The three schools are commonly called the triangle, due to the fact you can make a triangle out of the three schools. All schools are separated by just under 4 hours, and are close to each other size. The next closest D1 university is Texas Tech University at over 5 hours away from all three universities. The three universities are all in different conferences until 2023 when NMSU joins UTEP in the C-USA. Follow along as I explain why the three universities need each other during conference realignment.
Firstly NMSU needs UNM and vice versa is the easiest to explain. The two universities are the only D1 universities in the state of New Mexico. Secondly the two have a fierce rivalry in the Rio Grande Rivalry. While New Mexico maybe seen as a basketball state due to the historical successes of both schools, the games in the top 5 between the two schools history were against each other. With numbers of 31,214 when NMSU played UNM in 2004 and pulling in 44,760, 44,075 and, 41,033 in the years 2005, 2007, and 2003 respectively for UNM home games. The two schools separated by only 3 hours and 18 minutes, put up big numbers for G5 schools that aren’t too successful in football.
Now NMSU and UTEP play yearly in the Battle of I-10. NMSU vs UTEP has also put up impressive numbers at Aggie Memorial Stadium including the attendance record of 32,993 in 1998. But they also fill out the number 2,3,5 and filled the stadium to 30,343 two times. In fact in the top 20 attendance record for NMSU only 2 games weren’t vs UNM or UTEP. It’s a rivalry the packs the stadium between two schools, who historically haven’t been too good in football.
Now going a little bit north we have UNM vs UTEP. The two schools don’t have as historic of a rivalry as NMSU and UTEP as the two schools have only played 79 times. The Miners currently hold a record of 32-43-3 all time vs UNM. But they do hold a 21-17-2 record when the game is in El Paso. While the two aren’t as big of rivals as the two mentioned above Lobos head coach Danny Gonzales said last year “we should play this one every year.”
Now how do the three link together? Besides being the closest universities to each other, sharing historical rivalries, and all three being G5 schools? They associate together closely. UNM has infamously kept NMSU out of the Mountain West while UTEP welcomed them to the C-USA with open arms. But as conference realignment is raging on, the future is in question. None of the three schools are great, or even good, at football historically, with UTEP getting the most recent winning season at 7-6. Basketball wise NMSU carries the load but many disregard that due to playing in the WAC. So why don’t the three Universities become a package deal? I blame UNM’s pride.
UNM believes it’s to good for NMSU and UTEP despite not having a winning season in MBB since 2016-17 when they finished 3 games above .500 and didn’t qualify for the national tournament and haven’t had a winning season in football since the same year when they went 9-4. Meanwhile UTEP basketball finished 20-14 last year and went 7-6 in football. NMSU went 27-7 and upset UConn in the National Championship tournament in basketball and hasn’t had a losing season in a decade and had a winning football season in the 2017-18 season when they went 7-6. UNM believes they are the premier school in the triangle, when they are in fact not.
Despite UNM’s belief they don’t need the other two schools, they do. They provide nothing by themselves beside having “The Pit”. UTEP provides an improving football and basketball team, and NMSU provides a winning culture in basketball and also boast a coach with a 154-101 record who has a reputation for rebuilding teams. If UNM can put its pride aside and admit it needs the other two schools, we could see exciting conference games in both football and basketball, while also seeing the three schools thrive.