SEC’s league-only football decision staggers Lobos, Aggies

The University of New Mexico is subject to lose $1 million and New Mexico State could be without $1,525,000 after the Southeastern Conference decided on Thursday to play a 10-game conference-only schedule this upcoming college football season.

After Pac-12 and the Big-10 first made those same type of decisions, UNM athletic director Eddie Nuñez and NMSU AD Mario Moccia were basically expecting the SEC to follow suit. It was just a matter of when the news would break.

After UNM football coach Danny Gonzales spent 40 minutes with the media during a press conference via Zoom, the SEC news broke about a half-hour later.

Nuñez said he was with Gonzales when the news became official as they were preparing for a podcast for alumni.

“It’s unfortunate,” Nuñez said, “But we understand the situation and we will do what we have to do to continue to fill the holes in the schedule as we continue to work with the Mountain West and the NCAA.”

UNM was scheduled to play at Mississippi State on Sept. 5, and featured a reunion with Gonzales, who played and coached as an assistant at UNM, former UNM coach and current Lobo defensive coordinator Rocky Long and Mississippi State DC and UNM alumnus Zach Arnett. They all worked together at San Diego State. It’s the third schedule change for UNM due to the ripple effects from COVID-19 concerns, and the second shift that will have an economic effect on UNM.

The Lobos’ Sept. 12 game at USC was canceled after the Pac-12 decided to play conference-only opponents. UNM had a contract for $1,050,000 with USC with $100,000 paid to UNM in 2016.

The Aggies also lost a Pac-12 opponent (at UCLA, Aug. 29) and SEC opponent (at Florida, Nov. 21). NMSU had a contract with UCLA to receive $1,200,000 for the game.

“I’ll reserve judgment on the way I think the contract was written,” Moccia said. “But if the league is going to make a decision to just play themselves and not play the other schools that they are contracted with, we’ll certainly give that to the general counsel of the university just to see what they think about any recourses on getting those funds.”

Moccia described the SEC’s announcement as “one big domino effect.” Now the Aggies will wait to see what decisions will be made by the Group of 5 conferences, including the Mountain West, which includes UNM, Hawaii and Fresno State on NMSU’s schedule.

UNM might open the season at NMSU on Aug. 29, the Journal reported on Wednesday, when the Lobos bumped Idaho State out of that season-opening slot and moved it, most likely to Sept. 19, the original Lobos-Aggies date.

Gonzales decided on Tuesday to delay the start of preseason camp from Friday to next week.

Gonzales mentioned the SEC in his press conference, thinking the news would come on Friday. He said “everything is on the table,” with regard to what will happen to UNM’s schedule.

“After all those leagues make those decisions, we’ll go forward with what we’re going to do in the Mountain West, whether we’ll go with a conference-plus or what we’re going to do,” Gonzales said. “I think every game is up for change all the way through.”

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