UPDATE (Wednesday, 11 a.m.)
Prior to the Journal’s article publishing Wednesday morning (that article in its entirety is unaltered below), the attorney for former UNM head coach Steve Alford and UNM’s general counsel discussed reimbursement of the Final Four tickets and airfare UNM purchased for Alford prior to his leaving for the UCLA job.
When the Journal asked UNM Athletics Director Paul Krebs on Tuesday afternoon if any arrangements for reimbursement had been made by Alford, he said no arrangements had been made on behalf of Alford to reimburse those expenses. On Wednesday, Alford’s attorney Patrick Cooper told the Journal that Krebs was not involved in those discussions on Tuesday regarding reimbursement.
Tuesday afternoon, UNM’s general counsel released to the Journal, per an open records request, the Final Four expenses.
Cooper said Tuesday, in wrapping up the recent buyout settlement issues, including vacation pay owed Alford, was the first time UNM mentioned the Final Four expenses. Cooper told UCLA about the Final Four expenses, and attorneys at UCLA authorized him to arrange reimbursement with UNM. Cooper told the Journal he sent an email Wednesday morning trying to arrange reimbursement.
“That issue was promptly addressed by Steve, myself and UCLA once they brought it up Tuesday,” Cooper told the Journal. “I was immediately authorized by UCLA to arrange reimbursement of the fees.”
UCLA will cover the buyout payment of $300,000 Alford owes UNM and the Final Four reimbursement, according to Cooper. Final details on the vacation pay, the Final Four expenses and other taxable income matters are still being addressed.
UNM on Friday announced an agreement in principle on the buyout, though no agreement between the two parties has yet been signed.
– Geoff Grammer
School paid for his airfare, tickets
Steve Alford’s final trip on the Lobos’ dime wasn’t to Salt Lake City, where his team was upset by Harvard in the round of 64 of the NCAA Tournament in March.
It was to the Final Four.
Fulfilling an Inspection of Public Records Act request, the University of New Mexico on Tuesday released to the Journal travel-expense figures the athletic department covered for the Lobos basketball coaching staff traveling to last month’s Final Four festivities in Atlanta.
Alford, who at the time of the Final Four was already the head coach at UCLA, had his two tickets to the Final Four ($560) and his airfare ($316.10) paid for by UNM. Those expenses were paid for by UNM prior to Alford’s March 30 announcement that he was leaving the school to coach the Bruins.
In the wake of last week’s announcement of an agreement in principle with UCLA on UNM receiving a $300,000 buyout from Alford, the $876.10 travel expense can be chalked up as a parting gift for his six years of turning the program around.
“He has not made an attempt to reimburse that money to my knowledge,” UNM athletic director Paul Krebs said. “And at this point, we’re moving on. We’re closing that chapter.”
It is unclear when UNM and UCLA will sign their formal agreement on the $300,000 buyout – one UNM initially had hoped to be $1 million and Alford had hoped would be $200,000.
UNM issued a news release Friday afternoon saying they were receiving a net-benefit of $625,000 in the buyout negotiations, but those negotiations only dealt with the $300,000 buyout. The additional $325,000 in savings UNM said it received through the negotiations are in the form of deferred compensation, a final check and incentive bonuses that will not be paid to Alford. It was money neither Alford nor UCLA sought in the negotiation process.
Alford’s lodging and other expenses on the Final Four trip were not covered by UNM; only the tickets to Final Four games and airfare were, according to the document.
UNM also paid $250 for a Final Four ticket for new head coach Craig Neal. The airfare plus lodging, meals and other expenses for the current UNM coaching staff members who attended Final Four events – Neal, Drew Adams, Craig Snow and Brandon Mason – totaled $6,814.14, according to the record.
While it is common knowledge that socializing within the coaching fraternity and networking are among the main purposes of the week of Final Four events, the annual trip for college coaching staffs from around the country also serves as an annual industry convention of sorts for coaches and administrators with clinics, informational seminars on industry trends in coaching and other events.