The New Mexico State Aggies men’s basketball team will set up shop for the next five weeks at the Arizona Grand Resort & Spa in Phoenix. Athletic Director Mario Moccia announced via Zoom the plan for the next five weeks.
According to the release, all Aggie players, coaches and staff members will continue to get tested for COVID-19 three times per week while in Phoenix. The team has been getting tested three times per week since the beginning of November, going above and beyond the current NCAA guidelines which stipulate teams need only get tested once per week. All teams around the nation will begin to get tested three times per week the week of November 16 – a little over one week before college basketball’s official start date.
In the press conference via Zoom, Moccia gave a lot of credit to Nikki Balich, Executive Director of the Arizona Sports & Entertainment Commission. Balich is a big reason the Aggies are going to set up shop in Phoenix. Hotel rooms, COVID testing, and other necessary arrangements are part of the package deal put together by Balich and her staff.
“There is no way to repay my thanks to Nikki Balich, the Executive Director of the Arizona Sports & Entertainment Commission,” continued Moccia. “Nikki and I have mutual friends from back in our high school days and she was the operational point person for our trip to the NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl in 2017. Aggie Nation could not tell her thank you enough, but I would encourage them to do so. She and her team have bent over backward to ensure our team has everything they need at the lowest possible cost to our department.” “She and her team have bent over backward to ensure our team has everything they need at the lowest possible cost to our department.” – NM State AD Mario Moccia said of Nikki Balich and her staff.
Schedule Issues Still in Place
Now that one stone has been taken care, the next stone is being worked on. According to Deputy AD Braun Cartwright, the Aggies will have a game sometime in the first week of the season. It most likely won’t happen on Nov. 25 but sometime next week, the Aggies will have a game. Part of the issue now is figuring out where New Mexico State will play so-called home games. Moccia said they have been in talks with various arenas around the Phoenix area but nothing set in stone yet. Moccia believes the Aggies will play a few Division II Arizona schools first before taking on a Division I opponent.
And during the press conference, Moccia made it clear the intention is to get back to Las Cruces prior to WAC play beginning. However, that is probably unlikely unless numbers in New Mexico drastically decrease in five weeks.
New Mexico State estimates the cost of rooms, testing and meals across the five-week period to be $99,000. Deputy AD Braun Cartwright says that transportation costs haven’t been included, yet. Cartwright says that players will spend the majority of their time at the Resort so travel costs will stay at a minimum.
The report is that the New Mexico State Aggies men’s basketball team is relocating to Phoenix for the 2020-21 season. First to report it as a firm decision was Making the Madness contributor Sean Paul.
Sources tell me that New Mexico State will begin their 2020-21 season in Phoenix, Arizona. Due to New Mexico’s regulations it would be tough for teams to play in NM. This isn’t the first school to make the move. UNM football has been playing in Vegas recently.
— Sean (@Sean02MTM) November 16, 2020
Earlier in the week, WAC Hoops Digest put out a tweet regarding the possibility of the Aggies playing on the GCU campus.
Sources are saying the most likely option is to relocate to GCU, live on-campus there, practice and play in GCU's other facilities on-campus. If that falls through they'd relocate to Vegas. https://t.co/FcmBhDKzqj
— WACHoopsDigest (@WACHoopsDigest) November 13, 2020
Aggies AD to Hold Press Conference on Tuesday Afternoon
And on Tuesday afternoon at 3 p.m. MST, NMSU athletic director Mario Moccia is going to address the media. The New Mexico State basketball teams have been struggling due to COVID-19 restrictions in their home state. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has some of the tightest COVID-19 protocols in the nation in place in New Mexico. Teams traveling to New Mexico would have to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. And there is a limit on social gatherings thus neither Aggie team has been able to fully practice in close to a month.
During WAC Media Days, head coach Chris Jans spoke about the frustration felt with regard to not being able to have full practices.
“They don’t like it,” Jans said. “They’re frustrated. Our level of frustration is pretty high right now, from the top down. They (players) want to get after it. They want to compete. And they want to get better and do the things that we’ve done around here.”
New Mexico State is the favorite to win the WAC once again. Jabari Rice is the WAC preseason Player of the Year. Clayton Henry, Evan Gilyard and Johnny McCants all return. UNLV transfer Donnie Tillman is expected to be a major contributor. New Mexico State hasn’t lost a conference game since Jan. 3, 2019 when California Baptist knocked off the Aggies in the Lancers’ first-ever WAC game.
We will update this story as more information comes available.