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UTEP rivalry about to get more interesting


There has been a lot of discussion the past few months about the athletic rivalry between New Mexico State University and the University of New Mexico.

The discussion is warranted given the incidents that happened during the rivalry football game last October in Las Cruces, and the shooting the night before the November rivalry basketball game, which ended in someone dying.

Most recently, the discussion has centered around security plans from both universities for rivalry games in the 2023-24 season. The Aggies are scheduled to play the Lobos in football on Mexican Independence Day, Sept. 16, in Albuquerque. Then there will be the traditional home-and-home basketball series, which usually takes place in November and/or December.

My thoughts? Take whatever security was planned, and double it. Maybe more. The violence has to end.

As a lifelong sports fan, I’ve enjoyed many rivalries, whether it’s Dallas-Washington in the NFL, Philadelphia-Boston in the early 1980s in the NBA or, my favorite, the Bedlam between my alma mater Oklahoma State University and the evil Sooners of the University of Oklahoma. But the violence of those mostly stayed in the games.

During all this discussion around NMSU’s UNM rivalry, however, we Aggie fans may have overlooked something.

Our rivalry with Texas-El Paso is about to get kicked up a notch or three.

On July 1, NMSU officially becomes a member of Conference USA, which includes among its 10-team lineup, the UTEP Miners.

Wednesday, Oct. 18, the Aggies travel south to the Sun Bowl to face the Miners in a football game that will mean more than Interstate 10 bragging rights. It will be a vital conference game.

Fans have long enjoyed both the UTEP and UNM rivalries, and they are usually good money-makers for both programs. But, for most of the schools’ histories, the games were non-conference.

There was a period from 1935-1951 when all three schools were together in the Border Conference.. UNM left in 1951, and the Aggies and Miners remained in the Border Conference until it disbanded in 1962.

That Oct. 18 game will also be broadcast on ESPN 2, meaning UTEP and NMSU alumni all over the country will get a chance to see this revitalized rivalry.

We’ll know more in October, of course, but as it stands now, that Aggie-Miner game looks like it could be a good one. NMSU finished 7-6 and won the Quick Lane Bowl in Coach Jerry Kill’s first season. One of those six losses was on the road against UTEP, which finished the season 5-7.

Because of the conference change and scheduling quirks, the Aggies will have to play at UTEP in football two years in a row, making the desired revenge that much trickier.

And, the guess here is, there will be some extra security.