Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is urging New Mexico and New Mexico State to postpone fall sports, including football, because of the coronavirus.
Lujan Grisham on Tuesday wrote a letter to regents, board members and administrators at both schools, noting the rise in coronavirus cases among younger people and the unknown long-term effects of the virus. ESPN obtained the letter, in which Lujan Grisham writes, "Sports, especially contact sports, are unsafe at this point in time. ... They are a risk we cannot afford to take given how many people would be endangered by the inevitable spread of COVID-19 in these environments."
Earlier this month, Lujan Grisham announced that contact sports at the high school level, such as football and soccer, would not be permitted under the state's updated public health order. The New Mexico Activities Association is hoping to start the high school football and soccer seasons in February. Lujan Grisham does not have administrative power to ban or restrict NCAA sports at New Mexico and New Mexico State.
As of Tuesday, the state had reported 17,517 cases of the coronavirus, including 588 deaths and 154 current hospitalizations.
In a statement to the Albuquerque Journal, New Mexico President Garnett Stokes and athletic director Eddie Nunez said the school has communicated with the governor's office and appreciates her guidance.
"We expect discussions with the NCAA and the Mountain West Conference to continue over the next couple of weeks as plans for the fall are finalized," the statement reads.
A New Mexico State spokeswoman told the Journal that the school is monitoring decisions from the NCAA and individual conferences, and has yet to decide its plans for the fall sports seasons. New Mexico State is an FBS independent in football.
New Mexico is scheduled to open the 2020 football season Aug. 29 against Idaho State at home. New Mexico State is set to open Sept. 3 at UAB.
"I know what I am asking you to contemplate is difficult and unprecedented, but these are difficult and unprecedented times," Lujan Grisham's letter reads. "Fighting COVID-19 is a team sport. I am asking each of you to join me and take it upon yourselves to do everything you can to fight COVID-19. Together we can protect all New Mexicans, and if we are successful, we can resume contact sports and re-engage in the camaraderie and joy they bring all of us in a safe manner as soon as we can."