ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (BVM) — New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham on Tuesday sent a letter to the University of New Mexico and New Mexico State University, urging both colleges to suspend contact sports this fall, including football and soccer, citing the rise of COVID-19 cases among young individuals between the ages of 20 and 39.
The letter comes less than two weeks after the governor announced that contact sports would not be permitted at the high school level this fall, forcing the New Mexico Activities Association to amend its calendar for the 2020-21 academic year last week. Both high school football and soccer were moved from fall to winter.
“As leaders, we must continue to protect the health and well-being of the communities we serve,” Grisham said in the letter. “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.”
Grisham said the move to postpone contact sports at the college level is critical in a time of “escalating danger” and considers it an essential step in order to return to a safer new normal, which would allow contact sports to potentially return later in the year or early in 2021.
“The tight-knit communities in which our schools operate will be at risk if the virus is given the opportunity to take root,” Grisham said in the letter. “Sports, especially contact sports, are unsafe at this point in time for that very reason; they are a risk we cannot afford to take given how many people would be endangered by the inevitable spread of COVID-19 in these environments: The coaches, the trainers, the campus communities at large. Every decision you make, I know, is made with their well-being and the collective well-being of your collegiate communities front of mind.”
Neither university has announced yet how it will proceed following the governor’s request. Both football programs are tied into multimillion-dollar television deals and are scheduled to kick off their seasons at the end of next month. UNM is slated to open its season at home against Idaho State on Aug. 29 while NMSU is scheduled to be on the road the first two weeks of the season, starting Aug. 29 at UCLA. The Aggies’ home opener is set for Sept. 12 against Akron.
“Fighting COVID-19 is a team sport,” Grisham said in the letter. “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.”