New Mexico State was saved from an uncertain future in football when it was invited to join the Sun Belt as a football-only member in March. Conference realignment had picked apart the WAC to the point of extinction, leaving NMSU and Idaho to fend for themselves and find a new home.
Before briefly settling on football independence for the 2013 season, it was thought that New Mexico State could move down to the FCS level. Apparently, that’s still not out of the question for Garrey Carruthers, one of five finalists to become president at NMSU. In an open forum discussion last week, Carruthers said he was open to the idea of moving the football program down, or perhaps eliminating the program altogether. From the Las Cruces Sun-News:
“I’ve actually had conversations with people in the Big Sky Conference,” Carruthers said, referring to a league in the Football Championship Subdivision. “That’s sort of a notch below in football. They’re not eligible for BCS bowls. But what do you think our prospects of getting (to) a BCS bowl anytime soon will be anyway? Not great. I think there’s some other conferences around, where our athletics budget would actually be at the top of the list instead of at the bottom in terms of how much money we’re spending.”
Carruthers added, “I do know there’s a limit to how much money we can spend. And that limit is probably what we’re spending right now. We have to find a conference we’re comfortable in financially.”
Carruthers said during the public forum that he would also consider dropping football altogether.
“The rest of our sports are doing rather well, believe it or not,” he said. “Maybe we should be a minor-sport (program) …. Somebody even mentioned to me yesterday, maybe we should drop football. Maybe one of the options is just stay the course and just join the Missouri Valley (Conference) and play all the sports they play. … That’s an option we need to take a look at. The most expensive sport is football, and probably the least successful at the moment.”
As Carruthers is still a candidate to become university president, nothing is imminent regarding a decision and the Aggies are still Sun Belt bound. It should also be noted that Carruthers said he is not in favor of dropping football even though he would consider it.
But it’s an interesting, candid conversation about the feasibility of fielding a FBS football team. In a time when playoff access, television revenue and media rights agreements are large factors in the literal and figurative wealth of a program, there are fewer discussions about the five lower-tier FBS conferences that don’t stand to make a lot of money and their struggles just to keep afloat. And the gap is clearly widening.
The idea of schools breaking away from the NCAA as a result still seems far-fetched, but another split within the FBS that affects rules, possible athlete compensation, etc, could be closer to reality.