A recently released email showed that former University of New Mexico Athletic Director Paul Krebs asked Gov. Susana Martinez’s top political adviser for advice about the search for the university’s new men’s basketball coach.
An Albuquerque Journal reporter received the email through a public records request that also revealed information on other athletic department issues, including a controversial Scotland golf trip where the university paid for donors’ expenses.
The revelation came after the Journal reported political influence in Santa Fe was part of the search for a new Lobos basketball coach. The coaching job is perhaps the most prominent state position, and is always among the most highly-paid.
A Journal reporter asked Krebs via email, “Are you making this hire? If not you, who all is on the decision?”
Krebs forwarded the email to Jay McCleskey, the influential political figure at Martinez’s side since her first election campaign.
McCleskey is not a state employee but was behind Martinez’s 2010 election win and 2014 reelection.He is also widely credited with helping Republicans take control of the state House of Representatives in 2014 for the first time in decades. Republicans lost that majority in 2016.
A day after that email exchange, the search for a new coach ended and the university hired New Mexico State University men’s basketball coach Paul Weir.
Krebs told the newspaper last week that “Santa Fe had zero influence on the coach search.”
But the emails obtained by the Journal showed he had drafted a resignation letter weeks earlier. That draft, in which Krebs acknowledged making “mistakes,” was not the one he submitted when he ultimately resigned. The mistakes he cited in the draft letter included the Scotland trip scanda. Donors joined UNM employees on a golf trip, which the athletic department initially called a fundraising trip. Later, UNM interim president told KRQE-TV it was an inappropriate use of university funds.
After media attention, donors repaid the amounts spent on the trip on non-UNM personnel.
This comes weeks after extensive reporting by NMFishbowl.com about the ties between the governor’s office and the UNM Athletics Department over the years. It included discussing how then-men’s basketball coach Craig Neal and his wife joined Martinez, First Gentleman Chuck Franco, Krebs and his wife Marjori, UNM Regent Jack Fortner and his wife Terri and McCleskey and his wife Nicole at a “steak dinner of intimates.”
McCleskey and Neal were close, according to NMFishbowl.com.
UNM fired Neal on April 1 after several subpar seasons.