NMSU leadership committed to basketball plan, other sports in holding pattern
LAS CRUCES - Mike Jordan is open to opting out of the upcoming New Mexico State volleyball season due to a lack of practice time and certainty that the Aggies will actually play a season at all.
Both New Mexico State basketball teams have had limited non-conference games while based in Arizona. The men’s program has been shut down twice due to positive COVID-19 tests within the program.
“We see what has gone on with men’s basketball,” Jordan said. “For us, we are behind all of the other schools that were able to practice throughout the fall. I have a good team and think we can still do well.
“I would love to see my kids play but we are up against it not being able to practice.”
Volleyball has a greater sense of urgency, but plans remain unclear for upcoming sports such as women's soccer and Aggies football, which has three games scheduled at Aggie Memorial Stadium in February and March.
Jordan’s outlook is due to the fact that WAC volleyball matches are scheduled to begin on January 25-26 with a home match against Dixie State. NM State has an exhibition match scheduled for Saturday at Arizona in Tucson, where the Aggies hope to play their "home" matches at the Sporting Chance Center, since current COVID-19 restrictions make matches at the Pan American Center impossible.
“In the next 48 hours we will have to have that conversation,” Jordan said. “I will lay out all of the pros and cons. But this might be the kind of thing that happens to us all year. If they were to choose to opt out, I would support them. But if they said they want to play all road games and not practice, ever, I would say, ‘Let’s go.’ I’m going to roll with them.”
Jordan's players returned to campus after Christmas and women's soccer players and football players returned last week.
Aggies women’s soccer coach Rob Baarts said that three players will not play this spring due to academic commitments.
WAC women's soccer is scheduled to begin on Feb. 18. Baarts said the soccer program plans to begin training on Jan. 18 at the Kino Sports Complex in Tucson with non-conference games against Arizona State, Arizona and at UTEP prior to conference play.
“We have three nursing students who have clinicals and labs that they have to be at so it doesn’t work for them,” Baarts said. “At the end of the day you are a college student. Everyone else is all on board.”
Among the proposals for New Mexico State athletics moving forward is the hope to establish a scenario similar to the New Mexico United soccer team in Albuquerque over the summer where NM State athletes would isolate while in in Las Cruces while practicing or playing games out of state. NM State athletics director Mario Moccia said El Paso is a possibility, particularity for the football program, which has three scheduled games this spring along with 29 practices.
Last week was the first week the volleyball team has tested for COVID-19 three times during the week.
From August through last week, there has been one positive volleyball test in 139 tests. There have been seven positive results in 871 tests within the men's basketball program and the women's basketball team has yet to test positive in 779 tests.
"I think all locations remain on the table," Moccia said. "In my mind if we were to practice in El Paso, we would be leaving on a bus, drive to a field, do a practice, get back on the bus and quarantine.
"We are hopeful of getting some direction on what will happen for the rest of our sports because they are starting very soon."
In an e-mail to the Sun-News, Governor press secretary Nora Meyers Sackett said the framework of the COVID-19 Safe Practices document, established in October, remains unchanged regarding the circumstances required for NM State to return to practice or compete at its own facilities.
"Right now the CSPs for collegiate athletics have not changed, nor has the current public health framework – public health remains the top priority while we continue to work to slow the spread of COVID-19," Sackett wrote.
In order to practice or compete, the state says that a team must be in a county with a 14-day average daily case count of less than eight per 100,000 and a test positivity rate of under 5 percent. Doña Ana county currently has 43.7 cases per 100,000 and a test positivity rate of 12.82 percent.
For now, it seems that the only surety is that the school plans to see basketball season through.
“We continue to follow each of our athletic teams very closely,” NMSU president John Floros said in a statement. “ At this point, NMSU has no plans to change the current strategy with our men’s and women’s basketball teams. As for our football team and the remainder of our sports, we’re still developing those plans but hope to have more information to announce soon.”