The New Mexico State Aggies are temporarily relocating their men’s basketball program to Phoenix, Arizona.
The move comes as New Mexico health ordinances designed to stop the spread of COVID-19 prevented the Aggies from having practices of more than five people anywhere in their home state. Neighboring Arizona has no such policy with WAC rival Grand Canyon, as well as Arizona State, Arizona, and Northern Arizona all practicing with a week until the season starts.
The Aggies are the first men’s college basketball team to relocate. In-state rival New Mexico has moved its football team to Las Vegas for similar reasons.
The Aggies will be in Phoenix for five weeks according to a tweet from Albuquerque Journal reporter Geoff Grammer. Grammer also reported that the program’s stay at the Arizona Grand Resort and Spa will cost $78,000 for facilities, rooms and testing, and an additional $21,000 for food.
The team will practice and stay at the resort, and is looking for places to play in Phoenix.
The stay should last the duration of the non-conference slate, but it is unclear what would happen if COVID-19 cases continue to rise in New Mexico and health orders aren’t lifted. The Aggies have not released a non-conference schedule yet, but are reportedly finalizing dates against rivals UTEP and New Mexico.
The Aggies’ move to Phoenix was first reported on Twitter Monday by @Sean02MTM, a contributor to makingthemadness.com, and then was picked up by national reporters over the next day.
Sources tell me that New Mexico State will begin their 2020-21 season in Phoenix, Arizona. Due to New Mexico’s regulations it would be tough for teams to play in NM. This isn’t the first school to make the move. UNM football has been playing in Vegas recently.— Sean (@Sean02MTM) November 16, 2020
The official New Mexico State men’s basketball Twitter account confirmed the reports with a Tuesday afternoon press release.
In the release, New Mexico State Director of Athletics Mario Moccia commented on the move, calling the change “far from our first option.”
“While far from our first option, I am pleased that we found such a tremendous opportunity to prepare for the upcoming season in Phoenix, Arizona,” Moccia stated in the release. “Approximately a five-hour drive from Las Cruces, the Arizona Grand will provide the ability for our team and coaches to isolate as much as possible while having virtually unlimited access to a court.”
Also notable in the press release: the Aggies will continue to be tested three times per week while in Phoenix, per the NCAA’s recommendation.