Here we go again.
The carousel of conference realignment in college athletics is now spinning as fast as ever.
Depending on your perspective, the latest splash of news of USC and UCLA joining the Big Ten Conference was either extremely unpredictable (really, which saw the two Los Angeles-based schools choose to join the league-based East Coast/Midwest?) or was it painfully obvious as college football seemed to be headed for two or four mega conferences for quite some time. (The Big 12 lost marquee members from Texas and Oklahoma to the SEC a year ago.)
Meanwhile, other schools and conferences across the country — including the University of New Mexico Lobos and the New Mexico State Aggies — find themselves in an uncomfortable waiting game to see what flawed conferences like the Big 12 and Pac-12 are doing before the next level of programs. decide what is really best for them.
“If you said you knew something was going to happen, I think that would be a joke,” NMSU athletic director Mario Moccia said. “You can be ecstatic where you are and happy where you’re going, but you better keep your head on a swivel too.”
The Aggies are in their final year as an independent football player and a member of the Western Athletic Conference in all other sports before joining Conference USA, including soccer, for 2023-24.
UNM athletic director Eddie Nuñez echoed the sentiment that the landscape is ever-changing and needs constant attention. He’s in his fifth year and started after the 2016 realignment blitz that even included the Lobos sending a memo reported by the Journal asking for a Big 12 invite.
As the Lobos remain more committed than ever to the Mountain West Conference, Nuñez said there’s constant pressure to make the athletic department as strong as possible no matter what happens down the road — Mountain West or not.
“Our ongoing goal is to be the best comprehensive athletics program in Mountain West and to provide a world-class experience for our student-athletes,” Nuñez said in a statement sent to the Journal. “We are proud members of the MWC, the most powerful Five Eyes conference. We are no different than many other institutions during this time of uncertainty in college athletics in that we are always looking for ways to better position our institution and raise the profile of our programs.
Nuñez noted that the department in recent years has proven strong in several areas: fundraising, academics, championships in various sports, and an ongoing effort to improve community engagement.
While a return to national relevance for men’s basketball and an improved on-field football team would help in a number of ways – especially in a time when football television money is the gas that fuels the entire college athletics industry – Nuñez and UNM achieve significant ease football upgrades are the most important factor in putting its athletic department in a position to be more attractive to a conference that might be looking to add a new member.
“With our continued commitment to improving our facilities, with the addition of the New Mexico Mutual Champions Training Center, we are making incredible progress, but we still have more improvements to make to the facilities that are needed,” said Nuñez said.
Earlier this month, Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson told Denver-based KOA-AM radio that, as he and everyone else waits for what might be next for the remaining members of the Pac -12 and the Big 12, he is happy with the league position. is right now.
“I think we’re in a position where we’ve solidified – some of our institutions had the opportunity to leave a year ago and join the American (Athletic Conference) and chose to stay,” said Thompson. “And I think it was a smart move. We had our best year ever – four 10-win football teams; we had four teams in men’s basketball (NCAA tournament). … There could be some Big 12 schools, there might be Pac-12 schools that might be interested in the Mountain West Conference.