Baseball dust between Boise State and New Mexico in the pit is resolved ahead of hoops rematch

Boise State coach Leon Rice and New Mexico coach Richard Pitino greet each other after the Lobos’ victory in the pit in January. The teams meet for a rematch in Boise on Wednesday. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

When the UNM Lobos and Boise State Broncos basketball teams face off Wednesday night in Idaho, things promise to be intense.

Don’t expect brush strokes or canoe clearing fights.

The two schools and the league office say they have all played well with each other and cooperated following an incident a month ago in the pit – when the Lobos won a thriller in overtime 81-79 – in which Boise State coach Leon Rice said Lobo’s baseball team was intentionally outside his team’s locker room and could have started a “riot” at halftime with his team.

Witness accounts in a report submitted by UNM to the Mountain West Conference, which included area police officers, seem to indicate that the closest thing to a physical altercation was when Rice himself ” responded by pinning (baseball player Lobo Kam Walton) to the wall going chest to chest with him” after baseball players talked trash and booed his team.

Rice descended into the hallway and had a long discussion with a game official as this referee walked down the Pit ramp and onto the field, where the announced crowd of 14,566 fans in the Pit could see a visibly agitated Rice making a passionate plea for something to be done.

UNM admitted that its baseball team, which was recognized on the field during the first media break after halftime, gathered too early in the hallway near the Broncos’ locker room – where they were not. supposed to rally until the Broncos get back on the field. .

Rice said in a postgame interview with Boise media, including a video viewed on Twitter 115,000 times posted by BJ Rains of Bronco Nation News, that he felt the UNM baseball team was there on purpose — “Yeah, they did it on purpose” — and that a “riot” nearly broke out. He said of UNM’s apology that it “doesn’t help if there’s a fight” and added that the matter “must be dealt with by Mountain West.”

So the Journal filed a request for correspondence between UNM and the league office under the Public Records Inspection Act to see if the matter was being handled, as Rice had requested.

“I have great confidence that the comeback contest between the two institutions scheduled for February 22 in Boise will proceed without incident,” Mountain West commissioner Gloria Nevarez wrote in a memo to the league’s athletic directors on January 24. after reviewing the incident and reports filed by game day staff at UNM.

The memo, obtained as part of the records request, commended both schools “for their professionalism and communication” in handling the matter and noted that this was a good opportunity for all schools to ” re-emphasizing…procedures for the preventive management of gambling”.

She also noted that the conference conducted a “thorough review” of the matter and, while some portions of the public records were redacted, there was no indication in the released portions of the documents that any disciplinary action was imposed on them. result.

The Journal asked Boise State athletic director Jeremiah Dickey and Rice through the team’s media contact for comment.

“We support Mountain West’s review of the case,” Dickey told the Journal in an email. “I appreciate Eddie (Nuñez, UNM DA), Gloria and their respective teams, and our team for moving quickly to reach a resolution and allowing everyone to move forward productively.”

He also noted that he was “looking forward to a great game on Wednesday night!”

UNM Incident Report

UNM’s incident report included photos showing the visitor’s locker room in the area of ​​the mid-pit ramp located near a stairwell that goes up to the arena lobby.

It has been used for years by large groups who congregate in the midfield during games when they need to walk down the pit ramp and be recognized or honored on the field during time outs.

In this case, the person mustering the baseball team was working on their first Lobo game and the team ran down the stairs before they had to.

UNM administrators acknowledged to Rice in person that night that the team should never have been in that area at the time, but witnesses at the scene also told the Journal that night- where it never looked like a fight was about to happen. The incident report makes similar statements:

“Police Officer Camacho, who was stationed in the area, approached the confrontation and tried to calm everyone down but did not feel the need to report the incident. UNM had four policemen halfway at the time,” the report said.

UNM’s report to the league also included the following, in part noted above:

“According to (the UNM marketing employee and two baseball players), BSU men’s basketball head coach Leon Rice came out of the locker room and started insulting the baseball team. The assumption is that Coach Rice believed his players were involved in the confrontation at the front of the lane. They weren’t. He began pushing his way through the crowd, telling the team to baseball to ‘get out of his lane.’ Kam Walton replied that it was UNM’s lane to which Coach Rice responded by ‘pinning’ Kam to the wall going chest to chest with him. baseball player did not react to Coach Rice’s action.Coach Rice then made his way down the hallway and began a heated argument with the game official.


New Mexico at Boise State, 8:30 p.m., FS1, 770 AM/96.3 FM

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