The transition in Lobo athletics continues.
Former University of New Mexico quarterback Kole McKamey announced Wednesday he would step down Dec. 4 as executive director of the Lobo Club, the athletic department’s chief fundraising arm.
“This decision has come with much consideration, discussion and self-reflection,” he wrote Wednesday in an email to the Lobo Club’s Board of Directors that was forwarded to the Journal by a member.
“It has been an absolute honor to represent my alma mater and the Lobo Club over the past two and a half years. … This experience has been invaluable and a wonderful learning opportunity.”
McKamey told the Journal on Wednesday night that he is aware that the timing of his announcement might raise speculation, but he hopes that won’t cloud the narrative of his decision.
“It’s been something I’ve thought hard about for quite some time,” McKamey said. “This was the right time for us to do this. … It is a great opportunity for me and my family.”
He wouldn’t say specifically what he will be moving on to do, or even if he has a specific job lined up, only that there is an opportunity for him to pursue that led to his resignation letter.
UNM athletics and the Lobo Club, a registered 501 (c) 3 tax-exempt entity tasked with generating revenue for athletics and cultivating donors, have come under intense scrutiny. Revelations uncovered by journalists include that the university used nearly $25,000 in public money to pay for some donors’ expenses for a 2015 golf trip to Scotland. McKamey and former UNM athletic director Paul Krebs, who retired in June, were each on the trip on the university’s dime.
Over the summer, it was also revealed in media reports that approximately $400,000 in Pit suite revenue had gone uncollected over a period of years. The Lobo Club handles the marketing, sales and collection for the Pit suites.
McKamey’s letter, first reported by NMFishbowl.com, did not mention any of the controversy.
State Auditor Tim Keller launched a “special audit” of the UNM athletics’ spending and fundraising in May, and the report is expected shortly.
“I look forward to the audit findings coming out,” McKamey said when asked about it and other recent controversies in UNM athletics. He would not elaborate or talk about any specific issues that have been reported on.
The Lobo Club has consistently surpassed its $3 million benchmark in annual revenue. It was on McKamey’s watch that the Lobo Club secured the $10 million pledge from local Dreamstyle Remodeling CEO Larry Chavez for naming rights on the Pit and UNM’s football stadium ($1 million of the pledge went to non-athletics department beneficiaries on the UNM campus).
“(McKamey) said it was something he and his family had been talking about and I thanked him for the work we had done since I arrived on the job and wished him and his family all the best,” new UNM athletic director Eddie Nuñez said. “It was a real good conversation.”
The Lobo Club is not technically part of the athletics department. It is tied to the UNM Foundation. But it works with the athletic director in raising more than $3 million annually for the department, according to tax forms.
The Foundation and Lobo Club maintain they are not a part of the university, though McKamey remains listed on the UNM athletics department website.
The sometimes confusing structure and relationship of the UNM Foundation, the Lobo Club, UNM and the UNM athletics department — and who is in charge — has come into question in recent months.
“To say that this is a confusing relationship is an understatement,” Regent President Rob Doughty said in an August meeting, adding it’s long overdue for clarity on finding out “who answers to whom.”
A restructuring of the Lobo Club has been discussed for months, but it is unclear what, if any, change will be implemented.
Asked Wednesday “when/how” the Lobo Club planned on replacing McKamey, Foundation marketing director Jennifer Kemp wrote, “We do not comment on personnel matters.”
McKamey, who formerly worked in medical supplies sales, also wrote in his letter he is excited and looks forward “to the next chapter in my life as I will be transitioning back into the private sector.”
On April 28, when news was about to break (stories were published May 1 and 2 in the Journal and a segment on the May 2 nightly newscast on KRQE) about the Scotland trip, McKamey, Krebs and UNM Foundation Vice President Larry Ryan had an email exchange making clear they were at odds about a letter they were drafting to the Lobo Club Board of Directors about the trip.
“This Letter like the previous one today attempts to clear the Lobo Club/Kole and doesn’t really address the larger issue of the story,” Krebs wrote in an email recently released to the Journal. “I believe any letter sent should explain the entire rationale for the trip including not only the lobo club role but athletics role and our collective justification for going and the expenditure of funds regardless of the source.
“To do anything other than that sends us down a road of real separation and not working in unison.
“Are we in this together or not?”
The Journal asked UNM to release the letter in question that Krebs, McKamey and Ryan were referencing in the email exchange and had clearly been attached to the emails as a word document.
UNM said the letter, in which Krebs was clearly questioning how the Lobo Club’s role in the Scotland trip was being characterized, doesn’t exist.
“The appropriate departments, including IT, have done a third search and have confirmed they did not locate any further documents responsive to your request,” UNM custodian of public records John Rodriguez wrote in an email to the Journal.
On July 8, eight days after he officially retired and as the Pit suites stories were being published, Krebs wrote to then interim AD Janice Ruggiero and had Ryan copied on the letter.
“I don’t know who will be interviewed or what will be said but I am thru taking undeserved hits,” Krebs wrote.
Krebs also noted he asked McKamey in “multiple emails along w personal conversations” to make every effort to collect the suite money owed. The Journal has verified at least one of those emails.
The July 8 email ended with Krebs writing: “Those guys need to own up to this and to be held accountable. This should not be laid at my feet and I am asking you two to see that UNM responds appropriately.”
Of those email exchanges, McKamey only repeated he looks forward to the audit report being made public soon.