The New Mexico Bowl went outside the box – yet, barely outside its state’s borders – to fill the remaining slot for its fifth annual contest.
On Friday, UTEP accepted an invitation to face Brigham Young at University Stadium on Dec. 18.
In the past, by contract, the New Mexico Bowl has featured a team from the Mountain West Conference against a team from the Western Athletic Conference.
This year, however, the WAC has been bypassed for UTEP of Conference USA – a school located in El Paso, a 3 1/2- or four-hour drive from Albuquerque.
The past two years, Fresno State represented the WAC in the New Mexico Bowl. The Bulldogs lost two exciting games to Colorado State and Wyoming, but brought few fans with them.
Bob Stull, UTEP’S athletic director, said at a Friday news conference in El Paso that the transaction enabling UTEP to accept a New Mexico Bowl bid involved three bowls and five conferences.
Jeff Siembieda, New Mexico Bowl executive director, said the result was well worth the effort.
“This should be what a bowl game is all about,” Siembieda told the Journal in a phone interview. “This should be two passionate fan bases coming in and taking over our town for a few days, and we’re pretty excited about it.”
In BYU, the Miners will face a longtime former rival but one they haven’t played since they were both members of the WAC in 1996. The Cougars lead the series 28-7, with one tie.
The New Mexico Bowl will be UTEP’s second trip to Albuquerque this fall. The Miners defeated the New Mexico Lobos 38-20 on Oct. 2.
Many Albuquerqueans will value, in different ways, one last opportunity to watch BYU play at University Stadium. The Cougars are withdrawing from the Mountain West, of which UNM is a member, to pursue independent status in football.
These are teams that arrived at 6-6 records by wildly different means. BYU started the season 1-4, then won five of its last seven; UTEP won five of its first six, then finished 1-5.