The rivalry between UTEP and New Mexico State, at long last, appears to be heating up with a healthy 10,700 fans in Las Cruces’ Pan American Center on Saturday night to watch the Aggies beat the Miners in what was once one of college basketball’s hidden gem rivalry games.
With that in mind, UTEP coach Tim Floyd during Saturday night’s postgame news conference in Las Cruces let everyone know how he feels about UTEP and UNM no longer playing one another in the regular season, something UNM coach Steve Alford has no intention of changing any time soon.
NOTE: See video remarks from Floyd at bottom of article.
“It’s ridiculous that we’re not playing,” Floyd said, responding to a reporter’s question about the UNM/UTEP rivalry right after the coach had finished speaking about how much fans love the NMSU/UTEP series.
“It’s ridiculous. It’s really ridiculous. It makes no sense for one person to dictate that that series isn’t played at home and home every year. Who is that person to dictate what’s been going on for 90 years? You tell me why that makes sense. That’s how I feel about it.”
Floyd and Alford aren’t exactly the best of friends, a dislike that was amplified when the two programs nearly came to blows during pregame shootaround in the Pit on March 15, 2011, before an NIT game that the Lobos won 69-57.
The 141-game series between the two schools started in 1929 and hasn’t been scheduled in the regular season under Alford since the two teams met Jan. 6, 2009.
Asked Monday afternoon about Floyd’s comments, Alford shook his head.
“I have no idea,” Alford said. “That’s the furthest thing from my mind. I haven’t heard his comments. Doesn’t matter to me. My whole issue right now is San Diego State and Wyoming — trying to get through this week.”
The 2011 NIT game was the only played between the two programs since Floyd took over at UTEP for the 2010-11 season. Prior to that, the two programs played just one home-and-home series under Alford when Tony Barbee was coaching the Miners.
There was another home-and-home played in 2005 and 2006. The last time the series was a regular annual occurrence was in 1999.
“We’re working very hard behind the scenes on our nonconference schedule. Our nonconference schedule is what, fourth in the country? UTEP’s not on it. So we’ve done a pretty good job with our nonconference schedule.”
UNM’s strength of schedule this season is No. 4 according to multiple sources and it’s nonconference strength of schedule was No. 5 in the country, according to ESPN.com.
VIDEO COURTESY Las Cruces Sun-News. Comments about UNM come at 5:10 mark.
— This article appeared on page D1 of the Albuquerque Journal