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Wednesday afternoon, the New Mexico State University men’s basketball Twitter account posted a message to fans.
Accompanying pictures of the team walking out of the Pan American Center in Las Cruces, travel bags over their shoulders, the post read: “Aggies, roll out. #AggieUp.”
The team was embarking on its road trip to Las Vegas, Nevada, where it will play the University of San Diego on Friday, the first of a two-day Las Vegas Invitational event.
Every Aggie player made the trip, other than Mike Peake, who is still recovering from being shot Saturday morning on the campus of the University of New Mexico, where police say he returned fire on a 19-year-old UNM student, who died on the scene.
Like Peake, other Aggie players, broke curfew and snuck out of their hotel room that morning, taking an Uber away from the team hotel in downtown Albuquerque, but have not been implicated in the shooting.
“First of all, the vast majority of team was doing what they were supposed to do at the time,” NMSU athletic director Mario Moccia said Wednesday in a Zoom news conference – the school’s first live interaction with media since Saturday’s deadly shooting.
“We collectively had a discussion about this – a return to some normalcy for the vast majority of those student-athletes is something that we felt was important to do. So that’s why the decision was made.”
Moccia was accompanied by NMSU Chancellor Dan Arvizu and Dean of Students Ann Goodman. First-year Aggies coach Greg Heiar was not on the conference and has not yet been allowed to take questions since the incident.
“When I met with our team,” Moccia added, “I told them what they probably already know: That given the circumstances, the ice that they’re standing on is so thin, they can see the water below.”
Moccia said he talked with Peake on Wednesday.
“He did want me to know that our coaches did everything they could,” Moccia said. “And for him to lead with that (when they conversed) speaks volumes with what that young man has in front of him at the moment.”
Peake is one of two Aggie players involved in an Oct. 15 brawl at a UNM-NMSU football game in Las Cruces that police have now reported was the precursor to a revenge plot by the deceased Brandon Travis and two other men to assault Peake early Saturday, using the knowledge that a fellow 17-year-old female student was planning to meet with Peake that morning.
For now, the 6-foot-7 power forward who started the team’s first two games this season remains on the team and enrolled at NMSU. Citing federal privacy laws, NMSU won’t discuss if a process to change that has already been initiated.
“He’s still currently enrolled and I do not know the status of his membership on the men’s basketball team,” Goodman said.
Added Moccia, “Mike is still on the team. He’s on the roster. And that’s probably all I’ll say at the present.”
Before police reports released on Monday confirmed the Oct. 15 fight was a part of the motive for Saturday’s revenge plot, the Journal asked NMSU in an emailed list of questions whether Peake had been disciplined for his role in the fight.
Citing federal privacy laws, NMSU would not answer.
Wednesday, Goodman acknowledged the video was sent to her office “five or six days” after the game, but “quite frankly, none of my staff could identify anybody in that video.” NMSU Athletics, however, was aware the fight involved at least two of their players.
“Yes, I was aware,” Moccia said, adding there was discipline “meted out on the individuals we could identify,” though he wouldn’t say what that was.
Peake has started both regular season games and the Nov. 2 exhibition that was two and a half weeks after the fight.
Tuesday, UNM announced that both schools agreed to call off this year’s two Aggie-Lobo men’s basketball games.
Arvizu said the past 10 days around the country highlighted that there are issues, including “gun violence and social ills and the variety of other things that are that are plaguing our nation and our in our society.”
As a result, he said he and UNM President Garnett Stokes were in agreement that it was time to take a step back from the in-state rivalry.
“In the context of that rivalry, and especially as it has gained a bit more of a confrontational sort of tone over the past few seasons, President Stokes and I met,” Arvizu said. “We’ve talked at great length a number of times since last week, and we are both committed to lowering the temperature regarding our rivalry.”
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