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UNM athletics not covering cost of Craig Neal buyout

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

When the University of New Mexico fired men’s basketball coach Craig Neal, officials said that the athletics department – instead of the university at large – would foot the bill for his $1 million buyout.

A year later, the Journal has learned that’s not what happened.

Former UNM head coach Craig Neal was paid the first half of his buyout from UNM reserves

Former UNM head coach Craig Neal was paid the first half of his buyout from UNM reserves.

UNM’s financially beleaguered athletic department has instead used a $1.3 million infusion from the university’s reserves to help pay off the former coach, at least for the $500,000 portion of his buyout that is due in the current 2018 fiscal year, a university spokeswoman said Monday.

The regents approved the allocation in November when it became clear that athletics would once again struggle to make its budget. The board did not publicly announce the money would go toward Neal’s buyout. At the regents’ Nov. 3 Finance & Facilities meeting, where the allocation was initially discussed, UNM Executive Vice President David Harris mentioned athletics budget concerns related to ticket sales in football and basketball.

Neal was not mentioned and the regents eventually voted to approve the move.

It remains unclear whether the $500,000 Neal buyout was even budgeted in the current fiscal year in athletics. The Journal asked the university spokeswoman Monday evening about where specifically the buyout was accounted for in the budget. As of Monday night, the spokeswoman was not able to provide an answer.

UNM had to start covering Neal’s buyout immediately after terminating him March 31, 2017. The terms call for monthly payments over a two-year period ending in March 2019.

“The expectation is the buyout will be covered by athletics,” then-athletics director Paul Krebs said shortly after Neal’s termination.

UNM has repeatedly tapped its reserves to cover athletics shortfalls. The department has missed its budget eight of the last 10 years, and it began fiscal year 2018 with a $4.7 million deficit owed to the university. This year is slated to be the worst yet, as new estimates indicate athletics expenses will outpace revenues by $3.3 million.

Even though UNM has said the department will not have to repay the recent $1.3 million allotment, that would still boost the total accumulated deficit to $6.7 million.

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