Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico has asked the New Mexico Lobos and the New Mexico State Aggies to not play football during the 2020 season. Her letter asks for all intercollegiate contact sports to be suspended, which would also include soccer programs at both schools.
The letter was obtained by the Albuquerque Journal, and puts the weight of the state on two of the 130 programs in FBS.
Indeed, this virus continues to menace our nation and state, including higher education institutions. The decisions I have had to make throughout this pandemic have been difficult and I know you have been presented similarly difficult challenges in your leadership roles during this crisis. But as leaders we must continue to protect the health and well-being of the communities we serve. Those tough decisions, no matter how complex or how popular, must be made; the health and safety of those who look to us for leadership are and must continue to be our collective top priorities. It is therefore critical that you postpone collegiate athletics in this moment of escalating danger. This is an essential step we must take if we are to return to some safe and balanced new normal as quickly as possible. We must fight this virus with all the tools at our disposal – including physical distancing and the avoidance of close contact with others – so we can regain control of the spread and resume the daily activities that have been torn from us during this pandemic. The potential for contact sports later in the year or early in 2021 would of course be one of those activities.
New Mexico is a member of the Mountain West Conference, while New Mexico State plays as an independent. The teams were scheduled to play each other on September 19th in Las Cruces in the Battle of I-25. This decision would need to be made earlier than in most states as both schools are scheduled to play during “Week 0” which begins on August 29th. The Week 0 exception allows teams that play the Hawai’i Rainbows in Hawai’i to schedule 13 regular season games instead of 12, as well as begin the season one weekend earlier.
If the Governor’s request is fulfilled, the Mountain West would be the first FBS league to officially lose a team from play for 2020. The Lobos are schedule for eight conference games, with five out-of-league contests against Mississippi State, Southern Cal, Idaho State (FCS), UMass, and New Mexico State.
The NMSU Aggies are scheduled to take on UCLA on August 29th at the Rose Bowl to open 2020, and to close the season at the Florida Gators on November 21st in Gainesville.
Both schools have acknowledged receipt of the Governor’s letter, but haven’t formally canceled anything yet. But since the regents of the state universities answer to the office making the request, it seems likely the Land of Enchantment won’t have any college football in 2020.
And as we continue to see the dominos fall regarding playing the 2020 college football season on-time, this might be the biggest one yet.