Rivalry between Utah State, New Mexico State could go underground after this year
Long before the wins, long before he was stalking the sidelines as a head coach, Stew Morrill was a recruit out of Provo High, his talents courted by Utah State.
Morrill recalled a memory from his junior year, when he was on a recruiting visit with then-teammate Craig Drury. He watched Utah State and New Mexico State clash. The NMSU Aggies were a Final Four team that year, and Utah State was no slouch.
As he watched the back-and-forth, Morrill remarked to Drury: "I don't think you and I could play in this game."
The Aggies-Aggies rivalry has been on the of the highlights of Utah State's years in the WAC. Part of that has been the intensity - the fire that went back to Morrill's playing days and was further honed by conference stakes.
Last season, NMSU swept the Aggies in their meetings. The year before, it was the opposite. The back-and-forth has made USU and NMSU natural competitors. It's also a interesting contrast with Utah State's somewhat rigid offensive system and New Mexico State's inversely loose, changing-year-to-year way of doing things.
"They're always getting talented guys, and figuring out what they do best," Morrill said. "The freedom in their system is what makes them so hard to deal with."
Yet despite compelling reasons to continue the rivalry, Morrill acknowledged Thursday's trip to Las Cruces might be the program's last for a while. Each school is a bit out of the way from the nearest airport, Logan from Salt Lake City, and Las Cruces from El Paso.
Conference divergence could mean a few years before New Mexico State and USU resume the all-Aggies contest.
"I don't think either school will be sprinting to schedule the other one for a few years," There could be a period where you let it slide for a few years, but at some point I'm sure we'll get back together."
Kyle Goonkgoon@sltrib.comTwitter: @kylegoon