By Arnie Leshin
Despite chants from the Houston Astrodome fans in Bad News Bears of “Let them play” working, in New Mexico athletic activities, it’s still at a standstill.
What was once thought to be fall sports of football, volleyball and cross country in play, it didn’t happen, with these sports now hopeful of playing in the spring, and that, too, is questionable. The New Mexico Activities Association, the state’s governing body for interscholastic athletics, has designated Feb. 1 as the start state for football and Feb. 15 for volleyball and cross country.
Sounds good right? So does soccer, basketball, wrestling, swimming, and cheerleading to begin in March, and with the traditional spring sports of baseball, softball, track and field, tennis and golf getting underway on April 5.
But like in football, there’s a catch, for NMAAExecutive Director Sally Marquez has repeatedly pointed out, sports can not start without the authorization of the governor’s office and state health officials.
Last month, Marquez informed her board of directors that football has been pushed back as far as possible, and that just adds further delays that would force the NMAA to start cancelling sports one at a time, and that starts with football and other fall sports.
There had been 38 listed states competing in fall sports, most holding district and state championships, but Arizona recently came to an abrupt half because of COPID-19 issues in Phoenix, Tempe and Tucson. That leaves other New Mexico neighbors — Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado — still in play.
High school football and basketball games have been viewed live from Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, Georgia, Florida, Utah, the Carolinas, and Virginia. Those states and others have also been playing college sports, but not the Land of Enchantment, with University of New Mexico and New Mexico State having to travel out of state to play basketball. In New Mexico, practices and games are not permitted.
And so the Lobos and Aggies men and women’s basketball teams have been playing and staying in Texas and Arizona. No fans in the stands, but at least they found places to play. Not the best of news, but at least it’s working despite all the confusion that includes traveling in buses, residing in hotel resorts and always playing on the road.
Capital High long-time head football coach Bill Moon, now in his 37th season after beginning the school’s gridiron program.
“It’s a shame,” he said recently. “We’ve got plenty of players returning, they are all anxious, and all we can do is wait for better news. Hopefully, it will come in early February.”
Same with Andrew Martinez, now in his fourth year as head grid coach at Santa Fe High School.
“It’s frustrating,” he said, “for the kids as well as the coaches. There was hope that there would a football season, but right now, there’s nothing, there’s no school, no true practices, just terrible times because of the pandemic.”
Then there’s Joey Fernandez at St. Michael’s in his 19th season as the other Santa Fe head football coach.
“We’re hoping for the best,” he said, “the coaches and the players. We’re ready to play. Our kids have been excited, excited every day to be out doing something.”
It’s nice that at least the state’s Division I colleges can travel, stay in hotels, and play out-of-state, but the high schools can not do so. Either they practice and play in New Mexico, or just sit it out. For them, no news at this time is not good news.