ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — State Rep Suggests UNM as Title Host
The dream of every New Mexico high school basketball player is to run down the Pit ramp for a championship game during the state tournament.
If Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas (D-Albuquerque) gets his way, maybe a few football players will start dreaming about running onto the grass at University Stadium.
Maestas has proposed that all seven state championship football games be held at the 39,224-seat home of Lobo football. As it stands, sites for all championship games are on the home fields of one of the participating schools.
Maestas’ plan calls for UNM hosting the one-day event four times in a five-year cycle. New Mexico State’s Aggie Memorial Stadium would host it every fifth year.
The measure, formally known as House Joint Memorial 52, was introduced last week. Memorials, or resolutions, are informal measures in which the Legislature can request open dialogue between agencies as a means to conduct business.
“I’m not trying to pass this into law and I’m not trying to force the (New Mexico Activities Association) into enacting change, but I am trying to start a discussion about whether or not this can be done,” Maestas said. “Basically, we’ve been killing ourselves up here in the Legislature. I feel we needed something lighthearted to talk about, and this was it.”
Maestas is the first to admit his plan has a few inherent problems. Playing seven games in one day is one of them. Prep games usually take between two and three hours, meaning football would be played virtually ’round the clock.
Second, playing seven games on a grass field would cause excessive wear and tear. Toss in inclement weather and that pristine turf would look like it just hosted a tractor pull.
“UNM won’t even let us there for warmups (for the state track), and that’s in the spring, three months before the Lobos’ first game,” said NMAA spokesman Robert Zayas. “There are just a lot of things to consider with a plan like this.”
Zayas said this discussion comes up virtually every year. It’s usually the coaches who shoot it down because they enjoy the festive atmosphere of playing at on-campus sites.
Crowds are a factor, too. The 5A championship has drawn an estimated 8,000 fans each of the last two years at Albuquerque’s Wilson Stadium. A similar crowd at University Stadium would leave four in five seats unoccupied.
There’s also the cost of renting the stadium, the state championships’ proximity to the annual New Mexico Bowl (see field wear and tear), and the fact that not all seven classifications share the same weekend for state finals. The Six-Man game, which also requires smaller field dimensions, is held three weeks before the 3A, 4A and 5A title games.
And what happens if Artesia played Goddard or Mayfield faced Clovis? Would fans be willing to travel several hours to watch a game at a cavernous neutral site?
“I just see the state (basketball) tournament as this great year-end event that kids everywhere dream about,” Maestas said. “Like I said, it’s an informal dialogue. I can dream, can’t I?”