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NMSU call leads Lobos to alter upcoming high school practice plans

In 35 days, Paul Weir can thank his old colleagues in Las Cruces in person when the Lobos and Aggies meet in the Pan American Center.

Thursday, he had to settle for doing so on social media.

The new University of New Mexico men’s basketball coach, through the Lobos’ official Twitter account, posted on social media Thursday evening a statement indicating the team might have to cancel two upcoming practices planned at area high schools after “an institution with concerns” about whether future practices are allowed by the NCAA called UNM on Thursday.

Weir, the former New Mexico State head coach hired by UNM in April, after thanking everyone at UNM who in recent months had a hand in putting together the scheduled events, later made it clear the concerned institution just happened to be his former employer.

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“Also, thank you to New Mexico State University for making the effort to apprise us of this potential concern,” Weir wrote.

UNM hosted a practice at Rio Rancho High School on Tuesday and planned, and publicized, it was also going to do so this coming Tuesday at La Cueva High School and on Oct. 24 at Albuquerque High.

Weir told the Journal after Tuesday’s practice at Rio Rancho High the practices were multi-faceted to help show appreciation to one of UNM’s largest feeder schools and also it is a community engagement gesture consistent with other initiatives he’s tried since hired to get fan support back for a program that has seen attendance drop in recent years.

NMSU’s compliance office, which visited the same subject last year when Weir was there, did not contact the NCAA, but did call UNM to ask how it was allowed.

“Our compliance folks didn’t think it was permissible and double-checked with the (Western Athletic Conference), and they said the same thing, so we didn’t do it,” NMSU athletic director Mario Moccia told the Journal on Thursday night. “When our compliance people saw it on social media, they contacted UNM to ask what methodology they used to get it.”

That coincides with UNM’s version, too.

“Myself and Coach Weir discussed and planned these high school practices months ago,” said Eric Schultz, UNM’s associate athletic director for compliance. “I approved the upcoming practice schedule and after our first practice at Rio Rancho High School, NMSU contacted us asking how we were able to get to the point where we could hold multiple off-campus practices. We immediately contacted the NCAA to request clarification on the off-campus practice rule.

“At this point, UNM men’s basketball has not committed any NCAA violations related to these practices. We will work from here to decide the best course of action moving forward regarding the remainder of the scheduled practices.”

One NCAA bylaw seems to make clear that such practices are allowed so long as the high school doesn’t in any way profit from the practice through concession stands or paid attendance or otherwise, but the question in play now seems to be in a different chapter of the NCAA’s rule book.

Bylaw 17.1.7.9.4 (Publicity of Preseason Off-Campus Practice Activities) states a school can publicize off-campus practices “that are conducted at a single designated site, provided the institution normally conducts preseason practice activities at that particular site.”

Schultz elaborated in an email with the Journal: “As we planned on making this an annual event, the schools would have been considered a regular practice site. In terms of clarification now that we know the future practices would have resulted in a violation, we are working towards determining our future plans.”

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