As Thanksgiving approaches, University of New Mexico football coach Danny Gonzales said he is grateful for the opportunity to be preparing his team to play on the holiday at Utah State.
Still, he believes the protocols the Lobos maintain could be performed in Albuquerque, where the economy could benefit. They left Albuquerque three weeks ago because rising COVID-19 cases and the local public health orders would restrict them from practicing or competing in the college football season.
Instead, they are staying at the Hilton Lake Las Vegas Resort & Spa in Henderson, Nevada, and practicing at nearby Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas. UNM spends roughly $70,000 each week for hotel stay, meals and other expenses, the Journal reported earlier this month.
“What I think would have been genius is I really think we could be doing this in Albuquerque,” Gonzales said during a virtual press conference on Monday. “… It would have been ideal because we would be giving all the money that we are spending here to a local hotel in Albuquerque. We would have all our kids quarantined in the same situation as here … We would be buying all our meals from Albuquerque companies. We could be supporting our local economy by doing everything that we’re doing and doing it in Albuquerque instead of doing it in Henderson, Nevada. That bugs me, because we’re talking about how we’re trying to protect our community. I think we should be doing this at home, but I’m very, very thankful that we have the opportunity to be doing it, with the help of our administration, out here.”
For the past month, and throughout their stay in Las Vegas, the Lobos have had all negative test results for the coronavirus, testing three times a week through Mountain West Conference protocol. That is allowing UNM (0-4) to play once again on Thursday in its search for its first win of the season against Utah State (0-4). The Lobos’ streak of 13 straight losses is the second longest in the country. They have lost 19 straight Mountain West Conference games, which is the nation’s longest current conference losing streak.
Gonzales would much rather be preparing for the game at home in Albuquerque, but he called the Lobos’ move to Las Vegas, “a blessing in disguise.”
The coach always knows where his players are throughout each day. They are mainly either practicing, eating, studying or sleeping.
Curfew is at 9:30 each night and no one is allowed to be in a different teammate’s room. Temptation lurks, as the Las Vegas Strip is within 15 miles of the hotel. The hotel staff helps out just in case.
“Any time a Lyft or an Uber shows up I get a phone call and I can come down and see if it’s any one of our knuckleheads who might be trying to sneak out,” Gonzales said. “It has not been.”
Gonzales would much rather have his team focused on football, especially after losing at Air Force Academy, 28-0, on Friday night.
QUARTERBACK: Trae Hall appears set to start at quarterback for the Lobos for the third straight week. Tevaka Tuioti did not practice on Monday, Gonzales said, and has not been cleared to play since sustaining a concussion late in UNM’s 39-33 loss at Hawaii on Nov. 7.
“I have no idea (about Tuioti’s status for the game),” Gonzales said. “That’s frustrating.”
Tuioti, a 6-foot-2, 195-pound redshirt junior, has sustained three concussions, including one in September of 2017 and another in September of 2018.