Bigger than UCLA.
Bigger than UNM.
Bigger than Texas, if that’s even physically possible.
It is almost hard to type this without laughing, but the Abilene Christian-New Mexico State showdown Saturday at Aggie Memorial Stadium is huge.
The 0-7 Aggies have played big-time opponents and haven’t competed. They lost to rival UTEP, which is 1-5. They lost, embarrassingly, 66-17 to New Mexico, which is 2-5.
They’ve lost 18 straight games, sharing the dubious honor for the nation’s longest such streak with Southern Mississippi.
Abilene Christian is supposed to be the relief of all of that, a brilliant move for a happy homecoming weekend. It’s a former NCAA Division II program transitioning to Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) status. Those schools max out at 63 scholarships. Football Bowl Subdivision teams, such as the chronically Football Bowl-less Aggies, get 85.
Abilene Christian is 5-3 and averages 47 points a game. And the Aggies surrender nearly 570 yards per outing. But then Abilene’s victories are against people like Concordia, McMurry, New Mexico Highlands, Houston Baptist and Incarnate Word.
That doesn’t so much matter. The Aggies just need to beat somebody.
“It certainly would help the coaches sleep better, I’m sure,” said first-year head coach Doug Martin on Tuesday. “And would make the players feel a lot better.”
But what if it doesn’t happen? Then they’re staring at an 0-12 2013.
That’s unless they can get by Idaho in Las Cruces in the season finale. Idaho is the one program rated lower than the Aggies by Glantz-Culver, the same pair that delivers odds to the Journal .
Unfortunately, the Vandals spoiled the prospect of a season-ending game between 0-11 teams by beating Temple last month. Wouldn’t that have been a perverse pleasure? You could have invited ESPN Game Day, Aggie-lovin’ Keith Olbermann, and the cast of The Biggest Loser.
Back to university President Garrey Carruthers, its Board of Regents and alumni. If your school can’t even manage a homecoming win on Saturday against a team that is moving up to FCS status, ask this:
Where are you going with this?
What are you doing?
Once upon a time, the struggle made sense. Does it still?
Does playing FBS football add value to the degree of Aggie alumni? Is it a source of pride? Come on. That’s what men’s basketball is for, just like at UNM.
Does it add to the quality of life on campus, or does it bring notoriety when the marketing plan is to bribe students just to show up?
When the football program loses $878,128 last year, per the report of Carruthers’ athletics transition team released last week, is it worth the expense?
What are the positives for keeping this going?
Is there hope down the road?
NMSU athletic director McKinley Boston already hired two head coaches who came in brimming with optimism. Aggie football at least could recruit to Hal Mumme’s niche offense. It at least could recruit to DeWayne Walker and his NFL pedigree. You know how that turned out.
How does NMSU recruit to Martin? We have liked his refreshing no-excuses, “why not us?” approach. We’re troubled by the way he handled news about Austin Franklin. In the preseason, he said Franklin would be redshirted for the season because of his academic situation. Later, he said that wasn’t the case at all, that instead Franklin had to clear this and that hurdle to be reinstated. Fine. So why tell us something different – wrong – in the first place?
Aside from that, NMSU has to decide if Martin, Nick Saban,Vince Lombardi or any mortal could thrive in the toughest coaching job at this level in the country.
And here’s the worst part of it all: All of those questions still must be asked, even if New Mexico State manages a win Saturday.
These are hard days to be an Aggie.