June 2, 2017

Amid investigations, UNM AD resigns

University of New Mexico

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The head of the University of New Mexico Athletics is leaving as the program finds itself the subject of a special audit and under increased scrutiny thanks to fundraising and spending habits.

UNM Vice President for Athletics Paul Krebs announced Friday he will step down effective June 30 of this year. Krebs first began his job as athletics director in 2006.

As in many states, UNM coaches of high-profile programs—football and men’s basketball—are the highest-paid state employees.

Interim UNM President Chaouki Abdallah praised Krebs and noted that he had been trying to leave for some time.

“His tenure will go down as the most productive and successful in school history. Paul has tried to retire several times over the last year, and now I finally have reluctantly agreed to accept his retirement,” Abdallah said. “Paul and Marjori have been very active in serving the University community, our city and our state. I wish Paul the best in his retirement.”

Krebs, in a press release, said he was “proud” of his “11 years of service to the University of New Mexico and our accomplishments as a Department.”

The recent scrutiny into Krebs and the UNM Athletics program came after a fundraising trip to Scotland, first revealed by an investigation by KRQE-TV.

A number of people, including three not affiliated with the university, traveled to Scotland for golf using UNM money. UNM Athletics described it as a fundraising trip.

UNM’s interim president told KRQE that the trip was an inappropriate use of university funds.

Attorney General Hector Balderas continued his tough talk on Krebs in light of the investigation.

“While I am pleased that Mr. Krebs resigned from UNM Athletics, our investigation of this matter is ongoing,” Balderas said in a statement. “Even if a public official leaves office, they can still face legal consequences for actions they took while in office.”

State Auditor Tim Keller said something similar and said Krebs’ resignation didn’t change “the need for a transparent accounting” of the Athletics Department activities. Earlier this week, Keller told Abdallah about a special audit into UNM Athletics, including into fundraising.

“The public still deserves some sunshine on what’s going on at our state’s flagship sports program and our special audit will continue as planned,” Keller said Friday. “We need to get to the bottom of questions that have been raised regarding expenses, compensation and perks for senior staff and donors.”

Previously, Balderas wrote in a letter to interim UNM President Chaouki Abdallah that “actions taken by Vice President Krebs are contrary to the high ethical standards he and all university officials must uphold and implicate violations of GCA.”

Balderas said he was waiting for the state auditor to complete a review.

Friday morning, NM Fishbowl reported that UNM overpaid former men’s basketball coach Craig Neal by just over $150,000 in Neal’s first year.

From the website:

While Neal was supposed to have been hired for $750,000 a year, pay stubs obtained by NMFishbowl.com show that he actually accrued $900,647.91 in non-incentive compensation over the first 12 months on the job.

That means UNM gave Neal $150,000 more than he was entitled to earn, per the terms of his contract. According to five sources who worked in the Lobos’ Athletic Department, the overpayment was the product of gross human resource error. And it apparently took the school more than a year before anyone noticed.

A UNM spokesman told NM Fishbowl the overpayment had been “repaid in full,” as was “a similar unintentional overpayment” to the university’s head baseball coach, Ray Birmingham.

UNM also recently fired Neal. Neal received $950,000 annually in salary and compensation. His replacement, former New Mexico State University men’s basketball coach Paul Weir, will earn $625,000 this year.

Meanwhile, UNM Athletics’ ticket revenues continued to fall, and missed projections by over $650,000 this past season—largely because of weaker-than-normal ticket sales to men’s basketball games.