New Mexico Governor Gives OK For College Football
All signs point to yes for Lobos football.
Well, to play college football or not to play, that has been the question this year in the Land of Enchantment, good old New Mexico.
The local die-hard Lobo fans have been hoping and praying for a ray of sunshine this fall during these long years of dealing with Covid-19.
Since COVID-19 hit American shores with so many Americans not working, working from home, and having many zoom meetings, it has felt like Groundhog Day.
Just the thought of watching a great college football game here in Albuquerque is like a spark of positive energy to the local fan base and the state.
When head Athletic Director Eddie Nuñez was able to hire one New Mexico’s own Danny Gonzales back December 17, 2019, the fans were ecstatic.
He hit a home run on this hire on so many levels with the hiring of Gonzales. He is a local high school product of Valley HS, a former Lobo player, assistant to local favorite and former head coach Rocky Long at SDSU.
He then had success as defensive coordinator under former NFL head coaches Herm Edwards and Marvin Lewis at ASU.
So not only the great hire, the addition of a very popular Rocky Long, the former Lobo head coach and former SDSU head coach as the defensive coordinator.
With the hires, you had all this fanfare, as fans were excited, local sports radios shows were a buzz about Gonzales being hired.
Many at the college level did not believe that Gonzales would choose to come back to New Mexico as he was considered one top NCAA college football assistants and a rising star in the football world.
Gonzales has gone on record saying he was not looking at any head coaching job as he had a great job and was very successful with Edwards at ASU.
The only head coaching job he would even consider would be the New Mexico Lobos.
Then Athletic Director Eddie Nuñez came calling the local kid back to his roots, and he heard the call of the Lobo or as fans call it, the “Lobo Howl.”
So August 10, the MWC released this statement: “The Mountain West has announced the indefinite postponement of all scheduled fall sports contests and MW championship events in response to ongoing challenges with the effective mitigation and management of the COVID-19 virus in conjunction with athletic competition.”
So just around a month later or September 25, did a 180 and released this statement:
“The Mountain West Conference Board of Directors met last night and approved plans to resume football competition following the Aug. 10 indefinite postponement of fall sports due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The Conference’s amended regular-season schedule will begin on Saturday, Oct. 24, with the intent to play eight games. The MW Football Championship Game is slated for Saturday, Dec. 19. Any return to competition is subject to state, county, and local approvals.”
With the league’s presidents voting last Thursday and announcing that they would go ahead with a football season after all.
The stadium capacities will be determined by each member institution in accordance with state, county, and local health ordinances in consultation with government officials.
The big question for New Mexico would Governor Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham give the Lobos a nod to compete on the gridiron.
Last Friday, Nora Meyers Sackett, the press secretary for Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, spelled out the conditions in a lengthy email to the Journal:
“The state has compiled a thorough set of COVID-Safe Practices and restrictions for intercollegiate athletics that UNM – and any Division I intercollegiate athletic program in the state – will have to meet in order to proceed with larger practices and games in accordance with the MWC’s plans for an 8-game season.
Under Gov. Grisham’s public health order, it restricts the practice of any sport to groups of ten people.
The health order also does not allow for live sporting events. The University of New Mexico has been in contact with the governor’s office all week about playing the eight-game season starting October 24.
The governor’s office wants all players and staff to sign a code of conduct document they would adhere to like pro sports have with the “bubble” concept.
So, the Mountain West Conference would implement Aggressive COVID-19 testing, and safe practices would be keys that provide the Mountain West Conference with the confidence it can have a 2020 football season.
On Friday, MWC Commissioner Craig Thompson said that any return to competition is subject to state, county, and local approval for each of the 12 football teams, UNM included.
The Mountain West requires that all the MWC teams test athletes and staff three times a week. The conference is picking up 100% of the cost. “We’ve been working on this for months now and trying to figure out a way. The biggest key in all of this has been our relationship with Quest Diagnostics and getting the three rapid testing antigen tests for each campus,” Craig Thompson, Mountain West Commissioner, said.
Any player testing positive would have to be isolated from the rest of the team for at least 10 days. Any games canceled due to a COVID-19 outbreak will not be made up.
AD Eddie Nuñez was quoted Friday, “It’s a great opportunity. It’s great to see our kids with the excitement and joy that they have.”
Head coach Danny Gonzales began their acclimation period of workouts last Friday, Gonzales said, meaning they wore helmets and shorts and worked in small groups.
“We are excited about the opportunity to compete and represent our University, the city of Albuquerque and the great state of New Mexico!” said first-year head coach Danny Gonzales.
They plan to work out this way for the next four sessions and hope to gain approval to practice after that fully.
UNM plans to continue its own independent testing and receive the Quest Diagnostics testing in a little over two weeks.
AD Nunez said UNM plans to test more often than the required three times a week that the MWC is requiring. The UNM Athletic Department will cover this cost.
The Mountain West has said it plans to release the 2020 football schedule very soon, and AD Nunez expects to draw the same eight MW teams as set by the original 2020 schedule.
The original schedule had the Lobos playing home games against Nevada, San Jose State, Boise State, and Wyoming. Away games were CSU, Utah State, Hawaii, and Air Force.
So bottom, line is that we will be able to watch our MWC football teams compete on the gridiron this year.
Each school will sure have fun jumping through all the COVID-19 hoops to be able to get athletes ready to compete.
Now there won’t be as many games, but I think at this point, the coaches, the players who have worked their tails off during this COVID-19 year (especially the seniors) will take any schedule of football versus none.