New Mexico Activities Association votes to move sports start date to Feb. 1

Matthew Asher, Carlsbad Current-Argus

The New Mexico Activities Association decided to be proactive amid the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning student-athletes will have to wait a little longer for the chance to play sports in 2021.

The tentative new start date for all sports will be Feb. 1, with football scheduled to start that date. That proposal was unanimously voted on by the NMAA's Board of Directors.

The previous plan was for the sports season to begin on Jan. 4 with basketball, swimming and diving and spirit competitions. Those three sports are now scheduled to start on March 22.

NMAA Executive Director Sally Marquez said New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham's office had not approved that previous start date because it will depend on the COVID-19 numbers across the state.

"(What) I do not want to happen with the fall sports where they started their season and then the rug got pulled out from under them...(We're) realizing that Jan. 4 is probably not a possibility," Marquez said during the NMAA’s zoom meeting on Wednesday. "Some of the schools aren't starting back up until after MLK (Day) because of the quarantine or the vacations."

TJ Parks, the Superintendent of Hobbs, said it was important to set a date and stick with it from this point on.

"At some point in time, a decision just has to be made," Parks said. "We're either going to do this or we're not going to do this. We need to be honest with our kids."

Parks spoke about the frustrations of New Mexico cities bordering other states that are allowing high school sports. He said it would be disingenuous for these high school athletes, especially seniors who could have moved out of state to compete, to be denied an entire year of sports because they were waiting in good faith.

Lee White, Loving's Superintendent, expressed concern about the schedule's being compacted even more and how it may affect smaller schools.

"Compacted like that it's going to force some of our athletes to make decisions, force their parents to make decisions for their athletes concerning the overlap that you have from some of the contact sports into some of the spring sports," White said.

Marquez noted the current plan will have most of the individual sports limited to six or seven weeks of regular season play rather than the initial 10 weeks. 

Marquez also said she wants to ensure the spring sports can be played because that was the one season that was wiped out in 2020.

"That is the season I do not want to hurt whatsoever," Marquez said. "That season has always been longer than the fall and winter (seasons) and all these calendar's we've produced."

The NMAA Board of Governor's has its next scheduled meeting on Feb. 17, 2021.

Latest sports start dates

Football - Feb. 1

Cross country and volleyball - Feb. 15

Soccer - March 1

Spirit, basketball and swimming - March 22

Wrestling - March 29

Tennis, baseball, softball, golf and track - April 5

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

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