New Mexico college athletes ask Governor for more flexibility


Student-athletes from five New Mexico universities unify in one letter penned to Michelle Lujan Grisham.

College athletes from around the state of New Mexico made their desire to return to the field or court clear Monday Nov. 9, urging governor Michelle Lujan Grisham to amend restrictions that are currently preventing teams to practice and compete in the state with a unified letter behind the “#WeWantToPlay” hashtag.

The letter, which comes from a state-wide student-athlete collective with representatives from New Mexico State, the University of New Mexico, Western New Mexico, Eastern New Mexico and New Mexico Highlands, acknowledges the severity of the virus that put a halt to athletics across the country and has continued to prevent activity from resuming in New Mexico, but offers attempted compromises that would allow resumption of competitive play to begin in some capacity and an opinion directly from student athletes — something NM State Student Athlete Advisory Committee President and member of the Aggie swim and dive team Katherine Harston believes is invaluable in these discussions.

“All student athletes in the state of New Mexico have come to the realization that they are all experiencing the same restrictions. With that information known, all of our institutions SAAC groups felt the need to be able to voice student athlete opinion on COVID-19 matters,” Harston said. “The main priority of our institutional SAAC groups is to give student athletes a voice on our campuses and in our communities. Unifying together to create this letter allowed us to not only provide a voice for student athletes around our college communities, but in the whole state of New Mexico.”

Proposed considerations in the letter include testing protocols that more closely mimic those of the NCAA at large — which would allow for Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) or Point-of-Contact (POC) testing as opposed to just PCR testing that New Mexico currently requires — increasing the number of practice participants from 25% to 50-75% and basing restrictions on institutions positivity rates as opposed to those of the counties each university resides in, which according to the letter, would meet the COVID Safe Practices current requirements.

“Restrictions on athletic activity simply based on community positivity rates and COVID-19 spread is not indicative of our institutions’ athletics caseload,” the letter said. “NMSU possesses a 2.78% rate, Eastern with a 2.83% rate, Highlands with a 1.17% rate, WNMU with a 3.4% rate, and UNM with a 0.99% positive rate. These low positivity rates demonstrate that our athletic activity is currently being performed in a safe, controlled environment, and is not linked to community spread.”

Again, Harston and the student athletes are adamant in their taking the virus seriously, but maintain that they believe there are routes to working with the governor to implementing changes that they have deemed “modest.”

“The influence that we are looking to receive from the governor’s office is some form of a response,” Harston said. “We understand that under the circumstances of the pandemic we can’t ask for the world, but considerations to the proposals that we have asked would be of the upmost importance to us.”

The impact of the inability to resume practice goes beyond preparations for a potential season, with the letter also mentioning the mental wellness of the student-athletes in addition to their health and safety.

“The current restrictions that student athletes must implement into their daily routine has not only affected practice protocol, and team unity, but has seriously impacted our mental health. We are students before we are athletes and having COVID-19 restrictions within both aspects of our collegiate identity impact our mental well-being,” Harston said.  “Recommendations that we have put forth to the Governor’s office would allow for more team and athletically related cohesion.”

The student-athletes will await a response from Lujan Grisham to their letter.

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