ENMU to sit out 2020-21 Lone Star basketball season
November 18, 2020
PORTALES — Citing difficulty in adherence to public health orders on college athletics, Eastern New Mexico University will sit out the upcoming Lone Star Conference basketball seasons, its athletic department said Monday afternoon.
The decision sidelines a women’s team that had qualified for three NCAA national tournaments in its last four seasons under Josh Prock, and a men’s team set to begin the Brent Owen coaching era.
“We truly feel for our men’s and women’s basketball programs at this time, but the number one concern for our department will always be the health and safety of our student-athletes,” Athletic Director Matt Billings said in a school release. “The state of New Mexico has made it clear that intercollegiate athletic competitions are not able to occur in the state unless all directives listed by the COVID-Safe Practices for Intercollegiate Sports document are met, and we simply cannot meet those guidelines. Our basketball programs will continue to work and train together throughout the spring semester in the hopes of coming back even stronger in 2021-22.”
The university gave three primary reasons for its decision, in reference to the state directives — the inability to work out with more than five student-athletes at a time, state quarantine requirements following road trips to out-of-state LSC schools and inability to cover the expense of three tests per week. The testing cost, a section on the ENMU Athletics website said, would have run the college more than $120,000 per week during the spring.
The university will honor all athletic scholarships for the remainder of the year, and will continue to weigh competition in the spring for the fall sports that were moved by the conference due to pandemic concerns. The college, in its decision to only offer instruction online in the fall semester, withdrew from any sports competitions that would be held during that semester. The Lone Star Conference held a cross country season without ENMU, but had pushed soccer, volleyball and football to the spring semester. The basketball season is slated to begin in December, but the LSC presidents had yet to vote on a start date.
“Our staff will continue,” Billings said, “to prepare our student-athletes as best as the state guidelines allow in hopes of those sports being able to compete this spring.”
Greyhound athletic programs can continue to practice in socially-distanced pods of five and submit to random COVID-19 testing. Those formats will continue until Roosevelt County establishes state gating criteria of less than eight cases per 100,000 residents and test positivity rate below 5%.
Under NCAA bylaws, the student-athletes will not lose a year of eligibility due to the opt-out decision. The university notes that any student-athlete who seeks a transfer must enter the NCAA transfer portal before contacting another program’s coach, and may face restrictions on immediate eligibility at their new school.