Bragging rights are big in college sports.
And in a state with only two Division I universities — each jam-packed with enrollments full of New Mexicans from all over the state — there is an added level on intrigue anytime the Aggies and Lobos square off on a court, course, field, pool, pitch or any other place teams from the New Mexico State University and the University of New Mexico can compete.
But, despite both schools insisting that there should always be Aggies competing with Lobos in every NCAA sport the two have in common, the two schools aren’t playing in any of their four common women’s sports this fall. Of the seven fall sports the two share in common overall, just two (football and men’s golf) will compete against each other this year.
“There’s definitely an importance to play the New Mexico State rivalry,” UNM athletic director Eddie Nuñez said. But he added, “sometimes that is challenging to make schedules work, especially with different conferences and different expectations, but we do our we do our very best to make sure that we can do it.”
Such challenges apparently have gotten in the way of the two schools competing in women’s golf, men’s and women’s cross country and women’s soccer. Volleyball seems to be another story.
NMSU AD Mario Moccia, like Nuñez, emphasized he doesn’t micromanage his coaches scheduling, but expects them to get their in-state rival on the schedule whenever possible. Moccia acknowledged he wasn’t even aware so many of the schools’ sports teams weren’t competing this year until the Journal asked him about it.
It’s not, he said, something that is by design, and even recalled a time when a former governor stepped in to make sure his Aggies were doing their part to play women’s basketball twice a season after they had chosen to drop that annual home-and-home rivalry down to one game per season.
“I think it’s critically important to play New Mexico in all of our sports in the nonconference,” Moccia said. “… It’s always one of the best attended games for both schools, so it’s important for the fans and for both schools with travel and all those other issues, too.”
As for the five fall sports that are skipping the rivalry this fall, volleyball is the one sport NMSU dominates UNM in traditionally, holding the all-time series advantage of 42-28, if you go by UNM’s media guide, or 47-30, if you go by NMSU’s media guide. (Both tallies equate to about the same win percentage.) There have been years in the past where the two didn’t play, but that is rare and the rivalry hadn’t skipped a beat at all from 2001 to 2019.
NMSU had a lopsided 3-0 win over UNM in the Pan American Center in 2019, the first season under Lobo coach Jon Newman-Gonchar. In 2020, COVID wiped away any chance of the two playing.
A year ago, longtime NMSU coach Mike Jordan, who has a 19-7 record vs. the Lobos, said he was told by Newman-Gonchar that UNM’s schedule was already full, so they didn’t play — something he says happened again this past offseason when setting up a match for this fall.
Newman-Gonchar told the Journal in an email: “The timing of finalizing the schedule didn’t line up this year. Both coaches tried to get the schedule to align and it didn’t work out. … Last year both nonconference schedules didn’t have the openings needed to get the match scheduled.”
Jordan told the Journal a slightly different version of why the teams aren’t playing.
“It’s not my job to question other coach’s scheduling philosophies. You do what you feel is in the best interest of your team,” said Jordan. He did add that he has a personal preference of not scheduling any midweek nonconference matches once league play begins (NMSU competes in the Western Athletic Conference, UNM in the Mountain West).
“So, when he told me (in 2021) they were full, I’m like, all right, well, you know, it was our turn to go up there, and I reached out. If he didn’t want to schedule it, didn’t feel it was the right time, so be it. I’m not gonna question that. Then this year, I reached out and I got the same response that they were full.”
So for the first time since both programs started in 1974 amid the berth of Title IX, there will now be a three-year stretch in which the two volleyball teams haven’t met.
Nuñez and Newman-Gonchar each said they expect the next match to be played in Albuquerque.
“We look forward to getting the timing and alignment needed to get this match back on the books here in ABQ in 2023,” Newman-Gonchar told the Journal.
NMSU says this year it was told UNM’s schedule was full even before talk of where a match would be played even came up.
Both schools played in-state, non-Division I programs in exhibitions matches on Saturday.
The rest of UNM’s nonconference schedule includes hosting Cal State Fullerton and Abilene Christian in the Lobo Invitational; playing UTEP, South Dakota and Portland State in the Borderland Invitational in El Paso; Playing Pacific, UC-San Diego and Liberty in the UC-San Diego Tournament, and a home-and-home series with Northern Arizona (one match in Albuquerque, one match in Flagstaff).
NMSU’s nonconference slate is filled up this season with Alabama State, Arizona and LIU-Brooklyn in the Wildcat Classic in Tucson; Lindenwood, North Carolina A&T and Davidson in the Davidson Classic; USC, San Jose State and UW-Milwaukee in the Trojan Invitational in Los Angeles; two home matches against UC-Santa Barbara and a road match at UTEP.
Meanwhile, the two schools won’t meet in women’s golf or cross country despite home events happening at both schools. There will be no women’s soccer match due to a scheduling conflict created by the Western Athletic Conference after the two teams had already agreed upon a date. Both soccer coaches agree there is no issue with scheduling future matches and this season’s conflict was an anomaly. And adding men’s cross country to the list makes five out of the seven common fall sports the two schools share that won’t partake in the Aggies/Lobos rivalry this fall.
The in-state rivalry traditionally brings out one of, if not the largest football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball gates of the season at the ticket office, regardless of whether the games are played in Las Cruces or Albuquerque.
Those games this season, for those wanting to fill out their calendars, will be played on the following dates:
• Football: Oct. 15 in Las Cruces
• Men’s basketball: Nov. 19 in Albuquerque; Dec. 3 in Las Cruces
• Women’s basketball: Nov. 15 in Las Cruces; Dec. 11 in Albuquerque
As for the only other fall sports partaking in the rivalry this fall, both schools’ men’s golf teams will compete in each other’s home events — the William H. Tucker Intercollegiate at UNM Sept. 23-24 and the Herb Wimberly Intercollegiate at NMSU Oct. 17-18.
UNM/NMSU FALL SPORTS
UNM and NMSU have seven fall sports in common. Five, including all four women’s sports, aren’t playing their rivals this year.
Women’s Cross Country
• 2022: No matchup
• Last meeting(s): 2 events in 2021 — UNM 1st, NMSU 2nd in Lori Fitzgerald Open (Sept. 18, 2021, in Las Cruces); UNM 3rd, NMSU 15th in NCAA Mountain Regional (Nov. 12, 2021, in Provo, Utah)
Men’s Cross Country
• 2022: No matchup
• Last meeting: UNM 2nd, NMSU 4th in Lori Fitzgerald Open (Sept. 18, 2021, in Las Cruces)
• 2022 game: Oct. 15 in Las Cruces
• Last meeting: UNM 34, NMSU 25 (Sept. 11, 2021, in Albuquerque)
• Last 10 meetings: UNM 7, NMSU 3
• Last 20 meetings: UNM 14, NMSU 6
• All time: 73-33-5
• 2022: No matchup
• Last meeting: Each played in the Branch Law Firm/Dick McGuire Invitational at UNM Sept. 13-14, 2021 (UNM finished 3rd, NMSU 15th)
• Note: Both are hosting their own events this season
• 2022: Both competing in the Sept. 23-24 William H. Tucker in Albuquerque)
• Last meeting(2): 2 events in 2021-22 season — UNM 2nd, NMSU 5th in William H. Tucker in Albuquerque (Sept. 24-25, 2021); UNM 2nd, NMSU 7th at Arizona Intercollegiate (Jan. 24-25 in Tucson, Arizona)
• 2022: No matchup
• Last match: UNM 3, NMSU 1 (Sept. 16, 2021, in Las Cruces)
• Last 10 meetings: UNM 9, NMSU 1
• All time: UNM 10, NMSU 1
• 2022: No matchup
• Last meeting: NMSU 3, UNM 0 (Sept. 7, 2019, in Las Cruces)
• Last 10 meetings: NMSU 6, UNM 4
• Last 20 meetings: NMSU 15, UNM 5
• All time: NMSU 42, UNM 28 (per UNM media guide); NMSU 47, UNM 30 (per NMSU media guide)
— Geoff Grammer