The Mercury News

New Mexico college teams returning home

- By John Marshall

PHOENIX >> New Mexico State relocated to Arizona in an attempt to play a basketball season. Restrictio­ns in the Aggies’ home state made it impossible for them to even practice there, so they packed up and moved into a Phoenix resort.

The pandemic had other plans.

Hamstrung by COVID-19 issues inside and out of the program, New Mexico State has played three games so far this season — only one since Dec. 1. It’s not exactly the payoff the Aggies had hoped for when they opted to leave their family and friends behind in an attempt

to play basketball.

“The thing people forget, lives are going on back home, and they’ve had stuff happen to them that I’m not going to get into,” New Mexico State coach Chris Jans said. “Really bad stuff, tragedies and they’ve had to deal with these tragedies. It’s been quite an ordeal.”

A big hurdle has finally been cleared for the Aggies and the other teams from New Mexico that have relocated during the pandemic.

The office of New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced Tuesday that the state had amended its COVID-19 guidelines to allow college sports teams to practice in the state. The guidelines previously prevented gatherings of more than five people, making it impossible for teams to practice.

Guidelines for games did not change, so the teams still have to sort out where they’ll play, but at least they can head home.

“This wasn’t our choice. We didn’t choose to come to Phoenix and stay at the Arizona Grand and try to play a basketball season during a pandemic,” Jans said earlier this week. “I’m very proud of our team, our program for how they’re handling this situation. I’m with them every day. They’ve been very resilient.”

New Mexico State athletic director Mario Moccia said: “I’m very thankful that our coaches and student-athletes will get back to some sense of normalcy.”

New Mexico’s women’s team moved quickly once the news hit, returning to Albuquerqu­e on Tuesday.

 ?? ROGELIO V. SOLIS — AP ?? New Mexico St. coach Chris Jans says it’s been an ordeal to stay in Arizona to get around state COVID-19 rules.
ROGELIO V. SOLIS — AP New Mexico St. coach Chris Jans says it’s been an ordeal to stay in Arizona to get around state COVID-19 rules.

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