Oñate football players erupted with exhilaration when Interim Superintendent Dr. Steven Sanchez informed them that the NMAA Board of Directors will allow Oñate to keep its four wins that were previously forfeited. The athletes got the news during their lunch period.
Steven Sanchez, Las Cruces Public Schools Interim Superintendent, announced Monday, Oct. 17, that the New Mexico Activities Association (NMAA) Board of Directors modified an NMAA ruling based on an appeal by Las Cruces Public Schools on behalf of Oñate High School, which reverses the previous forfeiture of four games by the Oñate Knights football team. Sanchez informed the team during a lunchtime gathering at Oñate.
The reversal now restores Oñate’s overall record to 5-2 and 3-0 in district play and gives back the program’s historic victory against Mayfield High, the first since 1993.
“The NMAA Board listened intently to Oñate’s appeal which was transparent and honest as to how a student who was ineligible was allowed to play in four games,” Sanchez said. “The ruling was clear that the NMAA does not want to hurt students for adult mistakes. They proved that commitment by modifying the previous decision.”
Also as part of the decision, Sally Marquez, NMAA executive director, informed LCPS that the Oñate Athletics Department will be on probation for two years, as will the school’s athletics coordinator.
There was a deafening roar when Sanchez told the athletes that they “have their wins back.” The school’s football players yelled out loud, hugged one another and their coaches. Following the announcement, Coach Brent Jaquess told the team “we’re not done,” referring to the games ahead: Hobbs High on Friday, Oct. 21; Las Cruces High School, Oct. 28; and Centennial High School, Nov. 3, all at the Field of Dreams.
“We are overwhelmed by this decision,” said Principal Jim Schapekahm. “Our team has been so strong this season and they have kept their heads high despite what’s happened. We’re grateful that the NMAA put the students first and allowed the students to maintain the wins that they earned.”
Ernie Viramontes, LCPS director of athletics, said the competing schools that are impacted will be notified of the reversal. They are: Atrisco Heritage Academy of Albuquerque played on Sept. 3; Sandia High of Albuquerque played on Sept. 9; Gadsden High played on Sept. 23; and Mayfield High played on Sept. 30.
Sanchez also said the district will be vigilant in reviewing all policies, procedures and athletic rules to ensure this type of incident won’t happen again. Marquez informed LCPS that NMAA will work with the district on strengthening its policies and procedures.
“This has been tough for everyone and I’m grateful that everyone, including the NMAA board, put the kids first,” Sanchez said. “Collectively, our district took responsibility for our mistakes.”