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bleedCrimson.net :: Your Source for NMSU Aggies Sports News
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The Daily Aggie :: 06/29/10 :: WAC Not Expanding For Now

The WAC released a statement just a little while ago stating that the league will not be expanding until at least July 1, 2012 and will play the 2011-2012 athletic season as an eight team league (football, men's and women's basketball, volleyball, etc...)

Here is the statement from the WAC:

"The WAC and its eight member schools remain well positioned for the future," said Benson. "Over the past few weeks, the WAC's Board of Directors and athletics directors have explored several membership options. We believe it is in the best interest of the WAC to operate as an eight-team league for the 2011-12 season. We will now take several months to 'drill down' on the various membership options before making any decisions that would impact the 2012-13 season."

"Throughout its history and since its inception in 1962, the WAC has operated very successfully as an 8-team, 9-team and 10-team league. Each of those models have their advantages and all will be looked at very closely. Also, a 12-team league that would allow the WAC to split into divisions and conduct a football championship game will be evaluated."

"The future for the WAC is very bright, and we will continue to provide our student-athletes with the opportunities to compete on both the regional and national stages in all of our sports."

Matt James of the Fresno Bee pointed out that Fresno State plays at Hawai'i in 2011, as do the Aggies. This is notable since with no expansion coming, that leaves an empty slot in the schedule and a non-conference game to fill it with. It also means that the Aggies (and Bulldogs and any other WAC team scheduled to play at Hawai'i in 2011) could potentially add two non-conference games since teams traveling to Hawai'i are granted a 13th game.

The Daily Aggie :: 06/27/10

It appears that all this conference shuffling is not just confined to the FBS conferences. According to a report in the Portales News-Tribune, the Lone Star Conference, a Division II conference that Eastern New Mexico, an occasional opponent for Aggie preseason exhibition games, appears on the verge of collapse as two universities, both in Oklahoma, have left the LSC and three others, also in Oklahoma, appear to be on the way out as well.

During ENMU’s Board of Regents meeting in Portales, Gamble said the Lone Star Conference is "unraveling before our eyes," and said the university may soon have to hunt for a new conference to call home.

According to the report, the cause for mass exodus is the increase in membership fees in the conference from $15,000 annually to $50,000 annually.

While $50,000 may seem like a trivial amount, it just illustrates the major differences between schools that participate at the Division III, Division II, FCS and FBS levels.

While we're on the subject of FBS schools, we shared an article on Fresno State's financial struggles as it relates to their athletic budget. Fresno State is apparently not the only WAC school having financial struggles. Chris Murray of the Reno Gazette-Journal reports that the Wolf Pack athletic department is facing a projected budget deficit of roughly $1.2 to $2 million dollars, though Nevada A.D. Cary Groth said that number has been since downsized to around $600K and $700K thanks to donation pledges. However, UNR's president estimates the projected deficit at around $1 million. Murray conducted a Q&A with Nevada's A.D. and discussed some of the things that Nevada is considering to reduce the deficit. Among those options being mulled is dropping a sport.

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Aggies’ Radio Broadcaster/PA Announcer Lorn Brown Passes Away

Written By: N.M. State Athletic Dept.

LAS CRUCES, N.M. – Lorn Brown, a part time radio broadcaster and PA announcer passed away this past week. Brown was a member of the NM State Athletics family for the several years, working as the radio broadcaster for Aggie women’s basketball games and PA announcer for Aggie softball games. One of Brown’s famous lines at NM State softball games was ‘Adios Amigo’ with every homerun the Aggies hit.
Brown was a sports broadcaster who worked for baseball's AAA Iowa Oaks (1973-74), the Chicago White Sox (1976-1979, 1983-1988), the Milwaukee Brewers (1980-1981), and the New York Mets (1982), among other jobs.
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Aggie Tennis Coach Don Ball Retires After 25 seasons At NM State

LAS CRUCES, N.M. - After 25 years at the helm of the New Mexico State men's and women's tennis programs, head coach Don Ball is retiring. As a staple of Aggie Athletics, Ball is the longest tenured coach in school history.

"NM State has afforded me a great opportunity, and hopefully, I have given them back as much or more," Ball said. "I think I have left the program a lot different, than when I got here with basically 10 pretty good courts. Now we have the finest facility in the WAC, and one of the finest in the country, and I would like to think I was a part of that, not all of that, but a good part of that."

Ball has coached over 1,100 dual matches in his illustrious career and has won 562 combined matches from his men’s and women’s teams. He came to New Mexico State in the fall of 1985 after serving as the head tennis professional at the El Paso Tennis Club in El Paso, Texas. Since taking over the Aggie tennis programs, his men’s squads have gone 274-280 (.495), while the women’s program has a 288-289 (.499) record under Ball’s guidance.

"I have two really, really good assistants that will jump in and take my place and I don't think we'll miss a beat," Ball said. "They might even be better than in the past and that's exciting. I want to see this (program) succeed, and I want to be a fan. I only see bigger and better things for the tennis program at NM State. I’m glad I was a part of it."  Continue Reading This Post >>

The Daily Aggie :: 06/22/10

We've talked quite a bit the past couple weeks about conference expansion and how it pertains to the WAC. One of the effects of the expansion/contraction of conferences is the financial aspect. George Hostetter and Daniel Lyght of the Fresno Bee report on some troubling news out of Fresno State (H/T to The Wiz of Odds). It appears the Bulldogs' athletic program is in some financial trouble, to the point where some (the article doesn't mention who those people are) are questioning Fresno State's future in Division I athletics. We'd be shocked if Fresno State dropped out of Division I, though, there is some recent precedent as the University of New Orleans' athletic program is dropping out of Division I to Division III starting in July of this year.

The Bulldogs' $18.84 million budget is projected to have a surplus of $11,000. One thing that will hurt all of the WAC schools could be the restructuring of the ESPN television contract. We talked about this a little bit in yesterday's Daily Aggie but the $4 million television contract with ESPN that begins this year could be worth less as ESPN has the right to renegotiate the contract because of Boise State's departure from the league.

The other thing that will hurt all of the athletic departments in the WAC is the potential loss of BCS payouts. According to a report earlier this year by Michael Smith of the Sports Business Journal, this year's BCS payouts to the "coalition conference (i.e. non-BCS) totalled $24 million.

"A total of $24 million is distributed among the Mountain West, WAC, Conference USA, MAC and Sun Belt. About $4.7 million is shared evenly, while the rest is paid based on a performance formula, agreed to by the five non-automatic qualifying conferences. The Mountain West gets $6 million because TCU was an automatic qualifier into the Fiesta Bowl, while the WAC gets $4.5 million for placing a second team from this group in the BCS."

Because of the performance formula, the WAC finished second in BCS payouts among the coalition conferences, however, when Boise State leaves the WAC next season, there is a distinct possibility that the league could drop below C-USA in the formula (it depends greatly on how the WAC performs on the field).

Last year was a good year for the coalition conferences in terms of BCS payouts because there were two teams, Boise State and TCU, that earned BCS bids. In 2006 when Boise State played in the Fiesta Bowl the payout to the five non-BCS leagues was $18 million which according to a USA Today report back in 2006, that was twice what the payout is normally.

If the WAC is unable to put a team in a BCS game after Boise State leaves next season, it could definitely put a damper on every WAC athletic budget. Teddy Feinberg of the Las Cruces Sun-News reported that the Aggies received $430,000 from the NCAA for Boise State's appearance in the Fiesta Bowl. That number could shrink to less than half if the WAC is unable to put another team in a BCS bowl and also keep their spot as the second best non-BCS football conference (according to the BCS performance metrics).

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The Daily Aggie :: 06/21/10

A few more journalist around the WAC have weighed in on what the future holds for the WAC. Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News blogged about a few possible replacements for Boise State. Among the options according to Wilner's conversation with a few of his sources are to stay at an eight team league, add one of the teams we've mentioned in our earlier posts and those being Montana, UC-Davis, Cal Poly, San Diego State (unlikely) or North Texas. It's interesting to note that North Texas turned down WAC membership back in 2005 when Utah State, Idaho and New Mexico State joined the league. We've also read elsewhere that North Texas is actually hoping for membership in Conference USA. Remember that UNT has already experienced the financial burden of having to travel to west when USU, Idaho and NM State were in the Sun Belt and their administration may not want to travel down that road again, particularly since they'd be adding the Hawai'i trip.

San Diego State is one we hadn't really seen mentioned much. It's hard to believe that SDSU would leave the Mountain West to join the WAC, particularly since the MWC will be a stronger football conference and has a better financial distribution from a television contract perspective, not to mention that the Mountain West has been a stronger men's basketball conference in the past few seasons. But here is Wilner's thinking on the subject:

"But I wonder if California State University boss Charlie Reed would consider such a move in order to make struggling SDSU more competitive and have all three of his FBS teams in the same league."

The other option that Wilner brings up is adding non-football playing schools which apparently Commissioner Benson is open to (which could potentially open the door for either Denver or Utah Valley).

Matt Hinton, aka Dr. Saturday, one of the most respected college football bloggers out there writes that everyone is a winner in the conference realignment... except the WAC.

Here's a telling excerpt from his guest recent appearance on the radio in Fresno:

"Take Fresno State. The Bulldogs, in spite of their consistently solid record over the last decade and hard-earned reputation as giant-killers, haven't won even a share of a conference championship in 13 years under coach Pat Hill. When I did a spot this morning on Fresno radio, though, the question wasn't "Can we finally win the WAC now that Boise's gone?" It was "Is there any chance we can get an invite to the Mountain West, too?""

Those thoughts only echo the sentiments from Nevada and Fresno State that we shared in Friday's Daily Aggie.

Finally adding insult to injury (or in this case potential financial injury to injury), Chad Crippe of the Idaho Statesman reports that ESPN has the right to renegotiate the new $4 million television contract with the WAC because of the departure of Boise State in 2011. While according to the article Benson states that that particular conversation with ESPN hasn't taken place yet, one would imagine that it will pretty soon. Boise State was, as the article states, the centerpiece for ESPN's WAC football coverage and as another writer mentioned, the national audience isn't tuning in late November to watch Idaho versus Utah State, they're tuning in to see Boise State.

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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.

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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]

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.

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