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Ed Johnson: Krebs too easily mismanaged money, too quickly shrugged it off

 

Paul Krebs scurried from the Ohio chill to the chile of New Mexico 11 long years ago — a man with a plan.

“There’s a window of opportunity here, I think, to create a dominant regional program and a national player,” he said way back when.

Not sure golf junkets to Scotland on the public dime were part of the original grand scheme, but such excursions seem to fit into the man’s idea of financing.

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But now that he is leaving — free to golf away from prying eyes — what are we to make of Paul Krebs and his time as UNM athletic director?

He gets much props for recognizing the need for better academic guidance and counseling for his athletes. The formal name for the building across the Pit is the “Lobo Center for Student-Athlete Success.” But a time will come when it will be appropriate to rename it “Krebs Towers.”

Economics, however, was a class he failed. He struggled to get his ledgers balanced. Accounting procedures in his department came under scrutiny. He spent freely on certain administrators, coaches and facilities, only to overestimate how his prized football and basketball programs could compensate.

When asked about his deficits (athletics owes the main campus about $4.4 million), he shrugged it off as the price of doing college sports business.

And why not? Regents and presidents have let him have his way. They acted like frazzled teachers who pass a failing student along because it is the easiest course to take.

“I’m sure he’ll get it next year,” they’d say.

It didn’t help that in 2009 he received what amounted to a $91,000 raise, pushing his annual salary above $400,000 — just five weeks before UNM imposed a partial hiring and pay-raise freeze.

He did himself no public favors when, in 2014, he boosted Craig Neal’s pay $200,000 a year just months after insisting he would not do so. (Privately, some of his supporters say Krebs was pushed into it by powers at UNM. Still, Krebs’ name is on the contract.)

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He hired Steve Alford, who won and appeased the fans. He hired Bob Davie, who has won, only to have fans keep their distance. He went against his grain and hired Neal, Mike Locksley and Yvonne Sanchez despite their lack of head coaching experience, only to shove them out the door, slipping them some taxpayer money on the way out.

But what resonates loudest is the money squandered on football.

When Krebs arrived, UNM had a football coach named Rocky Long. Long won games, if not titles, and there was a time when it was not unusual for more than 30,000 fans to show up to watch his Lobos.

Krebs would later say that by 2008, he noticed “a little state of decline” in the program. The two began to squabble. An agreement was hatched and Long pocketed nearly $680,000 as a parting gift.

Krebs hardly blinked. After all, when he was in charge at Bowling Green, he discovered a coach named Urban Meyer (Davie was one of his references).

Krebs’ proud discovery this time was Michael Anthony Locksley.

For brevity, let’s forget Locksley’s 2-26 record, the age and sex discrimination complaint issued against him and his intimidation of a mild-mannered Daily Lobo reporter.

On Sept. 20, 2009, Locksley lost what chance he had in being named citizen of the year when he got into a scuffle with one of his assistants.

That’s a firing offense in many work places, but Krebs’ first instinct was to brush it off. Eight days after the incident, he finally issued a reprimand. On Oct. 13, after much pressure, Krebs suspended the coach 10 days.

When Krebs finally got around to firing Locksley in 2011, he said he would not use public funds to pay the coach’s $750,000 buyout. Days later, he acknowledged it was “not an attractive sell” to would-be donors and UNM would, indeed, pony up.

In a brief whip of time, Krebs found himself paying Long and Locksley to leave and Davie to come clean up the mess. UNM was saddled with a football program that some national scribes labeled as the worst in America.

Now Scotland has become a thing. The state auditor is knocking on his door. Not to be outdone, the state attorney general has parked on his lawn.

Krebs never seemed to regard athletic department money as public money. His fiefdom raised it, and as feudal lord, he would spend it as he saw fit.

If coaches for the nonrevenue sports were forced to beg in the streets at the expense of football, so be it.

If he could not pay his bills, he would beg, borrow and shrug.

Krebs is now preparing his office for departure and contemplating life without a car courtesy of the state of New Mexico.

Neither football nor basketball programs are dominant regionally. Neither are national players.

His legacy is not so much he disbursed money he did not have. His failing is that he was forced to spend money to cover for poor judgments.


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