NMSU call leads Lo­bos to nix events

UNM men’s bas­ket­ball await­ing NCAA ‘clar­i­fi­ca­tion’ on whether it can con­tinue HS prac­tices

Albuquerque Journal - - SPORTS - BY GE­OFF GRAMMER JOUR­NAL STAFF WRITER

In 35 days, Paul Weir can thank his old col­leagues in Las Cruces in per­son when the Lo­bos and Ag­gies meet in the Pan Amer­i­can Cen­ter.

Thurs­day, he had to set­tle for do­ing so on so­cial me­dia.

The new Univer­sity of New Mex­ico men’s bas­ket­ball coach, through the Lo­bos’ of­fi­cial Twit­ter ac­count, posted on so­cial me­dia Thurs­day evening a state­ment in­di­cat­ing the team might have to can­cel two up­com­ing prac­tices planned at area high schools af­ter “an in­sti­tu­tion with con­cerns” about whether fu­ture prac­tices are al­lowed by the NCAA called UNM on Thurs­day.

Weir, the for­mer New Mex­ico State head coach hired by UNM in April, af­ter thank­ing ev­ery­one at UNM who in re­cent months had a hand in putting to­gether the sched­uled events, later made it clear the con­cerned in­sti­tu­tion just hap­pened to be his for­mer em­ployer.

“Also, thank you to New Mex­ico State Univer­sity for mak­ing the ef­fort to apprise us of this po­ten­tial con­cern,” Weir wrote.

UNM hosted a prac­tice at Rio Ran­cho High School on Tues­day and planned, and pub­li­cized, it was also go­ing to do so this com­ing Tues­day at La Cueva High School

and on Oct. 24 at Al­bu­querque High.

Weir told the Jour­nal af­ter Tues­day’s prac­tice at Rio Ran­cho High the prac­tices were multi-faceted to help show ap­pre­ci­a­tion to one of UNM’s largest feeder schools and also it is a com­mu­nity en­gage­ment ges­ture con­sis­tent with other ini­tia­tives he’s tried since hired to get fan sup­port back for a pro­gram that has seen at­ten­dance drop in re­cent years.

NMSU’s com­pli­ance of­fice, which vis­ited the same sub­ject last year when Weir was there, did not con­tact the NCAA, but did call UNM to ask how it was al­lowed.

“Our com­pli­ance folks didn’t think it was per­mis­si­ble and dou­ble-checked with the (Western Ath­letic Con­fer­ence), and they said the same thing, so we didn’t do it,” NMSU ath­letic di­rec­tor Mario Moc­cia told the Jour­nal on Thurs­day night. “When our com­pli­ance peo­ple saw it on so­cial me­dia, they con­tacted UNM to ask what method­ol­ogy they used to get it.”

That co­in­cides with UNM’s ver­sion, too. “My­self and Coach Weir dis­cussed and planned th­ese high school prac­tices months ago,” said Eric Schultz, UNM’s As­so­ci­ate Ath­letic Di­rec­tor for Com­pli­ance. “I ap­proved the up­com­ing prac­tice sched­ule and af­ter our first prac­tice at Rio Ran­cho High School, NMSU con­tacted us ask­ing how we were able to get to the point where we could hold mul­ti­ple off-cam­pus prac­tices. We im­me­di­ately con­tacted the NCAA to re­quest clar­i­fi­ca­tion on the off-cam­pus prac­tice rule.

“At this point, UNM men’s bas­ket­ball has not com­mit­ted any NCAA vi­o­la­tions re­lated to th­ese prac­tices. We will work from here to de­cide the best course of ac­tion mov­ing for­ward re­gard­ing the re­main­der of the sched­uled prac­tices.”

One NCAA by­law seems to make clear that such prac­tices are al­lowed so long as the high school doesn’t in any way profit from the prac­tice through con­ces­sion stands or paid at­ten­dance or oth­er­wise, the ques­tion in play now seems to be in a dif­fer­ent chap­ter of the NCAA’s rule book.

By­law 17.1.7.9.4 (Pub­lic­ity of Pre­sea­son Off-Cam­pus Prac­tice Ac­tiv­i­ties) states a school can pub­li­cize off-cam­pus prac­tices “that are con­ducted at a sin­gle des­ig­nated site, pro­vided the in­sti­tu­tion nor­mally con­ducts pre­sea­son prac­tice ac­tiv­i­ties at that par­tic­u­lar site.”

Schultz elab­o­rated in an email with the Jour­nal: “As we planned on mak­ing this an an­nual event, the schools would have been con­sid­ered a reg­u­lar prac­tice site. In terms of clar­i­fi­ca­tion now that we know the fu­ture prac­tices would have re­sulted in a vi­o­la­tion, we are work­ing to­wards de­ter­min­ing our fu­ture plans.”

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