Estancia fans banned, team must play on road in 1st round

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

Estancia High School was warned a month ago. Apparently, it didn’t take.

Three of its fans were ejected from the Bears’ 67-66 triple-overtime loss to Menaul in the District 6-2A boys basketball semifinals in Estancia on Thursday.

On Friday, Estancia was informed by the New Mexico Activities Association that all of its fans of the team will be banned from its first-round state tournament game next Saturday, the Journal has learned.

That extraordinary punishment is only part of the penalty.

Even if Estancia is assigned a top-eight seed for the Class 2A state tournament, a seed that would usually guarantee a home game, the NMAA is sending the Bears (21-6) on the road no matter what.

The school, in a strongly worded letter dated Feb. 1 from the NMAA, was put on notice about the possibility of such sanctions. The letter cited “persistent poor conduct” from Estancia fans, several of whom already had been ejected for “threatening and abusive” language directed toward officials.

The letter very clearly stated that one more negative report from Estancia would lead to the NMAA banning fans. Thursday yielded that very report, and another letter Friday from the NMAA to Estancia..

“The NMAA gave written warning, they put it in black and white, and they had no choice but to follow through on that,” Estancia athletic director Stewart Burnett said.

It was not immediately known what fans did or said to get ejected Thursday.

Already this season, one officiating crew working a game in Estancia had to be escorted by police to Moriarty following its assignment, the Feb. 1 letter asserted, adding that three different fans also had been ejected during an Estancia girls game this season.

The state tournament brackets will be announced Sunday. Whatever team Estancia’s boys are paired with in the first round will host the contest, NMAA executive director Sally Marquez said.

Marquez said Estancia fans would be let back in if the Bears advance to the quarterfinal round the following week. She added that the NMAA will work with the host school next week to ensure no Estancia fans gain entry.

Last October, the Española Valley football team faced a similar situation when fans were banned for a regular-season home game against St. Pius because of a misconduct issue.