The New Mexico State Aggies announced Tuesday that they have relocated their men’s basketball team to Phoenix. The move will allow the team to fully prepare for the 2020-21 college basketball season. This is in response to continued increases in case of COVID-19.
New Mexico State Aggies Move Home Games for 2020-21
As COVID-19 cases continue to spike in New Mexico, the Aggies and New Mexico Lobos have searched for alternative solutions to practice. This is due to New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s strict health orders during the pandemic. New Mexico college athletics are unable to hold full practices, host games in the state or schedule non-conference opponents. The restrictions also put the two annual in-state rivalry matchups between the Aggies and Lobos in jeopardy.
The governor’s orders have been highly-contested, but Grisham has only become firmer with her policy. The state is currently under another two-week lockdown. With no reprieve in sight, New Mexico State Director of Athletics, Mario Moccia, approved the team’s relocation to the Arizona Grand Resort & Spa. The location is five hours away from the university’s home in Las Cruces, New Mexico. The Aggies are the first NCAA Division I men’s basketball program to make such a move. Other schools may follow the trend.
For Moccia, the decision made sense. He said in his press release, “The Arizona Grand will provide the ability for our team and coaches to isolate as much as possible while having virtually unlimited access to a court.”
The team’s stay in Phoenix will last five weeks. Every player, coach and staff member will be tested three times per week as required by the NCAA.
Considering other states don’t have such tight restrictions, both the Aggies and Lobos can’t afford to lose valuable time to prepare for conference play—especially New Mexico State.
The Aggies have won eight of the last 10 Western Athletic Conference championships, including the last three. They’re picked as the WAC coaches’ preseason favorite to win the conference a fourth straight year. Of the nine coaches who voted, the Aggies received eight first-place votes. The lone variance went to Grand Canyon University–most likely tallied by New Mexico State’s head coach, Chris Jans. Coaches cannot vote for their own team.
Though the Aggies are the first men’s basketball program in the country to vacate their home, they aren’t the first athletic program to do so in the state. New Mexico athletic director Eddie Nuñez already moved the Lobos’ football program to Las Vegas two weeks ago.
Nuñez told the Albuquerque Journal of the move, “I want to be able to offer these kids the opportunity to compete. They’ve worked their tails off. They’ve been responsible.”
The main reason behind these relocations is the health of the athletes and their respective communities. However, perhaps a little normalcy for 2020, like the Aggies making another WAC title run, contributes to the decision as well.
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