2020 New Mexico Bowl: We know the ‘when,’ but we don’t know the ‘where’

A scant turnout showed up for the San Diego State-Central Michigan pairing in last year’s New Mexico Bowl at University Stadium. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

Questions still hold a commanding lead but answers regarding the 2020 New Mexico Bowl did manage to score a few points Friday.

First, the game is still on.

ESPN Events, which owns and operates the college football postseason contest, announced its intention to hold and televise what would be the 15th annual New Mexico Bowl in a Friday release. Four other bowl games (Bahamas, Hawaii, Redbox and Holiday) have canceled this year’s games because of coronavirus complications.

Second, there’s a date.

This year’s game is scheduled for Christmas Eve, a Thursday, which is a change from previous years when the New Mexico Bowl has been played in mid-December on the first weekend of bowl season. Kickoff is set for 1:30 p.m. MT.

That’s about it, as far as answers are concerned. The ongoing pandemic combined with New Mexico’s relatively tight restrictions left several significant questions unresolved as of Friday.

Most notable among them – where will the game be played?

The University of New Mexico has hosted all 14 previous New Mexico Bowls but the campus has not hosted much in terms of sports this fall. Nor has the rest of the state.

Recent public health orders from Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s office that prohibit gatherings of more than five people make sporting events and even full practice sessions impossible. UNM’s scheduled home football game Saturday was relocated to San Jose State because of state restrictions, and professional soccer team New Mexico United played its entire 2020 season on the road.

Friday’s New Mexico Bowl release said, “The venue for this year’s game is still being determined.”

Presuming University Stadium remains unavailable as a site, it is unclear where else the 2020 New Mexico Bowl might be played. Executive director Jeff Siembieda, quoted in Friday’s press release, otherwise referred Journal questions to ESPN Events on Friday. Questions emailed to event publicist Anna Negron had not been answered at the Journal’s publication deadline.

Other questions, such as who and how, are likely to get last-minute answers. The Mountain West and Conference USA have ties to the New Mexico Bowl, but which teams from which leagues might be invited, especially with schedules being impacted by coronavirus concerns, remains to be determined.

How any teams and the various personnel necessary to put on and televise a bowl game might navigate the state’s public health restrictions, if it would even try, is another major unresolved question.

But as of Friday, the New Mexico Bowl had hope for the holidays – if not many answers.

“We are happy to once again be part of college football’s bowl season and to be showcased in a very desirable national television window on Christmas Eve,” Siembieda said in Friday’s release. “This is a challenging and uncertain time for everyone and I am grateful to all who have worked and continue to work tirelessly to make sure the tradition of our event continues to grow.”

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