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New Mexico Activities Association Executive Director Sally Marquez answers questions about the return to athletics and activities for the 2020-2021 school year.  Here is this week’s interview.

Last week, the NMAA Board of Directors approved the new athletic calendar.  Could you give us an idea of what this new schedule looks like?

The main takeaway from the new schedule is that we are slated to do fall sports, then winter sports, then spring sports.  In the previous calendar, we were going to start with winter sports because of a January start date, then we would squeeze in fall and then do spring sports.  Now we have shifted a little bit.  Football practice is scheduled to begin February 1st, with most of the fall competitions beginning in the mid-February time frame.  Soccer will be a little bit later.  We had to look at soccer later because of snow up in northern New Mexico.  We’ve shifted things.  Basketball is shifted to March through the beginning of May.  The spring sports will remain the same.  I’ve told you from the beginning, spring didn’t get their season last year so we are doing everything we can to protect those spring sports this year.


In the process of coming up with another alternate sports calendar, is there any option of scrapping any regular season and going straight to state? Example: Is it possible to just have a state championship and no season competition in sports like spirit?

We’ve talked about every scenario.  In speaking with the coaches, they still want to go for that blue trophy.  We’ve asked them if they just want games.  Do we just participate and not have a postseason?  But that’s one thing the coaches still want is that postseason, an opportunity to be a state champion.  California just shifted and all they are doing is the regular season.  Over the weekend I received a couple emails asking if we should just play games (without a postseason).  But we are not ready to scrap the state championships.  You did mention spirit.  This year, spirit will not have to compete in any sanctioned competitions, but they will have their one state championship.  Everything is ever-changing.  We will talk to the athletic directors, we have received opinions from the coaches, and we will make the best decision for the students of New Mexico.


Will schools be able to work out in pods over the Christmas break?

As of right now, yes.  We can still work out in our 4:1 pods with social distancing and minimal use of shared equipment.  However, this is going to be a school district decision.  Some schools may just shut down totally.  There has to be a period in there where there is sanitation and cleaning.  And we’re still getting direction from the Public Education Department as to what will the winter break look like and when can we begin in January.  It’s still to be determined.  But as of right now, yes, they will be able to practice in their 4:1 pods.


Students struggle with virtual learning. Eligibility will be a concern this second semester.  Some teams might not be able to even field a team because of a lack of eligible student athletes.  Could the NMAA do a week-to-week eligibility or make other changes?

We are still looking at that, but right now we have two weeks until the end of the semester and we need to focus in on the regulations at this point.  The student athletes need to have a 2.0 grade point average and no Fs.  If they do have one F, then they can use the cumulative provision and that’s for 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th graders.  If they have that one F and a 2.0 GPA cumulative provision, then they will still be eligible.  When we get back in January and all the semester grades are in and the finals are in and we know what the grades are and where students are at, I think we’ll look at whether there is an appeals process or whether we change the bylaw to help some of those students who are really struggling with remote learning or don’t even have access to internet.  There’s a lot of factors that come into play.  Right now, we need to focus in on those kids getting credits at the end of this semester.


Lastly, we are hearing students are frustrated because the start date keeps getting moved. Is there a drop-dead date for athletics being able to start? Why haven’t you pulled the plug already?

Yes, kids are frustrated.  If I was a student, I’d be frustrated too.  It’s still the beginning of December and our scheduled start date is the beginning of February.  We’re still two months away.  Is it too soon to pull the plug?  Yes.  Right now, it’s too soon because if we can start in the beginning of February, we can still play all sports in the 2020-2021 school year and that has been the goal from day 1.  We’re not ready to say it’s over.  If we go into mid-January and the cases are high and we’re still all in red counties, then that’s the time we need to re-evaluate.  The calendar is shifted as far as it can be shifted right now.  We have six and seven week seasons, we cannot shift any more or the sports will be on top of each other.  I would say mid-January we need to look at it.  The goal is still the same.  I’m not ready to give up and I know kids are frustrated, but deep down they’re not ready to give up either.  So, we need to stay the course.  We need to re-evaluate after the winter break and we need think in our heads through this holiday season that we are going to play again New Mexico.

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