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On Wednesday afternoon, New Mexico State University’s men’s basketball Twitter account posted a message to fans.
Accompanying photos of the team walking out of the Pan American Center in Las Cruces, duffel bags slung over their shoulders, the post read: “Aggies, roll out. #AggieUp.”
The team would begin 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 except Mike Peake, who is still recovering from a Saturday morning gunshot on the campus of the University of New Mexico, where police say he shot a 19-year-old UNM student, who died on the spot.
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 they are not involved in the shooting.
“First of all, the vast majority of the team did what they had to do at the time,” NMSU athletic director Mario Moccia said Wednesday during a Zoom press conference — the school’s first live interaction with the media since the deadly shooting of Saturday.
“We collectively had a discussion about this – a return to some normalcy for the vast majority of those student-athletes is something we felt was important to do. That is why the decision has been made.”
Moccia was accompanied by NMSU Chancellor Dan Arvizu and Dean of Students Ann Goodman. Freshman Aggies coach Greg Heiar was not at the conference and has not been allowed to answer questions since the incident.
“When I met our team,” Moccia added, “I told them what they probably already know: that given the conditions, the ice they’re standing on is so thin they can see the water below.”
Moccia said he talked to Peake on Wednesday.
“He wanted me to know that our coaches have done everything they can,” said Moccia. “And that he leads with that (when they conversed) speaks volumes to what that young man has in front of him right now.”
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 late Brandon Travis and two other men to attack Peake early Saturday, taking advantage of the knowledge that a 17-year-old fellow student planned to eat meat 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 will not discuss whether a change process has already begun.
“He is currently still enrolled and I don’t know the status of his membership on the men’s basketball team,” Goodman said.
Moccia added: “Mike is still on the team. He’s on the list. And that’s probably all I’ll say for now.
Before police reports released Monday confirmed that the Oct. 15 fight was part of the motive for Saturday’s revenge plot, the Journal asked NMSU in a list of emailed questions whether Peake had been punished for his role in the fight.
Citing federal privacy laws, NMSU would not answer.
On Wednesday, Goodman acknowledged that the video was sent to her office “five or six days” after the game, but “honestly none of my associates could identify anyone in that video.” However, NMSU Athletics were aware that the fight involved at least two of their players.
“Yes, I knew it,” Moccia said, adding that discipline had been “handed out to the individuals we could identify,” though he wouldn’t say what that was.
Peake has started both regular season bouts and the November 2 exhibition which was two and a half weeks after the fight.
On Tuesday, UNM announced that both schools have agreed to cancel the two Aggie-Lobo men’s basketball games this year.
Arvizu said the past 10 days across the country have highlighted issues including “gun violence and social ills and the variety of other things plaguing our nation and our society.”
As a result, he said he and UNM President Garnett Stokes agreed it was time to step back from the rivalry in the state.
“In the context of that rivalry, and especially as it’s taken on a bit more of a confrontational tone in recent seasons, President Stokes and I have met,” Arvizu said. “We’ve spoken at length a number of times since last week and we’re both determined to turn down the temperature on our rivalry.”
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