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University of New Mexico head baseball coach Ray Birmingham sits against the wall of the home dugout at Santa Ana Star Field during the Lobos annual media day on Feb. 9, 2018. The Lobos open the season this Friday against Oregon State.

University of New Mexico head baseball coach Ray Birmingham sits against the wall of the home dugout at Santa Ana Star Field during the Lobos annual media day on Feb. 9, 2018. The Lobos open the season this Friday against Oregon State.

Spring sports, winter championships canceled amid COVID-19 fears

The Mountain West Conference announced Thursday all spring sports and remaining Mountain West winter sports championships will be canceled due to concerns surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak. The cancelations follow the NCAA’s order to cancel all spring and winter events. 

Cancelations include the 2020 NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships, which were slated to take place at the Albuquerque Convention Center in downtown Albuquerque, New Mexico, this weekend. 

The conference’s Board of Directors announced the decision shortly after the NCAA canceled all of its nationwide winter and spring championship events. The board had previously held these events to an “indefinite suspension” until March 12.

While it was initially decided the remaining NCAA championships may continue without fans, the rapidly developing severity of the COVID-19 outbreak caused a sudden change from the NCAA.

A separate statement from the Mountain West Thursday stated that “The health and well-being of student-athletes, as well as the campus and general communities, is of utmost priority.”

The NCAA stated this week that it wanted to make sure the events “do not contribute to spread of the pandemic.”

The decision brings a halt to baseball, men’s and women’s lacrosse, softball, volleyball, track and field, golf, tennis, and basketball programs across the nation. 

This news immediately hits home in Albuquerque and at the University of New Mexico, as the school was set to host the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships for the first time this weekend prior to the event’s cancellation. 

The decision came directly from NCAA President Mark Emmert and the NCAA’s governance board.

“This decision is based on the evolving COVID-19 public health threat, our ability to ensure the events do not contribute to spread of the pandemic, and the impracticality of hosting such events at any time during this academic year given ongoing decisions by other entities,” the NCAA said in a statement on Thursday afternoon. 

Additionally, promising early-season results from the softball, tennis and golf programs are now laid to waste, while the baseball team and its 14-4 record will no longer pursue a shot at securing a potential birth into the NCAA Regionals.

This is not the only change for the foreseeable future for all athletics across the country, as the NCAA has suspended in-person recruiting until April 15, which will go into effect on March 14.

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The Mountain West also said in a statement released to the public that it had “established a moratorium on all on-campus and off-campus in-person recruiting activities for the foreseeable future.”

The conference-issued statement mandated that “Decisions with regard to the continuation of local practice activities in various sports (e.g., spring football) are a matter of institutional discretion depending upon local conditions.” 

With that, UNM spring football has continued to practice and scrimmage, though only team members and “essential personnel” are permitted to attend practices. 

While it remains unclear what the NCAA will do with athletes whose eligibility will have expired at the end of this season, The Division I Council Committee has recommended eligibility relief be provided to athletes that were participating in spring sports.

An email sent to various administrators within the NCAA said that the details of the relief would be provided at a later time, while also stating that, “Additional issues with NCAA rules must be addressed, and appropriate governance bodies will work through those in the coming days and week."

The email went on to state that the Council will also look at winter athletes who did not participate in their respective conference and NCAA championship games. 

These considerations would impact a majority of the NCAA and its athletes, but will not affect the status of members of the UNM basketball programs which completed their seasons before the cancelation of the NCAA basketball tournaments. 

Spencer Butler is a sports reporter at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at or on Twitter @SpencerButler48

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