COVID-19 protocols — and a desire to play this weekend — are causing the University of New Mexico football team to spend the week in Las Vegas.
According to the Albuquerque Journal, UNM athletic director Eddie Nuñez announced Friday that 74 football players are temporarily relocating to Las Vegas due to the high number of COVID-19 cases in Bernalillo County, where the UNM campus is located. The current COVID-19 situation limits the football team to training and practicing in groups of five or less.
Nunez said he recommended the move, which was approved by UNM president Garnett Stokes, for three reasons: the health and safety of the athletes, the opportunity to compete and relocation finances.
“We’re going to be as economical as we can understanding the factors at play,” Nunez said, according to the Albuquerque Journal. “We also have to keep in mind, if we do this safe and we’re able to play, then we’re going to be able to retain the conference distribution instead of not receiving it because we chose not to play.”
The move is coming after UNM opened the season with Saturday’s 38-21 loss at San Jose State. The Lobos went through COVID-19 testing in Albuquerque on Sunday and were planning to take planes to Las Vegas on Monday. The plan is to have players stay at a hotel and train at Sam Boyd Stadium while they attend virtual classes and undergo testing three times per week.
UNM has had numerous COVID-19 issues this fall, including nine football players testing positive in mid-October. The Mountain West Conference had originally postponed the season to the spring before announcing its return. The Lobos’ Oct. 24 game at Colorado State was canceled and declared a no contest due to high COVID-19 numbers in Bernalillo County.
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