University of New Mexico’s football game against San Jose State, originally scheduled to be played in Albuquerque, has been relocated to San Jose, California on Saturday at 5 p.m. (Mountain time) due to the prevalence of COVID-19 in Bernalillo County, the Mountain West Conference and the two universities announced on Monday.
The game will be televised on Fox Sports 1.
It will be the Lobos’ season opener, and coach Danny Gonzales’ debut, as their game at Colorado State was canceled last week.
“I’m happy for our kids,” Gonzales said. “That’s all that matters. I’m super happy they’re able to compete. They’ve worked hard. They’ve done everything we’ve asked them to do above and beyond. And, they’re going to get the opportunity to get out there and compete.”
After the cancellation announcement of the Lobos’ game against Colorado State on Oct. 20, UNM athletic director Eddie Nuñez and San Jose State administration worked on relocating the game among other scenarios, Nuñez said.
California is a green state for COVID-19 during this time, which allows for the UNM team to travel to San Jose and back without the quarantine requirement. In addition, the players and staff are tested for the coronavirus three times per week.
The plan, for now, is to travel to San Jose on Friday and return to Albuquerque on Saturday night after the game, Nuñez said, and then the Lobos will prepare to play at Hawaii in a game scheduled for Nov. 7.
“A lot of credit goes to Danny and being able to adapt his practice with the circumstances,” Nuñez said of the Lobos practicing in small groups, non-contact following the current public health order. “Our practices and testing protocols have allowed us to do this. It’s unfortunate that we can’t play our home game here but we understand. We’re excited about being able to have our kids compete and represent this institution and the state.”
Prior to the Lobos’ season opener against Colorado State being canceled, Nuñez said he believed UNM could safely play a football game. However, the state’s “COVID-Safe Practice for Intercollegiate Sports” guidelines that had made the Lobos exempt from the state’s Public Health Order restrictions required the new cases in Bernalillo County, where UNM is located, to stay below certain thresholds — a 14-day average under 8 cases per 100,000 and a positivity rate under 5%.
The Lobos were asked to shut down full contact practices when the 14-day average grew to 14.1, though the positivity rate was still just 4.7% (those numbers were through Oct. 12, which remains the latest updated numbers on the site as of Monday).
“The first week, there were a lot more challenges, and because of the timing,” Nuñez said for why UNM, CSU and the MWC decided to announce the cancellation on Oct. 20. “We didn’t have enough time to make those decisions and move it around. We had very limited time to do with practices or anything else at that time, to prepare for anything different. With the current numbers (in Bernalillo County), we felt it was in the best interest to go to their state.”
San Jose State will play its second consecutive home game. The Spartans opened the season with a 17-6 win over Air Force on Saturday.
Gonzales has been preparing his team for SJSU with virtual meetings and the practices of groups no larger than five.
“I have no idea how it will turn out, but they’ll fight and try hard,” Gonzales said. “I’m excited to have the opportunity.”