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UNM president: Further athletics inquiry coming

Intirim President Chaouki Abdallah

The retired federal judge hired to investigate issues within the University of New Mexico Athletics Department — including coaching techniques and drug-testing policies — has completed his examination and reported his findings.

But some lingering concerns will likely prompt further inquiry.

“In this case, I’m not convinced right now that we have anything that we can act on, but we think we need to continue with this,” interim President Chaouki Abdallah said. “I’m not satisfied at this stage that we’re done with it.”

While some issues need further scrutiny, Abdallah said there were some areas that retired Judge Bruce Black looked into that Abdallah now considers closed — allegations that appeared unfounded.

But the specifics remain mostly unknown.

Few public records exist on the investigation, since the contract did not require Black to prepare a written report. He instead verbally relayed his findings to Abdallah — and Abdallah declined to provide more details. In a meeting this week with Journal editors and reporters, Abdallah said he may release more information in the near future.

UNM has closely guarded details of the investigation it contracted Black to perform, but independent journalist Daniel Libit has reported that it involves Lobo football head coach Bob Davie.

Davie has never publicly denied he is being investigated, saying in September he would comment at the appropriate time.

He declined to speak about the matter Friday, referring the Journal to the president’s office.

UNM’s August contract with Black did not identify any targets or cite any specific sports. It spelled out the need for fact-finding related to “certain complaints regarding the conduct of individuals within the UNM Department of Athletics … focusing on alleged violations of University policy, Department rules and an examination of the culture within the sport where the complaint(s) originated.” It said the focus should include coaching techniques and enforcement of rules regarding drugs and drug testing.

Abdallah said Black found UNM had abided by correct policies and procedures in some areas he probed.  But he said UNM will likely pursue a different investigator to dig deeper into some other matters.

“The initial review was to decide whether these are things we need to look into further or are they just, you know, disgruntled people and we don’t need to pay attention,” Abdallah said. “I think we have right now determined there are some things I think I need to look at a little bit further.”

Libit’s September report that UNM hired a third party to investigate Davie generated national interest, with Sports Illustrated and ESPN among the media outlets who picked up the story. Abdallah this week would not confirm the investigation involved Davie. He said UNM’s handling of the investigation — including the generically written contract — was to protect the “integrity” of the investigation and protect the people involved, both those making accusations and those facing them.

“What we’re trying to do here is to make sure that until we have something actionable or that we are convinced there’s something — either policies were violated or something else — I’m trying to make sure that nothing gets out to say ‘Well so-and-so was complained about because of these thigns,'” Abdallah said.

It is decidedly different from how UNM handled a previous Black investigation.

UNM had earlier this year hired Black to investigate claims that former regent Jack Fortner had abused UNM’s travel reimbursement policy and used UNM resources for his own political gain. In that contract, UNM not only identified Fortner but quoted the two anonymous allegations made against him on a UNM hotline and listed witnesses by name.  Black determined Fortner had not violated any policies or laws. Fortner stepped down days after he learned he was cleared.

Addressing the difference between the two contracts, Abdallah said this week, “I think it’s because there are a lot more (issues) here” and added of the Fortner investigation “maybe it wasn’t as explosive.”

Under the state’s Inspection of Public Records Act, the Journal requested all documents provided to Black as part of the athletics investigation. The university responded with three school policy documents — those related to student-athlete drug testing, a “respectful campus” and alcohol use/possession on university property — and with UNM’s student-athlete handbook.

A separate public records request for any reports or documents produced by Black, or any notes taken by administrators during his briefings, yielded no documents.

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