New Mexico State is backing out of an agreement to play at Arizona State in 2006, leaving the Sun Devils scrambling to locate an opponent to open the football season.
The Aggies were scheduled to play in Tempe on Sept. 2, a Saturday. But when ASU contacted NMSU last week about the possibility of staging the game on a Thursday — per the Sun Devils’ recent tradition — the answer was blunt.
"We were informed that they are not coming," said ASU media relations director Mark Brand, who coordinates non-conference scheduling.
Under new coach Hal Mumme, the Aggies have evidently chosen to take a Kansas State approach of eschewing payout games for beatable non-league foes. Soft schedules were a big assistance during KSU’s dramatic rise in the 1990s under former coach Bill Snyder. "We’re not going (to ASU)," NMSU athletic director McKinley Boston told the Las Cruces (N.M.) Sun-News.
NMSU has also broken off negotiations for a series against Kansas State.
The Aggies’ most notable non-conference win in recent seasons was at Tempe in 1999, when the Aggies stunned the Sun Devils, 35-7.
ASU will receive a $300,000 buyout from NMSU. But Brand said that the task of finding a similar squad to schedule nine months before the game date is a daunting one.
"There aren’t any options," Brand said. "Nobody is looking for a game."
NMSU was the Sun Devils’ "guarantee" nonconference game, where they provide a school a lucrative payout, with no return trip. ASU’s other 2006 nonleague games are a home date against Nevada on Sept. 9 and a visit to Colorado on Sept. 16.
The Sun Devils will have 12 regular season games next year, including — for the first time — matchups against all nine Pac-10 rivals.
ASU has requested NMSU’s assistance in finding a replacement opponent.