COVID-19

N.M. student-athletes granted eligibility to play fall sports

By James Barron
Posted 5/20/20

Student-athletes will start the 2020-21 school year with a clean eligibility slate, thanks to the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak. And the New Mexico Activities Association is expected to regulate the summer activity for its member schools' athletic teams.

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COVID-19

N.M. student-athletes granted eligibility to play fall sports

Posted

Student-athletes will start the 2020-21 school year with a clean eligibility slate, thanks to the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak. And the New Mexico Activities Association is expected to regulate the summer activity for its member schools' athletic teams.

The board of directors approved the change during a special meeting Friday (May 15), and it sets the stage for the board's final meeting of the academic year in which schools will learn what summer workouts should look like for their teams.

The key item was determining eligibility for the fall semester. Sally Marquez, the NMAA executive director, said since districts statewide differed on grading systems for the final semester of the current school year, it made sense to grant all students academic eligibility to start the fall.

Marquez said some high schools used either the pass-fail or the letter-grade system for the final semester, while others reverted to the the third nine-week grading period or the previous semester's grades for students' final grade in the spring. She added that some students did not have the technology for online instruction after schools closed in late March, and some parents refused to let their children participate in online classes.

It created a complicated situation for the NMAA to gauge student eligibility for the fall.

"We also believe right now that athletics is primary for these kids mentally to get back and play," Marquez said. "With that being said, I am recommending that there be a clean slate for the fall, that every student-athlete be eligible for the fall."

Marquez said the first six- or nine-week grading period will determine eligibility for student-athletes, which means they will have to maintain a 2.0 grade-point average with no F's. The NMAA will then use end-of-semester grades to determine eligibility after that.

Only Loving Superintendent Lee White voted against the measure.

Incoming Española Valley athletic director Ira Harge Jr. said that takes a huge burden off of school districts and the NMAA to determine which students are eligible to play.

"I appreciate the board approving that," Harge said. "It would have been a problem [if students had to appeal to the NMAA's hardship review committee], because we are already dealing with that from a collegiate standpoint for students. They need the higher GPA to get scholarships."

The unresolved issue is what the summer will look like for teams.

The NMAA usually does not oversee summer workouts and scrimmages, other than preventing football teams from engaging in full contact. Marquez said the majority of administrators and athletic directors indicated via a survey that they preferred the organization to oversee this summer given the restrictions the state is under in response to the pandemic.

As of Friday, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham's stay-at-home orders prevent gatherings or more than five people.

The board unanimously agreed the NMAA will oversee summer workouts, and schools cannot begin workouts and camps until May 28.

Any activity after that date would have to comply with Lujan Grisham's orders. Currently, teams cannot conduct any organized workouts or practices until the school year ends.

The board will meet May 28 and it is expected that the NMAA will unveil a more detailed plan on summer activities.

St. Michael's boys soccer coach Mike Feldewert said he is curious how teams will train, especially if restrictions limit the number of participants.

"It's hard, but it's also easy," Feldewert said. "Obviously, myself, and I'm sure every coach at St. Mike's and every coach in the state, don't want to do anything that puts any kid at risk. We're just going to have to follow what the medical professionals say is the safe course."

Andrew Martinez, the head football coach at Santa Fe High, echoed those sentiments, but also said sports are an important component in many students' lives.

"We have to be safe and careful with this, because I want to be out there and the kids want to be out there," Martinez said. "The mental health of our students is important. I understand the safety part and I am fully on board with it, but also there is a mental part where these kids need these activities and need to do these things for their well-being."

This story first published in the Santa Fe New Mexican, a sibling publication of the Taos News. 

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