The big event was going to happen regardless of what happened on the field. Coach Chena Gilstrap had been instrumental in the birth of the Southland Conference (he is in the SLC Hall of Honor for his efforts). The school-soon-to-be-known-as UTA met with four other schools that were floating in independent purgatory. It was March 15, 1963 when Arlington State College, Arkansas State, Lamar Tech, Trinity and Abilene Christian came together and decided to form their own NCAA conference. Some around Arlington attributed the independence to the stagnation of the program and believed playing for a conference crown would raise the talent level.
In fact, that is the most remarkable thing about this year. UTA played in a conference for the first time as a University program and the Southland Conference began play for the first time as an NCAA conference.
The 1964 schedule was one of the harder schedules UTA had fielded at that point. The NCAA was divided into two divisions, University Division and College Division, of which UTA and the SLC was the latter. However, there were three teams on the schedule that played at the higher level. The first was today's opponent, as well as the season opener.
New Mexico State was a team UTA would face quite often in the upcoming years. At 18 total meetings, UTA played no other non-conference foe more. Only Lamar and Arkansas State, at 22 total meetings, appeared on UTA's schedule at a higher frequency. Ironically, if UTA resurrected the sport and played in the Sun Belt today, New Mexico State, along with Arkansas State, would be a conference opponent. In another added twist, to show how often these clubs faced off, New Mexico State has competed against only 12 teams more than the Mavericks, even though this is the 30th season since UTA dropped their program.
The Aggies don't really have a proud tradition, at least not today. But in 1964, they were just a couple of years removed from back-to-back Sun Bowl wins. And this was when getting to a bowl was a real accomplishment. The 1960 team was undefeated, winning a Border Conference championship. NMSU would be on a streak of two losing seasons in a row, though that would end in 1964.
Not only was this the first meeting between the two schools, it would also be the first of nine consecutive years they faced off on the gridiron. The results weren't there early, as one would expect from playing a higher classified team, as ASC/UTA would go 1-8. All-time, the Aggies lead the series 6-12, so the teams were pretty even the last few years of the series.
It is a dream of mine to see these two teams square off again at some point in the near future. In the meantime, on This Day in UTA Football History, Arlington State College travels to Las Cruces, New Mexico to play the New Mexico State Aggies.
Ags Down Rebs, 3 to 0
LAS CRUCES, NM. (AP) - Lou Di Martino kicked a 36-yard field goal with 11 seconds left in the game to send the New Mexico State Aggies past Arlington State College, 3-0, Saturday night.
Arlington threatened once, in the second period, when the Rebels drove to the New Mexico State 16. But Aggie Hartwell Menesee intercepted an Ed Noble pass and that ended the threat.