UTEP and NMSU Should Explore a Home and Home Series in Football
When I first heard about this yesterday on Sportstalk, I thought it was a mistake because I did not know that schools could even schedule two football games against the same opponent each season. When I texted NMSU Director of Athletics Mario Moccia about it, his response was "Gotta be a little innovative my man!!!"
Give Moccia credit for doing something that should be more commonplace in college football. In the case of Liberty, the school will also play 2018 as an Independent and they have just transitioned from FCS to FBS. Both football programs were probably looking to schedule games over the next few years and the home-and-home series made the most sense. However, I would like to see the Aggies approach UTEP about a similar arrangement in football.
I understand that a home-and-home is not possible every season, since the Miners already have four non-conference games scheduled for future years. However, as a football fan, I would be much more interested in watching the Battle of I-10 twice each year instead of a home game against an FCS opponent.
According to fbchedules.com, the Miners will host Northern Arizona in 2018 and Houston Baptist in 2019. Both schools are FCS, with the Lumberjacks playing in the Big Sky while the Huskies compete in the Southland Conference. For the Miners, these games represent home guarantees, where their smaller opponents will make a nice six figure paycheck in order to come into the Sun Bowl and play. UTEP is supposed to destroy an FCS school, but what does that really accomplish? These games usually attract about 20,000 fans compared to the 80,000 many of the Power 5 schools draw against similar FCS schools. It is not fair to compare the talent level to most of the FBS schools there Miners will play each season. If by some chance UTEP was to lose a game to either Northern Arizona or Houston Baptist, the embarrassment and demoralizing outcome could jeopardize the rest of their season. In 2003, UTEP was thoroughly dominated by Cal-Poly and lost 34-13 at the Sun Bowl. Three months later, head coach Gary Nord was fired and replaced by Mike Price.
UTEP Director of Athletics Bob Stull has told me that in a perfect world, his football program would host an FCS opponent every year. Instead of bringing in schools like Northern Arizona or Houston Baptist, why not play the Aggies twice in the same season? The two meetings could be the first and last games of the year. That way, both teams could have entirely different looks between the two meetings. It would also give football fans in El Paso and Las Cruces something special to look forward to later in the year. Moccia would probably jump at the opportunity to schedule the Miners in a home-and-home series. Since he is soon to be an Independent, Moccia needs football games much more than Stull does. Instead, mark your calendars for September 1st of 2018 Miner fans, when the mighty Lumberjacks visit the Sun Bowl.