Originally written on SPORTS by BROOKS  |  Last updated 11/17/14

Every college football season we’re regaled with tales of FBS programs facing the shame of bowl game ineligibility for failure to live up to NCAA home game attendance requirements. Supposedly in order to remain bowl eligible, an FBS team must average at least 15,000 in actual or paid attendance for all home football game once every two years.

Apparently New Mexico State, at least if you believe what the school is telling its fans this week, is in real danger of facing such ignominy going into its final home game of the season against Utah State this Saturday. From an official school release on the NMSU sports website:

This game plays an important role towards the 2012 campaign, as New Mexico State is on the cusp of making the required 15,000 in average attendance for the year. NCAA rules stipulate that New Mexico State must average 15,000 fans this year or the Aggies would not be eligible for a bowl game next year. To date, the Aggies are short of this important requirement by about 1,000 tickets.

A combination of 1,000 students and individual game tickets must be attained on Saturday, or the Aggies will not be eligible for a bowl game next year. Further, the Aggies would then have to average 15,000 fans in each of the next 10 years or they would be relegated to FCS status.

Then the school press release gets really, really ugly:

With conference changes continuing to impact every conference in the country, failing to make the required 15,000 average attendance could have catastrophic effects on the growing Aggie program.

Per NCAA rules, all purchased tickets (including season tickets) and all main campus NM State students that enter the game count towards the attendance requirement. However, the $5 child price ticket can only be counted if the ticket is actually used at the gate. Therefore, the Aggies need to generate a combination of 1,000 regularly priced single-game tickets sold, main campus NM State students entering the gates, and $5 children’s tickets being scanned at the gate to reach the required 15,000 average.

Going into Saturday’s game, the NCAA official website lists New Mexico State as averaging 15,440 through five home games. But, at least based on 2010 NCAA attendance figures and the collegiate governing body’s FBS attendance requirements, the Aggies could not draw a single fan Saturday and would still maintain bowl eligibility based on the NCAA’s FBS attendance criteria.

NMSU averaged 15,906 according to official NCAA attendance data in 2010, and schools need fulfill the 15,000 average attendance number only every other season.

Even if the school fails to reach 15,000 in average home football game attendance in two consecutive seasons, that does not mean immediate bowl ineligibility. From the official NCAA website:

An institution that fails to satisfy any of the Football Bowl Subdivision membership requirements set forth in Bylaws through shall receive notice of such noncompliance. After receiving notice, any further noncompliance with the Football Bowl Subdivision requirements within a 10-year period shall cause the institution to be placed in restrictive membership. While in restricted membership, an institution shall not be eligible for post season football competition.

So if a school is indeed non-compliant in respect to NCAA FBS attendance requirements, it would not be automatically ruled ineligible for a bowl the next season. It would have to be non-compliant again during a period of 10 years to suffer such a fate.

But with New Mexico State having appeared in three bowl games since 1893, whose counting anyway?

Follow Brooks on Twitter or join him on Facebook for real-time updates

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