The Daily Aggie :: 06/12/10

After the news of Boise State's departure from the WAC effective July 2011, several different media outlets have weighed in on the consequences for the WAC (see the links section).

Stephen Tsai of the Honolulu Star Advertiser blogged (in an aptly titled post: Can the last WAC team please turn out the lights?) three key consequences:

• Losing potential BCS money.
• Having a diminished national TV value.
• Losing the Humanitarian Bowl.

It'll be interesting to see what happens should Boise State play in a BCS bowl this coming season. According to an article by Brian Murphy in the Idaho Statesman, the Broncos will forfeit over $1 million in WAC revenue but will retain the $3 million bonus should they reach a BCS bowl this season. Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports brought up another interesting thought. Should Boise State go undefeated in non-conference play, how much does the WAC spend on trying to promote them for a spot in the national championship game? If they do no marketing at all, wouldn't that be akin to cutting off your nose to spite your face? But on the flip side, if they spend a bunch of money, they're just marketing a program that is out the door at the end of the 2010-2011 athletic season. Tough decision.

Stephen Tsai also notes that the WAC has lost 13 schools in the past 12 years: with Boise State, Brigham Young, Utah, Colorado State, Air Force, Wyoming, UNLV, San Diego State, New Mexico, Rice, Tulsa, SMU and UTEP.

In a nutshell, despite what WAC Commissioner Karl Benson may say, it's undeniable that the WAC could be in some trouble. While Benson has successfully guided the league through several transitions, this one is unlike any of the previous transitions and the list of FBS (or Division I-A) schools that are geographically fit to join an already cash strapped set of schools (e.g. NM State has had to cut $3 million in the past two seasons from its athletic budget) in the WAC is pretty much non-existent. The last expansion saw the WAC pick up three teams, NM State, Idaho and Utah State, who were not only a geographic fit but also in situations where the WAC was an upgrade over their current FBS conference. All three teams were in the Sun Belt (a terrible geographic fit for all three) and prior to that all three were in the Big West before it dropped football at the FBS level (Boise State was also a Big West member before jumping to the WAC in 2001).

Every single western-half of the U.S. FBS football playing school is already committed to a conference. The Aggies' two rivals, UTEP and UNM, are the most geographically logical teams to add to the WAC. However, UTEP is highly unlikely to give up their spot in Conference USA to join a weakened WAC. New Mexico to the north is most certainly not going to leave a now bolstered Mountain West. There is talk that Nevada wants to join the Mountain West as well, though MWC Commissioner Craig Thompson stated in yesterday's press conference that there are no current plans to add any other WAC schools. We suspect they have bigger fish in sight (read: Kansas and Kansas State). However, the fact remains that Nevada's President and A.D. seem to be on the same page and according to a Q&A with the Reno Gazette-Journal, Nevada is not going to sit idly by while everyone realigns.

We'll preface this by stating that we have no intimate knowledge of the comings and goings of the WAC's business and this is just an educated assumption on our part. However, there is also the possibility that with all this conference realignment that the WAC could also lose Louisiana Tech to a more geographically fit conference. Again, we have no insider knowledge of this, but former La. Tech A.D. Derek Dooley (now Tennessee head football coach) was open in his and the school's desire to move to a more geographically sound conference and it would make sense, given the economic climate, that their current administration probably still feels the same way. (For what it's worth, Fresno State is also an attractive school in terms of conference expansion. All of their sports earned above a 925 in the APR and they have consistently been among the top three in the Commisioner's Cup Standings, it would stand to reason that if the MWC were looking to take another WAC school, Fresno State would be on the shortlist). A scenario in which the WAC loses Boise State, Fresno State, Nevada and Louisiana Tech is the worst-case scenario for the league but something that may not be entirely out of the equation (anything is possible these days).

So with Boise State out the door, La. Tech possibly looking to find a new, closer home and Nevada practically begging the Mountain West to let them in, where does that leave the WAC?

According to Commissioner Benson, the future of the WAC almost certainly lies in the addition of FCS teams. Those schools rumored to be on the list? Montana (which would be the best team to add from a competitive standpoint), Cal Poly, UC-Davis, Sacramento State and Texas State (it's also been rumored that Utah Valley and Denver want in the WAC, however, neither plays football).

Here's where the trouble begins. Each of those schools competes at the FCS level and the FBS level has different requirements than does the FCS level. It takes a lot of money up front to become an FBS football member. The two biggest financial hurdles are scholarships (from 63 to 85), additional coaches (FBS limits are one head coach, nine assistants and two graduate assistants, the FCS level limit is 11 coaches) and the big one, facilities which includes a stadium which will allow the school to meet the average attendance requirement of 15,000.

Of those schools mentioned on the short list, Montana is probably in the best shape facilities-wise. Their stadium, Washington-Grizzly Stadium, seats 25,200. The Grizzlies led the FCS in attendance last year averaging 24,417 per game. They are the only team on the list of potential invitees to meet the attendance requirement in 2009 (you can download the attendance figures from the NCAA's report here).

Texas State's stadium holds a little over 16,000. Their average attendance in 2009 was 12,249. UC-Davis' stadium (Aggie Stadium) only holds 10,000 of which they averaged 9,908 fans per game. Sacramento State's stadium hold 21,195 and their average attendance was 9,935. Cal Poly's stadium holds just 11,075 people. The Mustangs average 9,588 fans per game last season.

Nearly all of the teams fill their stadiums to capacity each game, however, they still fall well short of the minimum required attendance. In Texas State's case, their 2005 season was their best attended season, in 10 games they averaged 12,875 and had four of the Top 10 crowds in the stadium's history, two sellouts and then 15,411 for an NCAA quarterfinal game and 15,712 for a game against Northern Iowa. That's great, however, they would likely have to set attendance records every time out just to meet the NCAA's FBS attendance minimums.

Then there are the hidden costs. Division I members have to sponsor at least seven sports for men and seven for women (or six for men and eight for women) to meet Title IX requirements. All of the potential schools play at the Division I level in all their sports except football which plays at the FCS level. The question becomes, where does each institution get the additional money to fund the scholarships (including any additional scholarships needed to satisfy Title IX requirements) and facility upgrades? Do the schools cut other men's sports (which often time happens when budgets get tight)? Montana and Texas State field just six men's sports so that's not an option for those schools.

Unfortunately for the WAC, expansion, particularly the kind that it appears Commissioner Benson is apparently looking at (the FCS route) is not as simple as just inviting a school (which of course the Commissioner already knows we're just sharing it with you in case you didn't already know). With Boise State leaving in 2011, it's possible that the WAC could play with just eight members in 2011 which would hurt not just football but men's and women's basketball as well as the other sports in which Boise State participated.

We leave you with an excerpt from a piece from The Sports Network's Craig Haley who covers the FCS.

Montana - A move to the FBS has been talked about for a number of years in Missoula, and on the surface, this might seem to be the program best-suited for going up a division. The Grizzlies have won or shared 12 straight Big Sky titles, appeared in the FCS playoffs for 17 straight seasons as well as in the last two championship games (losing both times), and have a rabid, state-wide fan base that helped them to lead the FCS in home attendance average (24,417) in 2009. Plus the WAC would be interested should its conference need restocking. However, Montana would still need to pour millions into a move. The university would have to improve facilities, despite its expansion project at Washington-Grizzly Stadium, and you could argue that the state doesn't have a talent base suitable for the FBS level (the Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported there were only two Montana natives on FBS rosters last season). Will the fans stay interested if Montana is 4-8 and not 10-1 in the regular season?

On to today's links...  Continue Reading This Post >>

The Daily Aggie :: 06/11/10

As we're sure you're already keenly aware, the first piece of the conference realignment puzzle was placed yesterday when Colorado announced their formal acceptance of the Pac 10's invitation to join the league. The second piece of the puzzle was put in place today as Boise State announced they are leaving the WAC for the Mountain West Conference, a move that should come as no surprise to anyone.

The Big 12 is in a state of flux with Nebraska widely rumored to be joining the Big Ten (11) and rumors yesterday had Texas and Texas A&M going anywhere from the Big Ten to the Pac 10, Oklahoma State to the Pac 10, Oklahoma to the SEC and Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State, Baylor and Texas Tech holding the proverbial Big 12 bag. Basically, it's one big gigantic mess.

So where does that leave the WAC and in particular New Mexico State? That's a question that only WAC Commissioner Karl Benson knows the answer to. However, reading between the lines it appears that the WAC will counter any league defections by adding FCS schools. Unfortunately it's a wait and see game for the WAC fans.

Mike Sodders Drafted By Angels In MLB Draft

Written By: NM State Athletic Dept.

LAS CRUCES - Former Aggie second baseman Mike Sodders was drafted in the 31st round of the Major League Baseball draft, Wednesday, June 9.

Sodders, a native of Moreno Valley, Calif., was drafted by the Anaheim Angels in round 31 at pick No. 954 and is the 47th draft selection from NM State. Last year three players were drafted by MLB teams, while 23 players have been drafted while head coach Rocky Ward has been the head coach for the Aggies.

"It's great to hear that Mike is going to get a chance to fulfill a lifetime dream of playing professional baseball," head coach Rocky Ward said. "The possibility of him being drafted has been in real doubt since he wasn't able to play the last eight weeks of the season because of a foot injury. Hopefully his foot will be healed in time for him to sign a contract and get a minor league assignment."  Continue Reading This Post >>

The Daily Aggie :: 06/09/10

We'd like to offer our congratulations to former Aggie volleyball player Alice Borden. Felix Chavez blogged that Alice has been hired as the volleyball coach at Onate High School.

Jason Groves reports that the Aggie men's basketball team will regain their lost scholarship due to the NCAA's Academic Progress Report and will be at the full complement of 13. Jason also notes that all 13 sports at NM State have at least a 900 in the latest APR.

Jason also talked a little bit more about the men's basketball scholarship situation on his blog.

Jason Groves reports on the performance of incoming Aggie track and field recuit Zoe Meade. Meade competed at the Great Southwest Track and Field Classic in Albuquerque over the weekend and placed second in the girls' high jump and fifth in the heptathlon.

Finally, Matt James of the Fresno Bee offers up some thoughts on all of the conference realignment talk.

Daniel Lyght of the Fresno Bee offers a couple of quotes on the relationship between Boise State and the rest of the WAC members given BSU's open pursuit of Mountain West membership. He also offers a couple of quotes from Fresno State head football coach Pat Hill.  Continue Reading This Post >>

Diep Earns Academic All-America Honor

Written By: NM State Athletic Dept.

LAS CRUCES, N.M. - New Mexico State men's tennis senior Gustave Diep was named to the 2010 ESPN the Magazine Academic All-America Men’s At-Large first team, Wednesday, June 8, by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA). This is the second straight season that Diep has garnered academic all-american earning a second team honor in 2009.

"Gustave is a very talented tennis player but a much finer student and that is hard to say because he is one of the best tennis players in the country," head coach Don Ball said. "He never received a single 'B' in all his classes at NM State and was always at the top of each and every class he was involved in. He is a pleasure to be around and he will be very successful in whatever he does later on in life because he knows what is important and has no problem putting in the work to be successful both on the court and in the classroom."  Continue Reading This Post >>

The Daily Aggie :: 06/07/10

The two WAC teams whose seasons continued into the weekend, the Wahine softball team and the Warrior baseball team, both wrapped up their seasons with losses (as a wise man once said, "It always ends in a loss.")

The Warrior baseball team fought valiantly in a seemingly hopeless situation as the Warriors were "stuck" in the regional with the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA baseball tournament. The Warriors advanced all the way to the championship game of the regional losing to Arizona State 8-4. The Warriors were 2-2 in the regional with their two wins coming against San Diego and their two losses coming to No. 1 ASU.

The Wahine softball team's season came to an end on Saturday as they fell to Arizona. Hawai'i concluded the best season in their program's history and the WAC an outstanding showing in the NCAA Tournament with Fresno State losing to UCLA in the UCLA Regional and Hawai'i advancing all the way to the Women's College World Series falling to Arizona. It should be pointed out that Arizona and UCLA will play a best-of-three series for the national championship starting tonight.

The other big news from the WAC today is that the Mountain West Conference has elected to not extend an invitation to Boise State, for now. Our friends at Rush The Court have a very good post on the current expansion rumors and how the chips may fall.

Finally, be sure to check out Part Two of our season recap interview with Aggie baseball coach Rocky Ward. Weekly Coach Ward Interview :: 06/03/10 :: Season Wrap Up Part II Was this freshman class with Parker Hipp, Zach Fisher, Tyler Mack and Ryan Beck the best performing freshmen classes as a group that you've had?
Rocky Ward: Yeah. Clearly. We've had a couple years where we've had a freshman or two who've really played great. Hipp and Fisher were gonna play a lot of baseball but they got moved into an every day role in a lot of cases because of the injuries to Harty and Sodders and Beck and Mack moved themselves into weekend starting roles in league and really handled it well. It's probably the best group of freshman performances we've ever had. I don't know what'll happen but I think Parker Hipp and Zack Fisher are deserving of Freshman All-American honors. I would think that Ryan Beck would but his earned run average won't be good enough. He had three or four innings where he gave up big runs. Earned run average is exactly that, it's an average. There were just a couple times where he bobbled. Eighty percent of the time he was on the mound he was outstanding, the other twenty percent he was bad and it kind of hurt his overall average. But that's part of making the transition from high school baseball to Division I, top 100 baseball which is where we play. It's a pretty high level of baseball. Tyler Mack finished with six wins and the freshman record at New Mexico State is 10 wins. How impressive is the season that he had?
RW: Yeah, wins by a freshman is 10 by Gary Goldsmith. He's all over the record book. He played in 1990 and when you look at our stat book, games started in a season, 19, career 64, Gary Goldsmith. Innings pitched in a season, career innings pitched, he's the career strikeout leader. For Tyler Mack to win six is a big deal. Ten for a freshman is quite a year, 10 for anybody. I just went through the All-American list and I believe there are only eight guys on the All-American list in our region that had double-digits in wins. It's hard to do. It's hard to win double-digits in college. You only get 14 to 16 starts and so you've got to be pretty good. Ryan Beck tied the record for most appearances by a freshman with 26 and that happened to be held by Scott Coffman last year so we have back-to-back freshmen make a lot of appearances for us.  Continue Reading This Post >>

The Daily Aggie :: 06/04/10

We've posted Part One of our season wrap up interview with Aggie head baseball coach Rocky Ward. Part two will be posted on Monday. One of the things we wanted to highlight from part one was our conversation with Coach Ward about the Aggies' 12 outgoing seniors.

This is a group of kids that has gotten us back over the top. We had established ourselves in the Sun Belt and really struggled in the WAC and so when these guys came in, they didn't have a whole lot of tradition. The two teams prior to them hadn't had much success in this league and so they had to do it again. They had to do something nobody else had done and this particular group of guys was a pretty special group. When I talk to teams each year I explain to them, and they look at me like I'm nuts, but I say, "Listen, tradition is not something you can hold, it's not something you can touch. It's just something that exists. All you need to understand is that every player that has come before you in this program, you're standing on their shoulders and what they've done and what they've accomplished will make it easier for you to accomplish things. But you have a responsibility as a player to leave the program in a better condition than when you came into it." This group took that to heart and they have left this program in much better shape than what they inherited. If you continue to do that year to year and continue to have seniors like this that take their responsibility… This is a baseball program that when I first came here 14 years ago, really didn't care much about school. They really didn't care much about doing the right thing socially. They weren't a bunch of bad kids but they went out and did whatever they wanted to do. There wasn't any discipline in the program. There was random interest in school. In other words, the good students were good students and the bad students were bad students.

What we've worked hard with over the years is to develop an understanding and I talk to recruits about this a lot. We're looking for triple threat people. That means I want kids that take their school and academics seriously. If a kid's talent level, his mental abilities, are in a level where all he can do is make a 2.5, then I expect him to make a 2.5. If he makes a 2.4, I'll get after him. If he makes a 2.6, I'll praise him. Sometimes you praise the 2.6 student more than you praise the 4.0 student because it's a matter of ability. This particular group of people, not only were they really outstanding in what they did in their careers as baseball players but they were outstanding academically.

This group of seniors that have gone out, their GPA is well over 3.0. Several of those kids have already graduated in just a four year span which is hard to do in today's world. The average student doesn't graduate in four years anymore. It's pretty much a five year type thing. So they have helped me establish a responsibility among Aggie baseball players to get back to the triple threat person and that is a quality student, a quality citizen and a quality player. Clearly they were successful at a very high level in all three tiers. I think that this last semester will have been the eighth consecutive semester that New Mexico State baseball's team GPA was 3.0 or better. That's saying something considering what happened three years ago when they shortened the season. My kids have had to miss a lot of class and yet these kids continue to perform and do a good job.

From a standpoint of the social part, it's not just that these kids didn't get in trouble, it's about these kids took their responsibility to community service things. I had several kids who went to elementary schools and read to kids. That's a big deal for a kid who may not be terribly interested in school, to have an athlete come over and read to them, that can reenergize a second, third or fourth grader to work harder and do better. These kids have done a lot in all aspects of the program. I couldn't be prouder of each and every one of them and what they do. In every single case, whether they've graduated or not, they will all clearly graduate. The kids that haven't graduated are all within a semester. I think I have one of the 12 players who has two semesters to go and that was because he made a change in his degree program that put him behind a little bit.

These guys led by example in the three important areas of life and I'm proud of them.

We've also posted an article we wrote for The College Baseball Blog about Florida International's Garrett Wittels who, as of this post, has extended his hitting streak to 55 games. The college baseball record is 58 games set by Aggie head coach Rocky Ward's teammate on the 1987 Oklahoma State team, Robin Ventura. The '87 OSU team advanced all the way to the national championship game before losing to Stanford.

Here's the full conversation with Coach Ward regarding the streak:  Continue Reading This Post >>

Florida International's Garrett Wittels' Pursuit Of Historic Streak Not Just An Individual Accomplishment

What do New Mexico State head baseball coach Rocky Ward and the teammates of Florida International sophomore third baseman Garrett Wittels have in common? They've both been a part of historic hitting streaks. Ward was the catcher on the 1987 Oklahoma State squad when Robin Ventura set the collegiate record with 58 consecutive games with a hit while Wittels' teammates are witness to the longest hitting streak since that historic 1987 season.

Wittels carries the second longest hitting streak in college baseball history, 54 games, into the first game of the Miami Regional in Coral Gables, Fla. today at 12:00 p.m. ET where he and his teammates will square off against Texas A&M. While most of the national media focuses on the Wittels' individual accomplishment, New Mexico State head coach Rocky Ward explains that Wittels' teammates are just as much a part of the streak as Wittels is.

"What sounds like an individual accomplishment is very much a team accomplishment. I will forever remember being involved with that streak because it's not all about the player that does it," said Ward in an interview with "The team around him has so much to do with his success and that's what I enjoyed so much about being involved with Robin's streak is you felt like you had responsibility for it."  Continue Reading This Post >> Weekly Coach Ward Interview :: 06/03/10 :: Season Wrap Up Part I Your thoughts on the season overall? A number that will get overlooked at least immediately because of the way the season ended was the fact that the 2010 team won 36 games which is the 5th most in program history.
Rocky Ward: Yeah. The one thing that was so unique about this season was it was really broken down into three parts. The first 21 games we were 10-11, below .500. We were struggling finding an identity. We gave up 30 runs twice in that stretch. That's hard to do. For a team as good as we were to give up 30 runs twice. We did it once against Georgia State who ended up leading the nation in runs scored per game. For all intents and purposes one of the best offenses in the country. But the other one was St. Joseph's who had a pretty good offense but I don't think they ended up in the top 20 [runs scored] I believe. Just the essence of that part of the season was we win a game 33-1, which was the biggest winning margin of the season against St. Joseph's but then turn around and lose a game 35-16, to the same team. That was the essence of where we were in that first part of the season. We're going, "Are we gonna be good or are we not?" We were really good or really bad and then all of the sudden, a couple things happened. We made some changes coaching-wise to try to shore up our defense, go to Santa Barbara and lose a game against a very good pitcher, one of the better pitchers in the Big West, then go on to win 12 in a row.

At one point we won 24 of 27 and one of them was the tie. So in the middle of the season we were the hottest team in the country and that's where our ranking came in and that's where we established ourself at the top of the league. We led the league a couple different times through the season. Then you lose 12-of-13 to finish. So the 12 game winning streak you kind of gave back with the stuff at the end.

In analysis of it all, the amazing part of the 24 of 27 was the fact that we lost Ben Harty after the Santa Barbara series. He was our four-hole hitter and at the time was hitting over .400 with 12 home runs and our number one catcher. To go through that stretch and then a couple weeks later we lose Mike Sodders who had 15 home runs and was hitting .370 or .380 and to have been able to handle losing your top two offensive players and to be able to put that stretch together is what made us feel like as coaches, players and fans that this was a pretty special team. To be able to overcome those types of losses. It was a pretty special team. This was a group of really good hard-working kids. The years that Wesley Starkes, Chace Perkins, Ryan Aguayo, Parker Hipp and Nate Shaver, those guys in particular, had. They were the heart and soul of the team. They took it upon themselves to kind of replace Sodders' and Harty's numbers. That's basically what they did. I leave Leo [Aguirre] out of that because he one of the top three hitters and he was the only one left. He basically continued to do what he did. What the other guys bring up their games, it's hard to say they were playing over their heads, but they really played up when the pressure was on. That's what put us through that run.  Continue Reading This Post >>