Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

Aztecs looking for opponent to open 2023 football season

Wanted: Home opponent to open the 2023 college football season. Centrally located, state-of-the-art facility. Could be warm (even hot). Visitor guarantee payment negotiable. Inquire with San Diego State Athletic Department.

The San Diego State football team needs an opponent for its 2023 season opener after New Mexico State canceled a scheduled game between the schools.

The contract signed by the schools in 2018 calls for a $1.5 million penalty if either party cancels.

SDSU is intent on receiving the penalty payment to help entice another opponent to come to town.

Whether New Mexico State, with a cash-strapped athletic department, will contend the payment remains to be seen.

SDSU and New Mexico State were scheduled to play Sept. 2 at Snapdragon Stadium, but the Aggies dropped the game while navigating from independent to member of Conference USA.

SDSU officials have worked in recent weeks and months to create some scheduling flexibility while locating a replacement to fill out the Aztecs’ 12-game schedule.

“Once New Mexico State joined Conference USA we were made aware that it wanted to cancel our scheduled game for Sept. 2,” said John David Wicker, SDSU’s director of athletics. “Luckily, we were able to move Idaho State to that date and we are close to finalizing another home opponent for our opener on Aug. 26.”

SDSU is expected to replace New Mexico State with another Group of Five school.

The Aztecs’ four nonconference opponents each season (they play eight Mountain West games) usually consist of two Power 5 teams, one Group of Five team and one FCS team.

SDSU already has Pac-12 opponent UCLA (home, Sept. 9) and Oregon State (away, Sept. 16) on the schedule in addition to the contest against Idaho State, an FCS team that competes in the Big Sky Conference.

New Mexico State played as an independent the past five years after leaving the Sun Belt following the 2017 season. The Aggies announced in November 2021 that they were joining Conference USA in the summer of 2023.

In accommodating an eight-game C-USA schedule, however, the Aggies found themselves overbooked. NMSU needed to shed two nonconference games from the schedule.

Though New Mexico State’s website still listed SDSU under future schedules as its Sept. 2 opponent, New Mexico State assistant media relations director Jon Opiela confirmed that San Diego State “is not on our schedule.”

C-USA released its composite 2023 football schedule Tuesday afternoon, and New Mexico State was slated for a Sept. 2 nonconference home game against Western Illinois.

SDSU and New Mexico State signed a contract in April 2018 for a home-and-home series. The Aztecs defeated New Mexico State 31-10 at Las Cruces in the 2019 game, with a return game scheduled for 2023.

As a home-and-home series, the host did not owe the visitor a guarantee for playing.

Of note, however, was item no. 9 in the contract, which states: “This contract may be canceled in the event of fire, flood, earthquake, war, hostilities, and/or rebellion; confiscation by order of government, military or public authority; prohibitive or injunctive order by any competent judicial or other governmental authority, civil or military; and/or any other circumstance beyond the control of either party which makes it impossible for the game to be played at the game site of the Host Party.”

But it also says: “If either party cancels the event for any other reason, the party so canceling or failing to appear will make a $1,500,000 (one million, 500 hundred thousand dollar) penalty payment to the other party. The canceling party’s obligation will be limited to the payment specified in.”

The penalty payment is due within 30 days of either notice of cancellation or when the breach occurs, whichever is earlier, according to the contract.

“They’re still working through the buyout, but nothing has been officially decided,” Opiela said Tuesday afternoon.

Asked if New Mexico State is trying to get the buyout amount reduced, questions were referred to New Mexico State’s HR department.

A phone message there was not immediately returned.

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