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NMAA board gives athletes confusing clean slate

New Mexico Athletics Association executive director, Sally Marquez, speaks to a group of athletic directors during a 2019 event in Albuquerque. (File Photo)

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Sports Editor’s Note: As of now games will be played. There is a cancellation of the Roswell girl’s volleyball game against Santa Teresa this Saturday. Goddard will be at Ground Zero Saturday and play against Ruidoso at 4 p.m. Gov. Michelle Lujan-Grisham has not given the OK to play, nor has she vetoed playing. Look for a final decision to come soon.

J.P. Murrieta: The NMAA board of directors held an emergency meeting last week to discuss scholastic eligibility. What has changed?

Sally Marquez: Our coaches and athletic directors had been looking at our student-athletes and right now, 70% of our student-athletes have at least one F going into the 6- or 9-week grading period. Back in June, our board of directors voted for a clean slate for our fall sports, when they voted at that time, we were still looking at football and soccer. In the sports of volleyball, golf and cross country, we have those students at the 9-week mark, they needed to have a 2.0 GPA and no Fs. Coaches and athletic directors came to us and said, “These kids are struggling with remote learning. How can you help?” Our board of directors met with five different scenarios. The one they voted on is that the student-athletes will have a clean slate for the fall sports, beginning in August. They are going to be able to play those three sports from the beginning of the season until the end. In December, when the first semester rolls around, we will go back to what we normally do, a 2.0 GPA, and no Fs for semester grades. However, if they have one F, they can use the cumulative provision and if they have a 2.0, they are eligible. That is what all the sports are going to follow from January to June.  Although we are struggling right now with remote learning, our student-athletes need to know that they are going to have to have the grades at the semester. Whatever happened in August and September as they are getting used to remote learning and this new way of education, they need to buckle down and have their grades because the semester grades are going to be very, very important for all the sports.

Murrieta: What about scholastic eligibility for student-athletes in the second semester? How does this affect them?

Marquez: Our student-athletes need to make sure that at semester, their grades are a 2.0 GPA and no Fs. If they do have one F, they can use the cumulative provision and if their cumulative from their freshman year to wherever they are at is a 2.0, then they would be eligible. The semester grades are going to be key because that will determine if they are eligible in December, they can go from January until June and play sports without looking at scholastic eligibility. If they are ineligible in December, they can gain their eligibility back by the fourth 6 weeks or the third 9 weeks and if they have a 2.0 GPA with no Fs at those marking periods, they will be able to get that eligibility back. Once again, even though those fall sports have a clean slate from the beginning through their season, all the other sports need to make sure they have a 2.0 GPA and no Fs in December.”

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Murrieta: So, the board of directors voted on scholastic eligibility for fall sports, but can a school still use the 6- or 9-week grading mark, if they choose to, instead of that clean slate for fall sports?

Marquez: There is a bylaw in place, and will remain in place, where schools can have stricter rules and regulations than the NMAA. In this case, when the board of directors voted for the clean slate for the fall sports, a school district can opt to use the 9-week grades, 2.0 GPA and no Fs. Also, at semester, a school may decide that instead of a 2.0, they are going to have a 2.5 GPA requirement. Make sure parents and student-athletes, that you check with your administration as to the rules and regulations for scholastic eligibility.

Murrieta: What about schools that have chosen to not participate in sports? Are the students allowed to play for another school?

Marquez: Our bylaw in place at this moment is that kids can participate in sports within their school. With COVID-19, we are having some schools in smaller classifications in A and AA that are opting out of fall sports. Those student-athletes, because of our bylaws in place, will not be able to play that sport at a different school.

Murrieta: Lastly, today is Oct. 5. At the time of this recording, the governor has not changed any health orders. So, what does that mean for fall sports, cross country, golf and volleyball that are scheduled to start practice today (Monday) and when do you anticipate games starting?

Marquez: We are waiting on the governor’s response. The calendar has been sent up to their office since June, however, I know they can’t make decisions that far out. They need to see where the cases are currently. I do understand it is taking time to make that determination. We sent up our guidelines and we are just waiting on a response to get the go-ahead, “Yes, you can start and you can compete.” Right now, our calendar has us starting today (Monday) and they’re supposed to compete on Saturday, but we are in a holding pattern. So, what we are going to do is still practice in our 9:1 pods, no scrimmaging, a limited amount of equipment and mask-wearing, just as the governor has ordered for the past two months, we are going to do the same thing today, hoping that we are going to get a response on the fall sports here shortly. Our athletic directors are ready to move the calendar any way we need to, with the hope of these low-risk sports. The guidelines we sent up to the governor has volleyball as a low-risk sport with a lot of sanitation and mask-wearing during play. We are hoping these three sports are going to get approval from the governor, but until then, we are going to practice. I told our coaches we have to stay positive. Any time these coaches are in contact with these kids, we need to look at the emotional well-being of our students. If we are given the go-ahead, we will be so happy. If they’re not, the amount of time they are able to spend with their students this week in practice, very restrictive practice, will still make gains. Here we are, it is Monday, Oct. 5. This is the date I have been looking forward to. I am looking forward to Oct. 10, the first day of any competition. We will make adjustments depending on what the governor’s orders are, we will respect the decision and we will move forward. Right now, these kids need to play and my goal has not changed. In the 2020-21 school year, we will have all sports in New Mexico. Whether it’s now, whether it’s after January, but we’re hoping it’s now, we are hoping we will get a favorable “yes” from the governor’s office and we will play again New Mexico.”