While the New Mexico State budget deficit keeps growing, an athletic department fundraiser has raised more than $70,000 in order to help relocate the men’s and women’s basketball teams to Arizona.
The university in Las Cruces, N.M., made the move last month in order to allow the basketball teams to continue their seasons during the COVID-19 pandemic. Playing at home wasn’t an option, as teams in New Mexico can’t practice or compete unless the county they are located in has a 14-day average daily case count of less than 8 in 100,000 and a test positivity rate below 5 percent.
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Therefore, both the men’s and women’s teams are calling Arizona home for the time being. The move was originally expected to last at least five weeks. According to the Las Cruces Sun News, the men’s basketball team is staying at the Arizona Grand Resort & Spa in Phoenix for about $20,000 per week.
The athletic department program is saving some money from its typical travel, recruiting and operations expenses. But with high relocation costs and limited revenue coming in, athletic director Mario Moccia expects the department’s $2.5 million deficit will continue to grow. The Sun News reported in late October that New Mexico State’s athletics revenue losses had risen to $3.4 million.
“"We are trying to cover as much as we can, but right now it's looking like it's coming out of our budget," Moccia said, according to the Sun News. "Mentally we were thinking that (moving to Arizona) for the non-conference would be $78,000 for hotels (and testing) and $21,000 for food. ... That's why we set our fundraising numbers at $100,000 as the goal."
The Donate-4-State campaign has risen $73,840 of its $100,000 goal as of Wednesday morning. The donation page tells prospective donors what their money would go toward, including $50 for a team snack, $110 for a night of lodging, $150 to sponsor a player for the day and $250 for a team breakfast.
"It just shows you how many alums and fans wanted the basketball teams to have an opportunity like the other 355 Division I teams that are competing," Moccia said of the fundraiser.
The men’s team is 2-0 and has had three games canceled, while the women are 1-2. The men’s team has reportedly spent about $5,000 total for its two games in Arizona. According to the Sun News, two regular-season games in Las Cruces in a normal year would cost New Mexico State $37,000.
"I think we have identified facilities that are available, but we just don't know what dates we have games that they are available," Moccia said of where the Aggies will play their upcoming games. "I would be hard pressed to see how we couldn't save money. It may be where there will be a significant savings on that line item."