New Mexico State (5-6) seeks waiver to play in bowl game

New Mexico State is asking the NCAA's football oversight committee for a waiver that would allow its team to play in a bowl if it finishes with a 5-6 record.

Athletic director Mario Moccia told ESPN that the school submitted its appeal Monday. The football oversight committee is expected to discuss the appeal and make a decision in the middle of the week, as bowl game pairings are finalized Dec. 4.

New Mexico State's appeal is primarily based on its inability to play a 12th game that would allow it to qualify for bowl eligibility. The team's Oct. 22 home game against San Jose State was postponed and later canceled after the death of San Jose State player Camdan McWright in a traffic collision on Oct. 21.

New Mexico State attempted to schedule a game with several FBS opponents for its open week on Nov. 3 but was unsuccessful, Moccia said. The school also tried to schedule an FBS opponent for this coming Saturday but couldn't find one willing to play.

The Aggies on Saturday upset Liberty 49-14 despite entering the game as 24-point underdogs. They improved to 5-6 but have a win against FCS Lamar. Teams cannot count two games against FCS opponents toward bowl eligibility.

"That's our only shot: We weren't given the opportunity to play, it's out of our control, and we've tried to schedule everybody else out there and we can't," Moccia said. "If it doesn't make sense for you to play, you're not going to play it just to help somebody else. I understand that part."

There are currently 79 bowl-eligible teams for 82 available spots, although Buffalo can get to six wins when it faces Akron in a rescheduled game Friday. If not every spot is filled, 5-7 teams with the highest Academic Progress Rate scores are granted eligibility, starting with Rice and UNLV, which fired coach Marcus Arroyo on Monday. Moccia noted that New Mexico State's 5-6 record carries a better percentage than 5-7 records but stressed that the team has tried to give itself a 12th game.

"We're stuck," first-year coach Jerry Kill said. "It's my job to fight for our kids. To me, it shouldn't even be a fight. It's common sense that when a team has a death, they decide not to play you and they won't play you later, there's nothing you can do about it. We've called and exhausted every single [possibility]. We'll go play anybody right now."

New Mexico State is hoping to play another FCS team this week in Valparaiso, but Valparaiso needs an NCAA waiver to play the Aggies and is still awaiting the decision. Moccia said the Valparaiso game would allow New Mexico State to have senior day and fulfill its allotment of home games.

"We clearly understand playing this game has nothing to do with bowl eligibility," he said.

New Mexico State has made only one bowl appearance since 1960, when it beat Utah State in the 2017 Arizona Bowl. Kill, the former coach at Minnesota and Northern Illinois, took over a program that went 2-10 last season. To possibly reach a bowl game in Year 1 would be "a tremendous story for college football," Kill said.

"It would be a massive event in the history of the football program, that's not an understatement," Moccia said. "We sure hope things work out in our favor."