UNM coach's tenure clouded by investigations, suspension - Albuquerque Journal

UNM coach’s tenure clouded by investigations, suspension

Bob Davie was anointed football coach at the University of New Mexico in 2011.

He has had some wins (30) and a few more losses (45) in his time swathed in cherry and silver. But the past several months, his tenure has been clouded by three investigations, including one by UNM’s Office of Equal Opportunity.

Verbal and physical abuse was alleged, but the coach has been steadfast in proclaiming his innocence.

The OEO determined Davie’s race-related comments did not rise to the level of violating UNM’s policy, but found “significant environment concerns” and a failure to follow protocol. That prompted interim President Chaouki Abdallah to suspend the coach 30 days without pay. That decision was upheld by a 6-0 vote by the Board of Regents.

The report, based on interviews with 32 witnesses from May to November 2017 and filled with disturbing actions attributed to Davie, leaves a discordant image of the coach.

Two football players reported seeing Davie physically assault one of his players.

However, a current black assistant told an OEO investigator that he would know if there was any negative treatment of any player because “they are comfortable talking with me” and that no player has complained to him about being discriminated against because of race.

One of Davie’s former black assistants, who said he feared retaliation, told the OEO: “I’d tell you more under oath, if you take me to the courthouse, if I put my hand on the Bible, I would tell you more.”

A UNM coach from another sport said he saw Davie get into an altercation with a black player during a football game and had reported other concerns about Davie to then-athletic director Paul Krebs. He said he saw no evidence those issues were addressed.

A former player, who later served as a UNM graduate assistant and is black, said that his Lobo experience was “great” and that he did not know why anyone would file a complaint against Davie.

A mother of a black former Lobo football player reported that her son told her Davie had called him the “N-word,” adding he couldn’t tell her about “all the stuff” the coach had said and done to him.

Davie told the OEO he could not fully respond because the witnesses were anonymous. But he did offer some possible motives by his accusers:

• “Players say things everyday. It’s the nature of athletics.”

• “People believe things happen when they did not.”

• “Rumors take on a life of their own.”

• “Every kid who comes here thinks they are going to the NFL or their parents do. When guys don’t achieve what (they) should have or family thought they should, they will put the blame on someone else.”

As a sign that he stood by his black players, Davie points to a news conference in which he stood by five of his black players who had knelt during the national anthem at half time of the storm-delayed home game against Air Force last season. Days later, Davie appeared alongside the players and weathered what he told the OEO was an “uproar in the community about not kicking black kids off the team.” The coach said a local car dealer even took away his courtesy car over the issue.

“It’s a tough place,” Davie told the investigator. “Culturally, football takes a hit here. It’s a have-not place, unique culture. Olympic sports view football as sucking money away.”

Even Krebs described the athletic department to the OEO this way: A “very toxic environment with no trust.”

Current athletic director Eddie Nuñez, who took the job Aug. 31, inherited a fiscally troubled department with attendance challenges in both men’s basketball and football. The state auditor has looked into the athletic department and found financial mismanagement. The state attorney general is still looking.

There are probably days Nuñez checked to see if SpaceX has a seat open the next time it rockets a Tesla roadster toward Mars.

Then there is Rob Doughty, the president of UNM’s Board of Regents, who would like to erase the athletic department’s $4.7 million deficit with the stroke of a pen. That would make a few heads explode at other UNM departments, not to mention what it would do to New Mexico State athletic director Mario Moccia, who has dutifully balanced his budgets while paying down debt not of his own making.

Enter Garnett S. Stokes – who famously suspended quarterback Jameis Winston for half a game because he shouted vulgar comments in the student union building when she was interim president at Florida State. She steps into the UNM presidency on March 1 and will be confronted with issues more pressing than football and its coach, whose contract runs through 2021. Still, the subject may come up should she stop by the school’s taproom when the beer starts to flow this August.

The old saying is that athletics is a college’s front porch. While it is not the most important part of the house, it is often what much of the rest of the community sees. Sometimes it is all people know about a school.

Bob Davie is one of the most visible figures standing on UNM’s porch. What kind of first impression is he making on his new boss?

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