New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is calling for the University of New Mexico and New Mexico State University to postpone fall contact sports, including football, due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
According to the Albuquerque Journal, Lujan Grisham sent a letter to leadership — regents, governing board members and administrators — at both universities on Tuesday and said “it is critical that you postpone collegiate athletics in this moment of escalating danger.” In her letter, she said contact sports at the college level could potentially resume in late 2020 or early 2021.
“I know what I am asking you to contemplate is difficult and unprecedented, but these are difficult and unprecedented times,” Lujan Grisham wrote. “Fighting COVID-19 is a team sport. I am asking each of you to join me and take it upon yourselves to do everything you can to fight COVID-19. Together we can protect all New Mexicans, and if we are successful, we can resume contact sports and re-engage in the camaraderie and joy they bring all of us in a safe manner as soon as we can.”
In her letter, Lujan Grisham, cited rising numbers of young people affected by COVID-19 in the state.
“Almost half of our state’s newly identified cases — one of the key factors driving the state’s frighteningly consistent rise in cases over the past weeks — are individuals between the ages of 20 and 39. Even if younger individuals do not succumb to the virus, their bodies are too often indelibly harmed, forever scarred,” Lujan Grisham wrote.
Lujan Grisham previously ordered fall contact sports at the high school level be postponed until 2021, but does not have such authority over UNM and NMSU. Both universities told the Albuquerque Journal that they have yet to make decisions about fall sports.
“We have been in regular communication with the Governor’s office over the past several months, and we sincerely appreciate the guidance her office has provided as we have worked on our plans for fall sports,” UNM president Garnett Stokes and athletic director Eddie Nunez said in a joint statement. “We expect discussions with the NCAA and the Mountain West Conference to continue over the next couple of weeks as plans for the fall are finalized.”
A New Mexico State spokesperson told the Journal that the university is “actively monitoring” the college athletics landscape and are “following the decisions being made by the NCAA, the conferences, and other associated bodies.” Additionally, NMSU athletic director Mario Moccia expressed a similar sentiment to Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel.
Spoke to NM State AD Mario Moccia about the NM governor’s letter urging New Mexico and NM State to suspend contact sports this fall. Moccia said NMST will proceed with caution: “We’re anxious to get word from the other schools and the NCAA to see what they’re going to do.”
— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) July 22, 2020
New Mexico, a member of the Mountain West Conference, is scheduled to open its football season against Idaho State on Aug. 29 at home. New Mexico State, an FBS independent, opens play on the road against UAB on Sept. 3.
As of Tuesday, New Mexico reported 17,517 cases of COVID-19 in the state, with 588 deaths.
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