Another season bites the dust.
New Mexico Junior College routinely competes at the highest levels in baseball and basketball, fighting not only for conference championships, but also for spots in the national tournaments. However, that won’t be the case this year as NMJC was forced to cancel baseball, basketball, golf, and volleyball because of the COVID-19 pandemic and continuing restrictions against practices and games in New Mexico.
“NMJC is definitely disappointed that we have had to suspend sports for the 2020-21 season,” NMJC Athletic Director Deron Clark said. “But we are proud that we have been able to help so many athlete move forward with their playing careers.”
When the spring semester began earlier this month and nothing had changed regarding the restrictions set forth by New Mexico’s governor, Clark said NMJC was forced to decide to make a decision on what to do. The college decided helping its athletes find a way to play while continuing their education elsewhere was the best course to follow.
Coaches and administrators at NMJC helped the student-athletes find new schools to play for. Because basketball, baseball, volleyball, and golf have all been moved to the spring, students enrolled at NMJC were able to transfer at the Christmas break and become immediately eligible to play for their new school when the new semester began in January.
“Normally in the NJCAA in what are called two semester sports, which is what basketball is, you can’t transfer from one school to another at the Christmas break and be immediately eligible to play,” Clark said. “But, all of the seasons were moved to the spring, which made them one semester sports, so they could transfer at Christmas and be eligible and that is what they did.”
According to Clark, NMJC has had roughly 150 athletes disenroll and transfer to other colleges at the break. NMJC’s AD said the baseball team lost 20 players. The men’s basketball team lost nine athletes, including two who transferred to schools in the same conference.
“We are trying to do what is right and help the guys,” men’s basketball coach Luke Adams said. “They were great when they were here. We didn’t have any issues at all. It was sad and supporting. A lot of them wanted to stay, but it was just in their best interests to go.”
In all, the men’s basketball team sent two players to Ranger College and two to Barton Community College while John A. Logan, South Plains, Pearl River Community College, Salt Lake Community College, and Odessa Community College all got one player from NMJC.
“John A. Logan is No. 1 in the country and South Plains is No 2 in the country. Pearl River is No. 4 in the country, Salt Lake is No. 10 in the country, and Odessa is No. 14 in the country,” Adams said. “We have kids going to all of those schools and they are all probably going to start or play a lot for them.”
About the only good thing for the college athletes is that they will not be charged a year of eligibility for playing this season. Of course, while that is good for those already in college, it hurts the high school seniors who are on pace to graduate this year.
“That rule is in effect for us now, this year. No one is using a year of eligibility in junior college this year. That is a good thing for our kids,” Adams said. “(The high schools kids) are at a huge disadvantage. Unless they are like a top 150 kid in the country, I think the majority of those kids are going to have to look at junior colleges or prep schools. It is just a bad deal for all those kids.”
As of right now, the men’s basketball team at NMJC has just two players still with the team, a sophomore and a freshman.
“Those guys want to return next season,” Adams said. “So, we have two guys to start with, but we reload every year. So (recruiting) is not an issue.”
The loss of the season happened even with changes announced by the state on Tuesday. Colleges were given the okay to start practicing in the state and play games out of state. However, by being allowed to do so, colleges had to agree to two stipulations. First, colleges had to agree to surveillance testing, meaning 25 percent of the team must be randomly tested weekly. Second, any team that goes out of state for a game every player coach, and staff member who makes the trip must be tested upon returning to the state and has to stay in isolation until the test comes back negative.
“We had rosters up until 10 days ago,” Clark said. “When nothing had softened and the guidelines were still what they were, as an institution, we said we have to help these kids. Telling them to come back and just be on lockdown was just not a prudent decision on our part.”
“If we would have known this about two weeks ago, we probably could have still had a season,” Adams said. “We are abiding by all of the governor’s rules to a T. We are not going to violate any of the mandates. There was just no guarantee that things were going to change.”
At this point, the only NMJC sport that is still planning to compete this school year is the indoor and outdoor track & field team. Clark said NMJC is hoping to the indoor track & field team will be able to compete at Texas Tech with its indoor meets, but that is still up in the air as of now.
“We are going to follow the state guidelines and we are going to begin practice,” Clark said. “We are going to attempt to compete in indoor track & field and outdoors as well.”