New Mexico State and the University of Idaho said Friday they would continue to seek a "successful solution", as member after member institution decides to leave the Western Athletic Conference for perceived greener pastures. Unfortunately, those potential solutions are few in number.
San Jose State and Utah State were the latest two football programs to formally announce they would be leaving the WAC after the 2012 season. The announcement on Friday meant the WAC had just two remaining members: Idaho and NMSU.
In a statement on Friday, NMSU President Barbara Couture and Athletic Director McKinley Boston said they would continue to explore the options before them. And they lamented the notion that the changing landscape in college athletics is plainly and simply about one thing: money.
"This is truly a new day when the sports, primarily football, are ruled by the potential for TV coverage," the two said in a written statement. "We all understand that. Now we are beginning to better comprehend just how far-reaching this new reality can be. Of course, New Mexico State University has no major media market to bring to the table. Without that market our "value" as a conference member appears to be less than other schools with less successful programs but that are located in areas with a greater population. The same thing appears to be the case for the University of Idaho."
As far as media markets go, the El Paso market, of which Las Cruces, NM is a part, is the 91st-largest market in the country. The Spokane market, of which Idaho is a part, is No. 73. But Idaho argues it also draws from the Boise market, which is No. 113, and the addition of the two markets could make it a viable draw.
Officials at the University of Idaho have said simply they are continuing to explore their options. And they, like their cohorts at NMSU have lamented the race for TV money in college athletics.
Athletic Director Rob Spear is expected to answer some questions on Friday - like, whether they would consider moving down to the Football Championship Subdivision and return to the Big Sky Conference - during a conference call with reporters. That call, however, may raise more questions than answers, as even Spear must admit that the solution to Idaho's problems will not be an easy pill to swallow.
Below is the text from the statement issued by the New Mexico State University on Friday:
Much discussion is taking place in the news about possible shifts that may occur among the WAC football playing schools.. Some believe New Mexico State University and the University of Idaho are likely to end up on the outside looking in at the end of this process.
We both felt the need to address this issue with our fans, students, alumni and broader university community.
The changes in conference alignments that began several years ago and continue today are unprecedented in college sports. This is truly a new day when the sports, primarily football, are ruled by the potential for TV coverage. We all understand that. Now we are beginning to better comprehend just how far-reaching this new reality can be. Of course, New Mexico State University has no major media market to bring to the table. Without that market our "value" as a conference member appears to be less than other schools with less successful programs but that are located in areas with a greater population. The same thing appears to be the case for the University of Idaho.
We want to assure the community that we will continue to take any and all measures we feel might assist us in reaching a successful solution to this current challenge.
We take great pride in our student-athletes and their successes on and off the court. Our student-athletes are among our best and brightest students. They graduate at a higher rate with higher grade point averages than the student body as a whole. They also achieve success on the field. We are proud that we stand near the top of the WAC Commissioners Cup with the possibility of capturing it as the most overall successful athletic program among current WAC schools.
We continue to explore all options and ask our university community of alumni, supporters and students to stand united with us as we seek solutions.
Make no mistake, we will be playing football next year and we will be competing in a revised WAC conference for the 2012-2013 school year. Our near-term goals are to compete successfully. We look forward to having you there with us as we show the rest of the world what makes NMSU an excellent athletic-and academic-institution.