Games aren’t played on paper, but for now Lobo basketball fans can rejoice.
Their team finally has a game on paper.
Ten days into December, and 15 into the 2020-21 college basketball season, the UNM Lobos on Thursday announced their first scheduled game of the season – a Sunday road tilt with the Rice Owls in Tudor Fieldhouse in Houston.
The game will tip off at 1 p.m. and be streamed online on CUSA.tv for a fee ($6.95 gets you a 24-hour pass).
There will be no fans allowed at the game, only teams, game day personnel and media.
Rice was scheduled as recently as Tuesday to play cross-town rival No. 7 Houston on Sunday until Houston had a positive COVID-19 case in its Tier 1 group (players, coaches and support staff with regular direct contact with the team). UNM and Rice quickly put together this game as a contingency.
There is also an opportunity for the vagabond UNM program to “host” two other games next Tuesday and Thursday at Rice’s arena before the Lobos start Mountain West Conference play Dec. 21 at Boise State. While there are talks with at least one non-Division I program within driving distance of Houston to play the Lobos on Tuesday, as of Thursday night no contract had been signed for that game.
If and when those games are played, they will be streamed on YouTube and produced by Rice video personnel, per a contract the Journal has reviewed.
The Lobos, relocated this season to Texas as long as the public health order in New Mexico continues to prohibit them from practicing or playing games inside their home state, are now in Albuquerque for finals, presumably under a state-mandated travel quarantine after they spent the previous two weeks at their home away from home in West Texas. It is unclear when they will leave, by bus, for Houston.
While in West Texas, the Lobos have practiced or scrimmaged non-Division I opponents in both Levelland at South Plains (Junior) College and in Lubbock at Lubbock Christian University, where the team may still play the home portion of its Mountain West Conference schedule, which begins Dec. 31 against Nevada.
How much time has been split between the two schools in Texas, any comment on the Rice game or even how any players on the roster full of new players are doing in practice remains non-existent thus far from head coach Paul Weir and the program, and as of Thursday night no media availability before Sunday’s start to the season in Houston had been announced. A postgame Zoom video conference with Weir is expected, the Journal was told.
The Lobos’ roster has 12 players who have never played a game for the team and it is unclear if any players will be made available to media before or after the game.
UNM’s contract with Rice includes several unique (at least, to this season due to COVID-19 matters) clauses:
- UNM doesn’t get paid for this game. Most non-conference games either feature a home team paying the road team or is part of a home-and-home series, but Sunday’s game contract includes, in lieu of payment, Rice offering use of Tudor Fieldhouse so the Lobos can practice and perhaps play two games next week without having to pay a rental fee for the arena.
- With Rice as the home team, it will pay for game officials from C-USA for Sunday’s game and for all game-day personnel, including those who keep statistics, security, trainers, etc.
- For next week’s games UNM would need to provide referees (it has been in contact with the Mountain West to arrange that), but Rice otherwise will provide all game-day personnel, including video streaming for games to post live on YouTube.
- For Sunday, UNM must meet all CUSA COVID-19 protocols, which its multiple times per week PCR testing does, of course assuming there are no positives tests on the Tier 1 travel party between now and then. Rice will provide water, Powerade and access to all training room services..