ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — They didn’t have enough to fire him.
No smoking gun, no secret source giving him up, no spontaneous admission of guilt.
As we close this chapter in the saga involving Sandia athletic director Tom Knauber and the school’s boys basketball coach, Alvin Broussard – a TMZ-made tale that is equally fascinating and disturbing – that’s the conclusion I reached.
There is, clearly, an abundance of circumstantial evidence stacked against Knauber here. But, if you believe APS, it must not have been enough to get rid of him.
Albuquerque Public Schools officials last month put Knauber, Sandia’s longtime athletic director, on paid administrative leave in the wake of accusations that he tried to destroy the career of Broussard by placing drug contraband in Broussard’s office.
If you supported Broussard, and many do, there was a significant roadblock to justice.
If there were incontrovertible evidence that Knauber tried to sabotage Broussard’s career, is it not reasonable to assume that APS would have fired Knauber weeks ago? If APS had Knauber cold, would they be so reckless as to just move him and make him somebody else’s problem rather than fire him? That would be a dangerous game to play for the school district.
But APS didn’t fire Knauber. He has been demoted.
He is being removed as Sandia’s athletic director and will be reassigned to another school in APS as a “priority hire” as a social studies teacher.
Of course, we still haven’t been told why APS opted for this solution.
My hunch is that his removal from Sandia has as much to do with alleged past transgressions as it does this mess with Broussard. Remember, Broussard is not the only coach to have had his problems with Knauber.
Broussard’s predecessor, Adrian Ortega, all but said a month ago that Knauber was the reason he was ousted at Sandia. And as Ortega told me at the end of that conversation, and this is paraphrasing here, “My (APS) personnel file is clean.” Read into that what you will.
And one of Sandia’s former soccer coaches, Ron Allen, had a brutal fallout years ago.
Without actual confirmation about the details of APS’ investigation – which it said this week was finished, barring the introduction of new evidence – what we’ve been left with over the past few weeks is a steady stream of rumors and innuendo.
Why is Knauber being moved? We know that Knauber appeared before APS’ disciplinary committee last week. APS referred last week to evidence that supports their decision to pluck him out of Sandia and move him someplace else, a move rubber-stamped by Superintendent Winston Brooks.
Well, what is the evidence? APS is refusing to say, which is less than satisfying.
Why, why, why?
Within the confines of Albuquerque’s prep sports scene, this rates as one of the more salacious stories I’ve come across in recent years. And we’ve had a couple.
Did Knauber, as has been alleged, plant that contraband in Broussard’s office in an effort to have Broussard fired?
And if he did, what would possess a man in a position of power to do such a despicable thing? There must surely be a back story that explains this.
And what, precisely, was the nature of the drug contraband that was supposedly planted in Broussard’s office? There were items discovered – none of them a pot pipe, the Journal was able to confirm. Previous reports had said there was a pipe found.
Beyond that, we are left with a void. And we have more unanswered questions than ever.
My take is this: Keeping Knauber at Sandia, near Broussard, is an absolutely untenable scenario. So APS is shipping Knauber somewhere else to avoid off-the-charts workplace environment hostility at Sandia.
Broussard, it is crucial to note, was not placed on administrative leave and is not under suspicion of having done anything untoward. Through his attorney, he has denied that the contraband found in his office was his.
On Thursday, Brooks dispatched a letter to the local branch of the NAACP, in response to a complaint from the NAACP that APS had not done enough to clear Broussard’s name in the public arena. Knauber is white; Broussard is black.
“Through the district’s internal investigation we have cleared Mr. Broussard of any wrongdoing. There is no concern or evidence that Mr. Broussard did anything wrong in this case,” Brooks said in the letter.
This is a telling statement, in my opinion. It seems to simultaneously clear Broussard and, without doing so directly, indict Knauber.
The contraband was apparently found after an anonymous tip to Sandia, and it was, in the end, Knauber himself who discovered the contraband, according to a TV report.
There is surveillance video – the quality of which cannot be verified – that shows Knauber entering Broussard’s office not long before that tip was supplied to Sandia.
There is a pile of circumstantial evidence here stacked against Knauber. Enough to convict, perhaps.
But this is a slippery slope. For those trying to sink Knauber, you cannot connect all the dots here. Not from my chair. Legally, this is about what can be proved, not what you think might have happened. And no matter what anyone thinks about Knauber right now, legally, he deserves the benefit of the doubt.
Which brings me back to my opening sentence.
I don’t think they had him.
Bottom line, APS may suspect Knauber tried to eject Broussard from his job. But without slam-dunk, airtight evidence, they couldn’t end Knauber’s career, not without facing a probable lawsuit. Right?
So, what we are left with is the most nagging, pressing, irritating question of all.
Will the full truth ever be known?
Let’s hope so. We are not done digging.