ALBUQUERQUE — The Lobos are on the move. Again.

The University of New Mexico men’s and women’s basketball teams are following the lead of the Lobo football team and moving their base of operations out of state to sidestep New Mexico’s stringent public health orders regarding the coronavirus.

UNM athletic director Eddie Nuñez said the men’s basketball team will take up temporary residence in Lubbock, Texas, while the women will stay in Amarillo and practice at West Texas A&M University in Canyon, Texas. The exact location for the men’s workouts and potential games had not been determined, although Nuñez said he was working on finalizing contracts.

The move comes three weeks after UNM’s football team became the first college program in the country to move out of state in order to salvage its season. The Lobos have been staying in Henderson, Nev., since Oct. 26 and practicing at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas’ Sam Boyd Stadium. They played their first so-called home game in Las Vegas last weekend and will remain in Henderson through at least the end of the month, if not the remainder of the 2020 season.

Nuñez said he didn’t have an exact estimate on how much it will cost the university to move its basketball teams, but he said conservative figures call for $80 to $100 a night for each room for a travel party of roughly 30 people per team. UNM is paying roughly $70,000 a week to house the football team in Nevada.

Nuñez justified the move for football by citing the financial benefit of the Mountain West Conference’s new TV rights partnership with Fox and CBS, a multiyear deal that, coupled with the school’s take from its share of the College Football Playoff, would bring between $3 million and $4 million to the cash-starved athletic department. The caveat: UNM had to field a team and fulfill its portion of the broadcast schedule.

The impact of basketball to that multiyear deal, Nuñez said, is far smaller but was enough to persuade him to keep the basketball season alive.

Nuñez also said it was unclear if either team would be able to play a nonconference schedule. The college basketball season starts next week, and UNM has yet to announce the nonconference games for either team.

He said he hadn’t ruled out a game or two outside of the 20-game schedule both teams will play within the Mountain West, and he added the priority would be getting teams practicing and prepared for a season. He also was noncommittal about facing New Mexico State, in part because of scheduling and venue difficulties.

NMSU’s men’s team announced Tuesday plans to move its camp to Phoenix, and its women’s team will be in Tucson, Ariz.

New Mexico’s public health order prohibits gatherings of more than five people. The UNM men’s team has had just three full practices since March, head coach Paul Weir said.

Nuñez said he considered a number of locations but settled on West Texas due to its proximity to Albuquerque.

He said he would continue to look for a location that better suits each team. That might mean West Texas is nothing more than a pit stop on the road to somewhere else. Both teams are tentatively scheduled to open their seasons Dec. 3 and 5 against Boise State, but Nuñez said it’s entirely likely those dates will be pushed back because the Lobos simply will not have had enough time to train.

“[It] really doesn’t put our student-athletes in the best position to be successful,” Nuñez said. “We are working with the conference office, with Boise. They’ve both been really good in understanding to some alternative dates. We are going to play them. It’s just when we’re going to play them.”

Despite more record numbers of COVID-19 cases in Bernalillo County and the rest of the state Wednesday, Nuñez said there had been no new cases within the football or basketball programs since last weekend. Per Mountain West and NCAA rules, each team will be tested three times a week when they’re out of state.

“The process is working,” Nuñez said. “The cost might be a little bit more, but everything that we’re doing seems to work, and right now I don’t want to add anything or take anything away until we can really understand what we’re doing.”

(17) comments

Scott Smart

If they can afford this they should have been able to pay their operating deficit off instead of being bailed out by the university.

Samuel Herrera

Spending our tax dollars and creating jobs ... in another state.

Daniel Valdez

Planned parenthood commits 600,000+ murders a year, and everybody is worried about covid. NM heroin death rates are sky high, but we shut the state down for covid. What happens after the two weeks are done?...another 2 weeks?...another 2 weeks? MLG is a disgrace! How are those graduation rates, drug statistics, welfare lines, gambling addictions, and crime rates doing since they removed the obelisk and onate statues? Pathetic corrupt Dem leadership in a pathetic Dem run state.

Diane Denish

I am a UNM grad. I love men and women's basketball and yet, I find this to be non-sensical. Follow the money -- the NCAA payoff money is the driver. So UNM is willing to participate in spreading the virus in exchange for the payoff down the road. Another terrible example of how UNM mismanages finances and fails to balance priorities. As an Alum, I am very disappointed. (one UNM person involved in the Alumni association said "they will be in a bubble". The virus has no bubble and especially not in Texas...the first state to reach one million cases. )n

Leonard Winters

This sends a bad message in so many ways. Athletics over public health. Athletics over academics. These are state universities flaunting state rules and regulations. It's time for sports to stop being the dog that wags the tail.

Henry Romero

What a ridiculous way to waste taxpayer monies during a time with the state having budget constraints.

Many of us Americans including our Governor are trying our best to protect ourselves and our families. Unfortunately, some of us will succumb to this virus due to the self serving and selfishness of others who are too ignorant to see the seriousness of this horrible pandemic. Good luck to us all.

Wade Corder

I'd rather my tax dollars be spent on students who are studying medicine, biology, and other subjects that will help US end this pandemic and avoid a next one.

Lee DiFiore

How long will it be before some businesses vote with their feet and decide to leave for greener pastures? Or maybe not locate to NM in the first place? Short term thinking has long term consequences.

Bonney Hughes

Why are my tax dollars and students' tuition money to the tune of $70,000 being used to subsidize a sports team defying public health orders? If not illegal, this is certainly immoral. 250,000 Americans have died of COVID-19 - more than in any war except Word War II, and we will soon exceed the number who died in that war.

David Ford

What great ambassadors for the state. Take the virus with you and/or bring it back. Pathetic and stupid - all for $$.

New Mexico True.....

William Craig

Georgia O’Keeffe fell in love with wide open spaces at West Texas A&M in 1916 when she chaired its art department — back then it was called West Texas State Normal College.

William Craig

She left Canyon after she came down with symptoms of the 1917–18 H1-N1 Spanish flu epidemic — no place is ever completely safe.

Jim Clark

This was a huge mistake. I would risk my life for others, never for money.

Augustin de la Sierra

These university athletic directors cannot do the simple math of a pandemic.

"It's the exponents, stupid."

God help their athletes.

Kenneth Chaney

Don't be a hater. Life ends in various ways. Are we supposed to hide in a cave forever?

Shawn Chafins

Great post Kenneth👍

Alain Antoine

Yes, good post, Kenneth. Are we so certain that the draconian shutdown here, wrecking our economy and children’s' lives, the grandstanding, are essential?

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