New Mexico State football is ready for new rivalries as the team returns to the field tomorrow under a new athletic conference. For the first time since joining the Sun Belt Conference in 2014, the team has changed leagues by joining Conference USA.
The Aggie football team has been a part of five other conferences since the university was founded, and most recently competed as an FBS independent after leaving the Sun Belt following the 2017 season. The university accepted the Conference USA invitation for all sports in November 2021.
In a statement issued after the invitation to join the conference was first extended, Conference USA Commissioner Judy MacLeod welcomed New Mexico State along with Jacksonville State University, Liberty University and Sam Houston State University.
“We are incredibly excited about adding these four new members and feel there is tremendous upside in these moves for our conference,” Macleod said.
According to New Mexico State athletics director Marrio Moccia in a statement issued back in 2021, joining a new FBS athletic conference had been a primary goal for years.
“Today that goal has become a reality,” Moccia said. “Playing football as an FBS Independent in 2018, 2019 and [in 2021] has been a challenging experience. Becoming a member of Conference USA is a significant day in our athletic department’s history.”
As the new season kicks off, NMSU football is set to play 13 games, including eight conference games. The university will also welcome six teams to Aggie Memorial Stadium this fall, including Western Illinois, Jacksonville State and Sam Houston, among others.
As fans prepare to fill the stadium, the Aggies prepare to host their first game of the season against the University of Massachusetts on Aug. 26. Tomorrow’s game against UMass is a non-conference matchup that will air on ESPN.
After the 2022-2023 signing period, the team finalized a list of 38 signees for the upcoming season. Among the list of newcomers is a transfer from Arizona State, Dion Wilson. According to College Football News, Wilson’s athleticism is expected to be a “huge factor in the Aggie rotation.”
Dozens of other new players might fill this season’s roster, but Aggie quarterback Diego Pavia will likely continue his reign as one of the team’s top players, according to College Football News.
In a KTSM interview, Pavia said he has a more confident mindset than he did last season, despite leading the team to seven wins including a bowl victory in 2022.
“Last year at this time, I didn’t know who was who, I didn’t know who could do what,” Pavia said. “But now, it’s a whole different ballgame because I know personnel, I know what’s coming in, I know the coach’s play calls and what to expect.”
Tomorrow’s season opener kicks off at 5 p.m. MDT at Aggie Memorial Stadium.