance between student fees and other sources of revenue is essential."

The report goes on to state the Committee recommended that Texas State's athletic budget plan for the transition to FBS football be developed with the assumption that additional student support from the Athletics Fee will be complemented with comparable increases generated from multiple sources which we interpreted as a roughly $20 million increase in budget.

Additionally, the report also outlined specific financial needs including: Full funding of allowable scholarships in all sports, to include 22 additional scholarships in men's sports (to meet the 85 scholarship level of FBS) and 22 additional scholarships in women's sports (for Title IX purposes). Also, adequate funding of fifth-year scholarships and summer school scholarships which includes fifth-year and summer school scholarships in men's scholarships for 44 additional student-athletes on scholarship. And finally, travel costs which will increase in all sports with the amount contingent on conference. For the purposes of this post we're assuming membership in the WAC, that means a huge increase because Texas State plays in the Southland Conference which as you can see by the Southland's footprint below, there isn't really a long trip in the Southland.

Southland Conference Map

The longest conference road trip for Texas State is to Conway, AR, a total of 567 miles by driving. By contrast, their shortest road trip in the WAC (assuming Louisiana Tech remains in the league) is to Ruston, LA (424 miles). However, every other trip requires a plane flight instead of a potential bus ride (we don't know how Texas State travels to conference games). The trip to Las Cruces is 633 miles. Every other trip is at least 1,400 miles and then you also throw in the trips to Honolulu for men's/women's basketball and volleyball every season and football, women's soccer, softball and baseball every other season and potentially women's tennis (we're not sure exactly how the conference scheduling works with tennis).

And the reverse is true for travel for the teams currently in the WAC to Texas State in this example (which would be a fairly significant increase for all the teams except for Louisiana Tech and New Mexico State) as Boise State was somewhat centrally located to the other teams.

We're not trying to rain on anyone's expansion parade here, we're just trying to understand exactly what the ramifications of all of this conference realignment will be not just for the WAC as a whole but also for New Mexico State.

On to today's links...  Continue Reading This Post >>

Freshman Catcher Zac Fisher Named Third Team All-American

Written By: NM State Athletic Dept.

LAS CRUCES, N.M. - PING!Baseball named New Mexico State freshman catcher Zac Fisher a third-team freshman all-American, Monday, June 14, after a wonderful season behind the plate and with the bat.

Fisher, a native of Fonatna, Calif., hit .350 on the year while playing in 38 games as a freshman. He did even better in league play hitting .417 (20-of-48) against Western Athletic Conference foes. Fisher tied for the most home runs on the team in conference play with six. Senior Chris Auten also had six homers against WAC opponents. On the year, Fisher finished with eight bombs.

"Zac stepped in and played outstanding baseball when Ben Harty went down with an injury midway through the season," head coach Rocky Ward said. "The freshman all-American status is well deserved."  Continue Reading This Post >>

The Daily Aggie :: 06/12/10

After the news of Boise State's departure from the WAC effective July 2011, several different media outlets have weighed in on the consequences for the WAC (see the links section).

Stephen Tsai of the Honolulu Star Advertiser blogged (in an aptly titled post: Can the last WAC team please turn out the lights?) three key consequences:

• Losing potential BCS money.
• Having a diminished national TV value.
• Losing the Humanitarian Bowl.

It'll be interesting to see what happens should Boise State play in a BCS bowl this coming season. According to an article by Brian Murphy in the Idaho Statesman, the Broncos will forfeit over $1 million in WAC revenue but will retain the $3 million bonus should they reach a BCS bowl this season. Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports brought up another interesting thought. Should Boise State go undefeated in non-conference play, how much does the WAC spend on trying to promote them for a spot in the national championship game? If they do no marketing at all, wouldn't that be akin to cutting off your nose to spite your face? But on the flip side, if they spend a bunch of money, they're just marketing a program that is out the door at the end of the 2010-2011 athletic season. Tough decision.

Stephen Tsai also notes that the WAC has lost 13 schools in the past 12 years: with Boise State, Brigham Young, Utah, Colorado State, Air Force, Wyoming, UNLV, San Diego State, New Mexico, Rice, Tulsa, SMU and UTEP.

In a nutshell, despite what WAC Commissioner Karl Benson may say, it's undeniable that the WAC could be in some trouble. While Benson has successfully guided the league through several transitions, this one is unlike any of the previous transitions and the list of FBS (or Division I-A) schools that are geographically fit to join an already cash strapped set of schools (e.g. NM State has had to cut $3 million in the past two seasons from its athletic budget) in the WAC is pretty much non-existent. The last expansion saw the WAC pick up three teams, NM State, Idaho and Utah State, who were not only a geographic fit but also in situations where the WAC was an upgrade over their current FBS conference. All three teams were in the Sun Belt (a terrible geographic fit for all three) and prior to that all three were in the Big West before it dropped football at the FBS level (Boise State was also a Big West member before jumping to the WAC in 2001).

Every single western-half of the U.S. FBS football playing school is already committed to a conference. The Aggies' two rivals, UTEP and UNM, are the most geographically logical teams to add to the WAC. However, UTEP is highly unlikely to give up their spot in Conference USA to join a weakened WAC. New Mexico to the north is most certainly not going to leave a now bolstered Mountain West. There is talk that Nevada wants to join the Mountain West as well, though MWC Commissioner Craig Thompson stated in yesterday's press conference that there are no current plans to add any other WAC schools. We suspect they have bigger fish in sight (read: Kansas and Kansas State). However, the fact remains that Nevada's President and A.D. seem to be on the same page and according to a Q&A with the Reno Gazette-Journal, Nevada is not going to sit idly by while everyone realigns.

We'll preface this by stating that we have no intimate knowledge of the comings and goings of the WAC's business and this is just an educated assumption on our part. However, there is also the possibility that with all this conference realignment that the WAC could also lose Louisiana Tech to a more geographically fit conference. Again, we have no insider knowledge of this, but former La. Tech A.D. Derek Dooley (now Tennessee head football coach) was open in his and the school's desire to move to a more geographically sound conference and it would make sense, given the economic climate, that their current administration probably still feels the same way. (For what it's worth, Fresno State is also an attractive school in terms of conference expansion. All of their sports earned above a 925 in the APR and they have consistently been among the top three in the Commisioner's Cup Standings, it would stand to reason that if the MWC were looking to take another WAC school, Fresno State would be on the shortlist). A scenario in which the WAC loses Boise State, Fresno State, Nevada and Louisiana Tech is the worst-case scenario for the league but something that may not be entirely out of the equation (anything is possible these days).

So with Boise State out the door, La. Tech possibly looking to find a new, closer home and Nevada practically begging the Mountain West to let them in, where does that leave the WAC?

According to Commissioner Benson, the future of the WAC almost certainly lies in the addition of FCS teams. Those schools rumored to be on the list? Montana (which would be the best team to add from a competitive standpoint), Cal Poly, UC-Davis, Sacramento State and Texas State (it's also been rumored that Utah Valley and Denver want in the WAC, however, neither plays football).

Here's where the trouble begins. Each of those schools competes at the FCS level and the FBS level has different requirements than does the FCS level. It takes a lot of money up front to become an FBS football member. The two biggest financial hurdles are scholarships (from 63 to 85), additional coaches (FBS limits are one head coach, nine assistants and two graduate assistants, the FCS level limit is 11 coaches) and the big one, facilities which includes a stadium which will allow the school to meet the average attendance requirement of 15,000.

Of those schools mentioned on the short list, Montana is probably in the best shape facilities-wise. Their stadium, Washington-Grizzly Stadium, seats 25,200. The Grizzlies led the FCS in attendance last year averaging 24,417 per game. They are the only team on the list of potential invitees to meet the attendance requirement in 2009 (you can download the attendance figures from the NCAA's report here).

Texas State's stadium holds a little over 16,000. Their average attendance in 2009 was 12,249. UC-Davis' stadium (Aggie Stadium) only holds 10,000 of which they averaged 9,908 fans per game. Sacramento State's stadium hold 21,195 and their average attendance was 9,935. Cal Poly's stadium holds just 11,075 people. The Mustangs average 9,588 fans per game last season.

Nearly all of the teams fill their stadiums to capacity each game, however, they still fall well short of the minimum required attendance. In Texas State's case, their 2005 season was their best attended season, in 10 games they averaged 12,875 and had four of the Top 10 crowds in the stadium's history, two sellouts and then 15,411 for an NCAA quarterfinal game and 15,712 for a game against Northern Iowa. That's great, however, they would likely have to set attendance records every time out just to meet the NCAA's FBS attendance minimums.

Then there are the hidden costs. Division I members have to sponsor at least seven sports for men and seven for women (or six for men and eight for women) to meet Title IX requirements. All of the potential schools play at the Division I level in all their sports except football which plays at the FCS level. The question becomes, where does each institution get the additional money to fund the scholarships (including any additional scholarships needed to satisfy Title IX requirements) and facility upgrades? Do the schools cut other men's sports (which often time happens when budgets get tight)? Montana and Texas State field just six men's sports so that's not an option for those schools.

Unfortunately for the WAC, expansion, particularly the kind that it appears Commissioner Benson is apparently looking at (the FCS route) is not as simple as just inviting a school (which of course the Commissioner already knows we're just sharing it with you in case you didn't already know). With Boise State leaving in 2011, it's possible that the WAC could play with just eight members in 2011 which would hurt not just football but men's and women's basketball as well as the other sports in which Boise State participated.

We leave you with an excerpt from a piece from The Sports Network's Craig Haley who covers the FCS.

Montana - A move to the FBS has been talked about for a number of years in Missoula, and on the surface, this might seem to be the program best-suited for going up a division. The Grizzlies have won or shared 12 straight Big Sky titles, appeared in the FCS playoffs for 17 straight seasons as well as in the last two championship games (losing both times), and have a rabid, state-wide fan base that helped them to lead the FCS in home attendance average (24,417) in 2009. Plus the WAC would be interested should its conference need restocking. However, Montana would still need to pour millions into a move. The university would have to improve facilities, despite its expansion project at Washington-Grizzly Stadium, and you could argue that the state doesn't have a talent base suitable for the FBS level (the Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported there were only two Montana natives on FBS rosters last season). Will the fans stay interested if Montana is 4-8 and not 10-1 in the regular season?

On to today's links...  Continue Reading This Post >>

The Daily Aggie :: 06/11/10

As we're sure you're already keenly aware, the first piece of the conference realignment puzzle was placed yesterday when Colorado announced their formal acceptance of the Pac 10's invitation to join the league. The second piece of the puzzle was put in place today as Boise State announced they are leaving the WAC for the Mountain West Conference, a move that should come as no surprise to anyone.

The Big 12 is in a state of flux with Nebraska widely rumored to be joining the Big Ten (11) and rumors yesterday had Texas and Texas A&M going anywhere from the Big Ten to the Pac 10, Oklahoma State to the Pac 10, Oklahoma to the SEC and Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State, Baylor and Texas Tech holding the proverbial Big 12 bag. Basically, it's one big gigantic mess.

So where does that leave the WAC and in particular New Mexico State? That's a question that only WAC Commissioner Karl Benson knows the answer to. However, reading between the lines it appears that the WAC will counter any league defections by adding FCS schools. Unfortunately it's a wait and see game for the WAC fans.

Mike Sodders Drafted By Angels In MLB Draft

Written By: NM State Athletic Dept.

LAS CRUCES - Former Aggie second baseman Mike Sodders was drafted in the 31st round of the Major League Baseball draft, Wednesday, June 9.

Sodders, a native of Moreno Valley, Calif., was drafted by the Anaheim Angels in round 31 at pick No. 954 and is the 47th draft selection from NM State. Last year three players were drafted by MLB teams, while 23 players have been drafted while head coach Rocky Ward has been the head coach for the Aggies.

"It's great to hear that Mike is going to get a chance to fulfill a lifetime dream of playing professional baseball," head coach Rocky Ward said. "The possibility of him being drafted has been in real doubt since he wasn't able to play the last eight weeks of the season because of a foot injury. Hopefully his foot will be healed in time for him to sign a contract and get a minor league assignment."  Continue Reading This Post >>

The Daily Aggie :: 06/09/10

We'd like to offer our congratulations to former Aggie volleyball player Alice Borden. Felix Chavez blogged that Alice has been hired as the volleyball coach at Onate High School.

Jason Groves reports that the Aggie men's basketball team will regain their lost scholarship due to the NCAA's Academic Progress Report and will be at the full complement of 13. Jason also notes that all 13 sports at NM State have at least a 900 in the latest APR.

Jason also talked a little bit more about the men's basketball scholarship situation on his blog.

Jason Groves reports on the performance of incoming Aggie track and field recuit Zoe Meade. Meade competed at the Great Southwest Track and Field Classic in Albuquerque over the weekend and placed second in the girls' high jump and fifth in the heptathlon.

Finally, Matt James of the Fresno Bee offers up some thoughts on all of the conference realignment talk.

Daniel Lyght of the Fresno Bee offers a couple of quotes on the relationship between Boise State and the rest of the WAC members given BSU's open pursuit of Mountain West membership. He also offers a couple of quotes from Fresno State head football coach Pat Hill.  Continue Reading This Post >>

Diep Earns Academic All-America Honor

Written By: NM State Athletic Dept.

LAS CRUCES, N.M. - New Mexico State men's tennis senior Gustave Diep was named to the 2010 ESPN the Magazine Academic All-America Men’s At-Large first team, Wednesday, June 8, by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA). This is the second straight season that Diep has garnered academic all-american earning a second team honor in 2009.

"Gustave is a very talented tennis player but a much finer student and that is hard to say because he is one of the best tennis players in the country," head coach Don Ball said. "He never received a single 'B' in all his classes at NM State and was always at the top of each and every class he was involved in. He is a pleasure to be around and he will be very successful in whatever he does later on in life because he knows what is important and has no problem putting in the work to be successful both on the court and in the classroom."  Continue Reading This Post >>