It’s been 335 days since the University of New Mexico football team last took the field, and a lot has changed since their last game. The most noteworthy change that occurred during the offseason was the departure of former head coach Bob Davie, who was later replaced by Danny Gonzales, a defensive coordinator for Arizona State and former UNM football player. The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic initially canceled the 2020-21 Mountain West football season and delayed the start of the Gonzales era. The first game in the Lobo’s truncated season, meant to be played on the road against Colorado State on Oct. 24, was canceled due to the surging coronavirus case count in Bernalillo County.
After 240 minutes of overcoming USL Championship postseason adversity in the role of the underdog — as indeed it has been all year for a homesick, road-weary club — New Mexico United finally found its kryptonite in the form of its neighbors to the south. New Mexico’s unlikely playoff journey was cut short after falling to El Paso Locomotive FC in heartrending fashion on Oct. 17, as the Texas club ended New Mexico’s dream season 5-3 in penalty kicks after extra time saw the scoreline knotted 1-1.
On Oct. 9, the Mountain West released the basketball schedules for both the women’s and men’s programs in the 11-school conference. Each team will have an 18-game conference schedule. The women’s regular season will begin on Dec. 31 and conclude on March 2, while the men’s regular season will start on Dec. 29 and conclude on March 6. The women’s and men’s basketball schedules feature nine home and away games apiece and will have two bye weeks over the course of the season.
On Saturday, Oct. 3, Albuquerque’s Holly Holm and Carlos Condit both won their respective fights via unanimous decision. Holm and Condit both showed Saturday night that they’ve still got more left in the tank and aren’t giving up on their careers just yet. They’ve both had their recent struggles, but their performances give them something to build on. Holm, who owned a overall fight record of 13-5 going into the fight and is currently ranked No. 2 in the bantamweight contenders rankings, fought the No. 6-ranked contender Irene Aldana, who was 12-5 all time. Holm won the fight in a unanimous decision, securing her 14th career victory.
One more, for the road. That has been the mantra for New Mexico United since March, when the coronavirus pandemic mandated a four-month hiatus of play and altered the trajectory of a year that eventually manifested as a sensational season devoid of home matches. The mantra will see at least one more recitation in 2020 after New Mexico — via a superb Chris Wehan goal in extra time — defeated San Antonio FC 1-0 on Saturday night at Toyota Field in Texas.
The Mountain West Conference released its revamped fall football schedule on Oct. 1, with 8 games to be played in the span of a month and a half. For the University of New Mexico, the first game of the regular season will be played on Oct. 24, and the final regular season game will be played on Dec. 12. The Lobos’ season consists of four away and home games apiece, with the season starting on the road at Colorado State. UNM’s first home game will be on Halloween against San José State.
In an extraordinary season, New Mexico United has met every challenge with tenacity and remarkable verve. Those efforts paid off after a team performance sent New Mexico into the playoffs with a style-affirming flourish in the club’s second season. French winger Joris Ahlinvi scored in the 57th minute, Real Monarchs SLC put on a woeful performance and United punctuated its regular season finale with a victory at Zion’s Bank Stadium on a late September evening. With the win, United kept its sparkling record against the Monarchs in 2020 unblemished, finishing the season 4-0 against its neighbors to the northwest.
The Mountain West Conference announced on Thursday, Sept. 24 that college football will return before the spring semester. In a statement released on the Mountain West’s official Twitter, it states that the season will begin on Oct. 24, with the conference championship game on Dec. 19. New University of New Mexico football head coach Danny Gonzales posted a statement to the Lobo football Twitter just after the announcement espousing excitement for the upcoming — and seemingly unexpected — fall season. “We are excited about the opportunity to compete and represent our University, the city of Albuquerque and the great state of New Mexico!” Gonzales said.
COLORADO SPRINGS — Over 800 New Mexicans took the trip up I-25 to Weidner Field to attend the first “home” game of the season after the Colorado Springs Switchbacks allowed its southern rivals to rent out their stadium. New Mexico United allocated tickets to United fans and gave the players and fans a “home” game experience on Saturday, Sept. 19. The stadium was set up to adhere to coronavirus guidelines — seats were spaced out, masks were required in and around the stadium, and elbows and fist bumps replaced more up close and personal celebratory gestures. Still, fans were able to come together and celebrate their club for the first time since last October.
Mike Locksley, whose brief tenure as the University of New Mexico’s head football coach ended in 2011, and his wife Kia held a joint press conference with the Howard County Police Department on Sept. 3 to announce renewed efforts in the pursuit of knowledge about the murder of Locksley’s son Meiko. The day marked the three-year anniversary of Meiko Locksley’s murder. The 25-year-old was shot once in the chest on the 5500 block of Harpers Farm Road in Columbia, Md. He was later pronounced dead at the University of Maryland’s Shock Trauma Center.
On Aug. 27, perhaps the most famous football player ever to wear the cherry and silver uniform of the University of New Mexico posted an incendiary screed on Instagram denigrating NBA players’ brief strike of playoff games in protest of police brutality and structural racism. The players’ boycott was in response to the police shooting of 29-year-old Jacob Blake, a Black man, in Kenosha, Wisconsin on Aug. 23. Blake is paralyzed from the waist down, according to his lawyer, and remains hospitalized as of the publication of this article. UNM’s Black Student Union (BSU) followed with a strongly worded statement, released on social media on Sept. 2, rebuking what they said was Urlacher’s “horrific” interpretation of the events leading up to the near-fatal police shooting of Blake.
The University of New Mexico’s men’s club hockey team has decided to suspend the fall portion of its season. The team announced the decision on its official Facebook page on Aug. 18, becoming the latest UNM team sport to fall victim to COVID-19’s effect on the competitive sporting landscape. In the post, head coach Grant Harvey cited the team’s decision to comply with the University’s policy regarding contact sports as the reason for the fall season’s postponement. “It's with heavy heart that I relay that Lobo hockey will be suspended for fall to comply with our school's policy with contact sports,” Harvey wrote. “I know that many conferences have followed suit, and I have to support UNM's decision and hope to face a spring semester in a safe manner.”
Multiple reports have come in that the Mountain West Conference will suspend its fall 2020 sports season and will instead attempt to resume in the spring. The extraordinary move comes after weeks of speculation and concerns that moving forward with collegiate athletic events would exacerbate the coronavirus pandemic currently wracking the country. According to 247Sports, league presidents have decided to cancel the 2020 season due to player safety concerts and health concerns. “"I fully understand the impact of this outcome on our student-athletes, coaches, administrators and staff who work so hard daily to play the sports we all love, and I share in their disappointment,” Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson said in a statement. “We will continue to navigate this pandemic together, overcome the obstacles and return to intercollegiate athletics at the earliest opportunity.
Nehemiah Cionelo, a redshirt sophomore on the University of New Mexico’s cross country team, held a virtual fundraiser called Footsteps for Families on Saturday, July 18, providing school supplies to low-income New Mexican families that have been negatively impacted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 145 people attended the virtual event, according to Cionelo. Participants logged in 848 miles, and local businesses and individual donors contributed school supplies for every mile logged. Cionelo said participants logged their mileage online after they finished running, and also were told to follow the social distance guidelines imposed by the state. “Personally, I ran solo with a mask and encouraged those participating to do the same,” Cionelo said.
EL PASO — For the majority of Wednesday evening's USL Championship tilt between El Paso Locomotive FC and New Mexico United, the Albuquerque club displayed the crispness and confidence of a team who — in a fair and just existence — would have returned to the Land of Enchantment with a comfortable victory. "Man stands face to face with the irrational," wrote French journalist and philosopher Albert Camus in The Myth of Sisyphus. "The absurd is born of this confrontation between the human need and the unreasonable silence of the world." United (1-1-1) may take some solace in the position of the absurdists after controlling the better part of a match drenched in south Texas sweat, yet settling for a 2-2 draw with El Paso (1-0-2) at Southwest University Park in front of a sellout crowd of cardboard cutouts.
When COVID-19 forced the NCAA to cancel spring sports and eliminate the NCAA basketball tournament, the question arose over whether UNM fall sports would meet the same fate. While local outbreak fears still linger, other college athletic programs have started to have fall sport teams practice with strict guidelines. This includes regular COVID-19 testing for players and staff and practicing in smaller groups in an attempt to combat the virus’ spread. On July 1, UNM Athletics director Eddie Nuñez said that one of 88 individuals associated with the UNM football team — including players, coaches and staff — tested positive for COVID-19 after testing took place on June 27.
COLORADO SPRINGS — After 126 days, COVID-19 protocol stacked upon COVID-19 protocol and a seemingly endless wait for a return to soccer for New Mexico United supporters, the black and yellow returned to competition on a blistering Saturday evening in Colorado. The resumption of the USL Championship was a triumph for New Mexico, as a late Chris Wehan goal and stout defending saw United (1-1) take three points from and remain undefeated all-time against Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC (1-1). The 2-1 victory in front of a threadbare crowd of 1,000 spectators brought New Mexico to third behind Colorado Springs in the four-team Group C table with the weekend’s slate complete.
Former University of New Mexico men's basketball starters JJ Caldwell and Vance Jackson announced their intention to enter the NCAA transfer portal after another disappointing season which saw a midseason collapse marred by suspensions and injuries. With one year of college eligibility remaining, Jackson is expected to graduate and play immediately for his new school under the NCAA's graduate transfer rule. Jackson's 2019-20 season was hindered by injury during the second half of the season, causing him to miss five games. Following the Lobos' season-ending loss to Utah State in the second round of the Mountain West Conference (MWC) championship tournament, "Vegas" Vance told reporters that he was sure he'd be back at UNM next season.
Sam Choi, a sophomore on The University of New Mexico’s men's golf team, has been named to the 2020 Arnold Palmer Cup International Team for his outstanding performance this season. Choi, originally from the Republic of Korea, was one of two members from the Mountain West to earn a spot on this prestigious team, which mostly consists of individuals from Power-5 programs. The nod adds to an impressive list of accolades, as Choi was selected as a 2018-2019 Co-Freshman of the Year and has twice won Mountain West Golfer of the Week award.
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.