The New Mexican
LAS CRUCES — First it was the University of New Mexico’s football team; now it’s the New Mexico State men’s basketball program.
On Tuesday, NMSU announced the Aggies will temporarily move to Phoenix because of New Mexico’s stringent coronavirus restrictions. It comes just three weeks after UNM’s football team moved to Las Vegas, Nev., for the same reason.
The Aggies are expecting to be in Arizona for at least five weeks, but could extend their stay depending on developments with the pandemic, athletic director Mario Moccia said Tuesday.
“While far from our first option, I am pleased that we found such a tremendous opportunity to prepare for the upcoming season in Phoenix,” Moccia said. “Approximately a five-hour drive from Las Cruces, the Arizona Grand will provide the ability for our team and coaches to isolate as much as possible while having virtually unlimited access to a court.”
NMSU looked at three sites in Las Vegas and Arizona before deciding to move its entire operation to the Arizona Grand Resort & Spa in Phoenix. The Aggies will practice and stay at the resort, and they are looking at various places to play games in the Phoenix area.
They are the first basketball team in the country to move out of state during the pandemic but could soon be followed by UNM’s men’s and women’s teams, both of which are trying to finalize deals at undisclosed locations outside New Mexico.
The state’s current public health guidelines do not all allow games or workouts exceeding five people. Anyone who travels from outside the state also must quarantine for 14 days.
All Aggies players and coaches will continue to be tested for COVID-19 three times a week while in Arizona.
NMSU deputy athletic director Braun Cartwright said the cost of rooms, facilities, food and testing for the five weeks will be about $79,000. The Aggies are hoping to play their first game around the Thanksgiving holiday.
The women’s team is planning to practice in Tucson, Ariz., and is looking at various places to play, including just over the Texas state line at UTEP.
Moccia lauded the help he got from the Arizona Sports and Entertainment Commission for facilitating the Aggies’ move. He said fans will not be permitted at any of the team’s events in Arizona, but he encouraged the team’s supporters to be patient and understand that NMSU is doing everything it can to keep its 2020-21 season alive.
“Once we settle in, we will aggressively look to complete a nonconference schedule, which features matchups against our longtime rivals UNM and UTEP among others as we prepare for WAC play,” Moccia said.