Neither, apparently, will St. Michael’s Joey Fernandez, the coach who stirred controversy and outrage after labeling Bencomo, brother Nevada, and the Silver football team dirty.
The NMAA took more than three weeks to arrive at a decision. In the end, after reviewing film and interviewing all parties, the state’s high school governing body chose not to punish either school, assistant director Dusty Young said in a phone interview.
Young refused to answer specific questions about why the NMAA came to that conclusion and was evasive when asked if either school was guilty of wrongdoing.
“We investigated the report, the film and everything we received and determined based on that [that] no sanctions would be issued to either school,” he said.
The New Mexican reviewed game footage and reported its findings in early November. Bencomo was involved in at least five plays that were questionable, including two where he was flagged for unsportsmanlike penalties. His most flagrant action came on St. Michael’s go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter when he alligator rolled over St. Michael’s Salomon Martinez’s ankles after the running back broke the plane of the goal line. He wasn’t flagged on the play.
Young said a panel of NMAA personnel and an official poured over the film, but he wouldn’t discuss their observations and declined to make available Dana Pappas, commissioner of officials, for an interview. Young also wouldn’t disclose the name of the official who reviewed game tape. The New Mexican requested an interview with the official, but was denied.
Silver athletic director Luis Alvarez declined comment on the NMAA’s decision before hanging up. Neither Silver head coach Butch Branson, nor Fernandez returned phone calls.
St. Michael’s athletic director Tom Manning went out of his way not to criticize the decision. Manning said he doesn’t think the incident makes a potential meeting in the AAA championship more contentious.
“There’s not much to think about,” Manning said. “You have to live with it. What can we do? I’m not gonna comment on whether they’re right or wrong because all that does it cause us trouble. I have my own personal feelings, but I’m not going to comment in the newspaper.”
Fernandez also avoided the NMAA’s wrath.
The coach could have been sanctioned for comments that sparked the NMAA’s investigation. The episode started after Fernandez called out the Bencomo twins following the game, saying, “[Their coach said] they’re churchgoing guys, but that don’t mean they don’t twist knees.”
Fernandez’s comments appeared to violate Rule 7.7.3 in the NMAA Handbook, which prohibits “publically defaming or attacking the credibility of officials or opponents.” He could have been suspended for the Horsemen’s quarterfinals playoff game, and a source told The New Mexican that the head coach was “dead to rights,” but NMAA executive director Sally Marquez decided not to suspend him.