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No way to ‘make up for $2.7 million’ if NMSU can’t play either payday football game

LAS CRUCES – One of the worst possible scenarios for New Mexico State athletics became a reality.

The Pac-12 announced that league schools will play only a conference schedule for fall sports in 2020-21, effectively canceling the Aggies’ Aug. 29 football season opener at UCLA and the $1.2 million payday that comes with it.

The Pac-12 decision also will cost New Mexico its Sept. 12 game at USC and an accompanying $1.05 million payday, unless the two schools agree to reschedule again.

The schools originally were to play in 2016 but came up with another date so USC could play Alabama.

The Big Ten on Thursday announced a conference-only schedule for fall sports, and the Ivy League this week announced that fall sports would be postponed.

As of Thursday afternoon, the SEC had not announced a similar plan, so the Aggies’ season finale at Florida for a $1.525 million guarantee is still scheduled.

“There is nothing you can cut that will make up for $2.7 million,” New Mexico State athletic director Mario Moccia said.

Moccia said the Aggies could schedule additional guarantee games in future seasons to make up for the loss of guarantee games against Power 5 opponents.

“We are certainly monitoring the situation with the Pac-12 and the Group of 5 and talking to other independent programs,” Moccia said. “I think it’s important to look at every single option that’s available.”

The Aggies have played fellow independent Liberty twice a season for the past two years.

In March, Moccia said he estimated a revenue hit between $350,000 and $1.1 million due to COVID-19 shutting down the NCAA basketball tournament and spring sports.

That number is likely to grow if the school is not able to collect a guarantee from UCLA even though the Pac-12, rather than the institution, canceled the game.

The game contract with UCLA stipulates in the “force majeure” clause that if either school is unable to fulfill its obligation due to “acts of God, fires, flood, earthquake, war, public disaster, strikes or labor difficulties, governmental regulations or order or any other similar cause beyond the parties reasonable control, such party shall not be liable to the other for breach of its obligations. …”

The Florida game contract includes similar language in the “force majeure” clause, but it also lists the NCAA and the SEC among the entities that can make it “impossible or impractical to play the game,” thus releasing both parties from obligating the agreement.

The Journal contributed to this report.


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