The wait is over. New Mexico and New Mexico State’s men’s and women’s basketball programs can return to the ‘Land of Enchantment’. Both schools haven’t played college basketball in the state of New Mexico since mid-November.
New Mexico and New Mexico State Return Home… Finally
On Tuesday, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced an amendment to the state’s COVID-19 guidelines. The revision lifts intercollegiate athletic restrictions, permitting programs to restart activities in the state. Strict testing procedures are still in place, but this action is a step in the right direction – a positive, much-needed direction.
The new guidelines were released by the governor’s office on Jan. 18. The clause that banned any college sports activity in counties where COVID-19 cases were high was eradicated. Bernalillo and Doña Ana counties, where UNM and NMSU are located respectively, still remain high-risk areas, however.
Even though practices are now allowed, home games are still prohibited. On Dec. 30, New Mexico adopted a “Red to Green Framework” for each county. Bernalillo and Doña Ana are currently in “red” status. Sports venues are considered “close-contact recreational facilities,” and can only re-open when the county in which the venue is located reaches “green” status.
When that level is achieved, the following guidelines must be met for a game to occur: “A new COVID-19 case incidence rate of no greater than eight cases per 100,000 inhabitants during the most recent two-week period; AND an average percent of positive COVID-19 test results over the most recent 14-day period less than or equal to five (5) percent.”
Lobos and Aggies Need This
UNM is off to a disastrous start in Mountain West Conference play. The team’s performance has been nothing short of horrible. They sit at the bottom of the rankings with a 0-8 conference record, losing each game by an average of 23 points. The Lobos rank ninth in the MWC for offensive and defensive efficiency. At least statistically they are better than two teams, Air Force and San José State. Luckily for UNM, they play SJSU on Thursday and Saturday for their last “home” games before returning home.
NMSU hasn’t played a game since Dec. 28. The Aggies lost to Cal State Northridge, 66-63, and before then, the team’s last game was 27 days prior. NMSU has only competed in three games this season, and none have been in-conference. The program usually dominates the Western Athletic Conference, but teams like Utah Valley, Grand Canyon, and Texas Rio Grande Valley have already separated themselves from the champs.
Both UNM and NMSU are in desperate need to get back to normal, and the comforts of the high desert may be the answer. The Lobos have called Texas home and the Aggies have been spending their time in Arizona. Just to be able to practice in Albuquerque and Las Cruces can positively alter the mentality of each program. Perhaps even reintroduce the confidence that has been disappointingly absent for both programs.
The return isn’t as triumphant as military personnel embracing their loved ones in the airport, but it’s something to appreciate. Something needed for a state that prides itself on college basketball.
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