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NMAA ends 'dead period,' announces new eligibility rules

Matthew Asher, Carlsbad Current-Argus

The New Mexico Activities Association announced on Monday there will be no "dead period," allowing high school athletes to participate in practices amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

NMAA Executive Director Sally Marquez announced that 70 percent of the state's superintendents voted to regain local autonomy to allow athletic departments to return to practice requirements that were set during the summer months. 

Athletes participating in golf, volleyball and cross country this fall will be allowed to return to a normal practice schedule. Teams are not allowed to travel or play in actual games.

"The guidelines must be followed," Marquez said. "That is (a) 5-to-1 player-to-coach ratio (with) mask wearing and limited equipment (and) staying within the pods. They will be allowed to participate as they choose and it'd be local autonomy." 

Contact sports like football, basketball and wrestling will only be allowed to participate in conditioning drills while also adhering to the social distancing guidelines.

Those athletes would be expected to wear masks and cannot use equipment. Practice periods of seven hours would be allowed Monday through Friday for those sports.

"The coaches understand we didn't want to make any changes," Marquez said. "Between the local autonomy and the out-of-season coaching roles is what the coach needs to stay within."

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New eligibility rules

The majority of the state's schools have 9-week grading periods, while Albuquerque Public Schools and Los Lunas Public Schools primarily have a 6-week grading period.

The NMAA gave every athlete a clean slate to start the 2020-21 school year, but eligibility would still be based on school grades. Each student-athlete must maintain a 2.0 GPA without any Fs.

"The first six-weeks grades will determine their eligibility but they have to maintain that eligibility and they will be checked again at the second six weeks," Marquez said of fall sports. "For those schools that are on nine weeks grades, and those are the majority of our schools, they get a clean slate before Oct. 5 (when the season begins) but then the nine weeks grades come out usually the second or third week in October...They will have to be eligible at the nine weeks in order to continue the rest of the season until December."

Spring sports such as baseball are scheduled to end in June, a month later than usual and after the official end of the school year itself.

"We're doing (June) kind of like an overtime period," Marquez said. "We will not look at the grades at the end of May in order to continue through the month of June. What they do at the first semester in December will carry them through the season."

Matthew Asher covers sports for the Carlsbad Current-Argus. He can be reached at 575-628-5524, masher@currentargus.com or @Caveman_Masher on Twitter.

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