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Former Lobo Hnida feels more inquiry is warranted into UNM football

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

In her travels across the country, speaking about the issues of sexual assault, sexual harassment and domestic violence, Katie Hnida often contrasts her experiences at the University of Colorado as a walk-on football place-kicker with those during her stay at the University of New Mexico.

How not to behave, how not to respect women: Colorado.

How to behave, how to respect women: New Mexico.

She worries, though, that questions raised by investigations into the UNM athletic department during the past 11 months — principally involving the football program and coach Bob Davie — will deprive her of that valuable talking point.

Of particular concern to Hnida, a longtime activist against sexual assault: the response of Davie and UNM to an alleged rape by a Lobo football player in February 2016.

Hnida expressed her concerns in a March 29 story on the website NMfishbowl.com. Last week, she participated in a phone interview with the Journal.

“I always do the comparison between CU and UNM,” Hnida told the Journal. “… This is why it worked here and why it did not work here, the way that the culture was. Here’s how you can be like UNM.

“For me going around the country and constantly using that, it’s really tough when suddenly this stuff comes out.”

Davie, asked for a response, provided the following statement to the Journal by phone: “In every conversation I’ve had personally with Katie Hnida, she has been 100 percent positive and complimentary about the job I’ve done as head coach at UNM, and also the way we’ve handled off-the-field issues.”

In the nmfishbowl.com story, Hnida related a talk she gave to the UNM football team in 2015. Her presentation was abruptly cut off, and Davie did not speak to her afterward, she said.

A successful place-kicker at Chatfield High School in suburban Denver, Hnida joined the Colorado football team as a walk-on kicker in 1999. Hnida has said she was taunted and harassed by her teammates — with no support from then-Buffaloes coach Gary Barnett. It was Rick Neuheisel, the previous CU coach, who had invited Hnida to join the program.

Hnida was raped, she later said, by a CU teammate whom she had considered a trusted friend. It was that experience that eventually would set her on a career path as an advocate.

At New Mexico, she has said, then-Lobos coach Rocky Long created an atmosphere in which Hnida was treated with the utmost respect. She remains in touch, she said, with several of her UNM teammates.

As a result of her career at UNM, Hnida is a historic figure: the first woman to appear in an NCAA Division I (now Football Bowl Subdivision) game (2002) and the first woman to score a point in such a game (2003).

Davie, UNM’s head football coach since 2012, has been the subject of three separate investigations since May. The findings of that conducted by former federal judge Bruce Black were delivered orally to then-UNM interim President Chaouki Abdallah.

Investigations conducted by the Chicago law firm Hogan Marren Babbo & Rose and by the UNM Office of Equal Opportunity did not conclude that Davie had violated UNM policy, though both reports found fault with the manner in which the university and the athletic department had dealt with sexual assault/sexual harassment issues and with incidents reflecting racial insensitivity.

On Feb. 8, Abdallah announced he was suspending Davie for 30 days without pay.

An appeal, filed on Davie’s behalf by his attorney, was not considered by the UNM Board of Regents.

Davie began serving the suspension on Feb. 17 and returned to work on March 18.

On March 27, in an answer to a question at a town hall sponsored by the Daily Lobo, new UNM President Garnett Stokes said she considered the Davie matter closed unless new information came to light.

Katie Hnida made history in 2003 for UNM football, and she now wants more investigations into sexual assault allegations at her alma mater. (Greg Sorber/Journal file)

Not so fast

Hnida believes there’s more to be investigated.

“I have talked to other coaches, training and medical staff, media relations people, university officials, players from the football team as well as on other university teams, and women at the university,” she told NMfishbowl.com. “I have done my due diligence, enough to be worried about this.”

In her interview with the Journal, Hnida declined to identify anyone she had talked to at UNM or to be specific about what she had been told.

Some of those conversations dealt with sexual misconduct issues, she said. Others did not. But, she said, “One thing that always stuck with me was that at CU the entire culture was unhealthy. It wasn’t just violence against women.

“It’s like, when stuff starts to go bad, a lot of things can go.”

Hnida said she spoke with “close to 20 people” in and around the UNM athletic department. What struck her, she said, was that people told her the same stories independently of one another.

“That really said to me that this isn’t all a bunch of lies,” she said.

Regarding the 2016 rape allegation, the Hogan report includes an anonymous accusation, stemming from Judge Black’s investigation, that in a team meeting Davie urged his players to “get me some dirt on this whore.”

Davie has denied using those words, and the Hogan report did not substantiate that they were spoken. Three people who were present at that meeting, assistant coaches Kevin Cosgrove and Apollo Wright and former Lobo wide receiver Dameon Gamblin, told the Journal they heard nothing that approximated those words.

The victim of the alleged rape told Hogan report investigators that she later was harassed by UNM football players and that players were discrediting her story “and mentioning to everyone that ‘coach Davis (sic) is going to take care of it.'”

The woman later left the state, and charges against the UNM player were dropped.

The Hogan report did not conclude that Davie had interfered with the rape investigation. But in his letter to Davie outlining his reasons for the suspension, Abdallah cited Davie’s failure to report the incident to the OEO after having learned of it as per UNM policy.

In Davie’s appeal of the suspension, prepared by attorney Michael Kennedy, Davie said he had been told by UNM’s athletic administration that in such matters it was the UNM Police Department’s responsibility to report to the OEO — and that UNMPD learned of the rape allegations before Davie did.

Hnida told the Journal she first approached UNM about the possibility of continuing the Davie investigation after she was contacted by “an anonymous person at UNM about this rape that had happened.

“I started digging around, and after that I started finding out about some things that I hadn’t been aware of.”

Above all, Hnida said, she wants the rape case followed to its conclusion.

Asked if she believes that will happen, Hnida said, “I’m not sure if it will be UNM, but I think somebody will (pursue it),” she said.

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas told the Journal on Feb. 8 he intended to expand an ongoing investigation into the UNM athletic department to include issues surrounding the February 2016 rape allegation.

Hnida said her love for UNM, her alma mater, knows few bounds. She graduated magna cum laude with a degree in psychology.

She has been torn, she said, about speaking out regarding her concerns.

“This was such a hard decision to make,” she said. “I can’t tell you how much I really, really love UNM and my experience there.”

But, she said, “Blind loyalty to sports teams is incredibly dangerous. And I hope that all Lobo fans will always want to hold all of our programs accountable, the way we would in the classroom.”

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