LAS CRUCES, New Mexico (KVIA) - The long-standing rivalry between the New Mexico State University (NMSU) Aggies and the University of New Mexico (UNM) Lobos and the may face a disruption in the upcoming 2023-24 men's basketball season. The bitter rivalry, which has spanned nearly a century, has only been halted three times in the past due to World War II, the COVID-19 pandemic, and a tragic shooting incident involving a New Mexico State player on the UNM campus last year.
According to a report from the Albuquerque Journal, the two schools' athletic departments have been unable to reach an agreement on security concerns following the events of the previous season. The tensions escalated after NMSU player Mike Peake was involved in a shooting death, acting in self-defense, of UNM student Brandon Travis on November 19. Law enforcement authorities believe a brawl at the NMSU football game in October, 2022 served as a precursor to the tragic shooting in Albuquerque.
Eddie Nuñez, UNM's athletic director, revealed that discussions between the two athletic departments have been ongoing for several months. Nuñez has requested a written plan from NMSU assuring the safety and security of the Lobos' student-athletes, coaches, staff, and their families at the Pan American Center in Las Cruces. He specifically mentioned the need for additional security measures, potentially involving a stronger police presence, which would be an upgrade from the student employees previously provided by NMSU's Special Events department.
Nuñez has stated that until a concrete plan is presented for events hosted by NMSU at their basketball arena, UNM will not proceed with scheduling a game there. Nuñez expressed his willingness to have just one game this season, if it can be ensured that it would be held in the safe environment of the Pit, UNM's arena.
On the other hand, Mario Moccia, NMSU's athletic director, expressed reluctance about reducing the number of rivalry games for this season. Moccia confirmed that he has forwarded all of Nuñez's concerns to the relevant channels at NMSU and that the chiefs of police from both schools have already engaged in discussions. However, Nuñez claimed he has yet to receive a written response from NMSU.
Both schools still have the opportunity to schedule non-conference games, both at home and on the road, but the time window is quickly closing as other programs finalize their schedules. The historic rivalry between the Lobos and Aggies, which has witnessed intense competition over the years, draws large crowds and holds a special place in the hearts of both fan bases.