There’s much at stake for New Mexico State football in its season finale Saturday at home against Utah State. And the numbers more important than the final score will be the final attendance total.
A message on the New Mexico State athletics website (nmstatesports.com) headlined “NM State Needs You on Saturday” said the program is 1,000 single-game tickets short of reaching the NCAA threshold average of 15,000 per game for a Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) program.
Beyond season tickets, NMSU has sold “less than a hundred,” said associate athletic director Steve Macy on Thursday, for Saturday’s 1:30 p.m. game pitting the 4-8 Aggies against 6-5 Utah State.
Utah State at NMSU, 1:30 p.m. TV: AggieVision. Radio: KQTM-FM (101.7)
There are challenges to selling more, though the weather forecast for Saturday isn’t as big of one as earlier thought. The high is expected to be 48 degrees with only a 10 percent chance of rain.
But even if the weather cooperates, the Aggies still are likely to lose a lot of football fans to Saturday’s Class 5A prep title game between host Mayfield and Cleveland at the Field of Dreams. Mayfield chose a Saturday 1 p.m. kickoff over two other Friday night options, said New Mexico Activities Association associate director Robert Zayas.
New Mexico State, in turn, couldn’t change its kickoff time because of television and a prior commitment the charter jet has after it drops off the Utah State football team in Logan after Saturday’s contest.
Macy said the Aggies “aren’t petrified” about falling short of that 15,000 figure, “but the downside is so scary, we want to make sure everybody understands the situation.”
Which is this: Falling short of that number would mean bowl ineligibility for the 2012 season. Granted, the Aggies are the most bowl-ineligible program of this generation, dating to their two Sun Bowl appearances five decades ago.
But another, perhaps more critical consequence is that New Mexico State’s football program would be put on a sort of attendance probation. The Aggies would have to average 15,000 fans per game over the next 10 seasons or be relegated to Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) status.
The message on the website said, “With conference changes continuing to impact every conference in the country, failing to make the required 15,000 average attendance could have catastrophic effects on the growing Aggie program.”
Attendance through the five home games has totaled 77,199, or 15,440 per game. Season-ticket sales bring the Aggies still just short for a six-game total of 15,000.
The NCAA allows the Aggies to count any ticket sold that is one-third the price of their highest ($32), whether the ticket is used or not. Any ID of a student taking one credit hour, swiped at the gate, counts. The promotion of $5 tickets for children will bear fruit if the holder comes to the game.
A biting coincidence is that some Aggie fans will want to watch the Mayfield-Cleveland game to see Cole Gautsche, an Aggie quarterback commitment.
“I tell them, ‘Look, you’ll have four seasons to see him play,'” said Macy. “Plus our guys have had a pretty good season, there’s been no social misconduct, and they’ve played hard. I’d like for the seniors to leave with a positive feeling.”
WALKER EXTENSION: The Journal has learned that a contract extension of three or four years for head coach DeWayne Walker is likely to be announced soon. Walker, in the third year of a five-year deal paying $363,000 annually, is not likely to get a raise.
— This article appeared on page D1 of the Albuquerque Journal