Ex-gymnastics coach Rusty Mitchell is as strong as the UNM program he ran

Former UNM gymnastics coach Rusty Mitchell, a 1964 Olympian, continues his recovery from strokes he suffered in February. (Journal File)

Former UNM gymnastics coach Rusty Mitchell, a 1964 Olympian, continues his recovery from strokes he suffered in February. (Journal File)

Updates, observations, etc., compiled while wondering what Zach Braff is up to these days:

I’m pleased to report that former University of New Mexico gymnastics coach Rusty Mitchell continues to make a strong recovery from strokes suffered last month.

WRIGHT Rick_2012After a hospital stay and a stint at HealthSouth for rehab, Mitchell, 74, is at home and “making progress every day,” Kevin Georges, a close friend, told the Journal via email.

For 34 years (1966-99), Mitchell made Lobo men’s gymnastics one of the most successful athletic programs in UNM history. His teams won 11 conference championships, and his athletes won 16 NCAA event or all-around titles. Under his tutelage, 53 Lobo gymnasts earned All-America status.


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The gymnastics program was dropped by UNM, along with wrestling and men’s swimming, in 1999. Mitchell has remained at the school as a tenured physical education professor.

Mitchell’s family has expressed gratitude for the treatment he received at University of New Mexico Hospital and at HealthSouth, as well as for the support of his former athletes and students and the entire UNM community.

JUST SAYIN’: Regarding LULAC executive director Ralph Arellanes’ accusations of ethnic bias in the recent firing of Lobos women’s basketball coach Yvonne Sanchez, I’m reasonably sure UNM athletic director Paul Krebs knew Sanchez was Hispanic when he hired her five years ago – and when he awarded her a four-year contract extension after the 2014-15 season.

I’m also fairly sure Krebs was aware of Jill Trujillo’s ethnicity when he hired her as UNM’s women’s golf coach in 2007, just as when he chose not to renew the contract of baseball coach Rich Alday that same year.

Right or wrong – I would have liked to see Sanchez, a fine person and a dedicated coach, get another year – Krebs made a business decision. That is all.

JUST SAYIN’ II: Several of our Sports Speak Up! contributors, in expressing their lack of enthusiasm for the improvement made by UNM’s football program, have written that the Lobos (7-6 overall) were only 6-6 against Division I competition last fall.

Not so.


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Presumably, the reference was to the Lobos’ 66-0 rout of Mississippi Valley State in the 2015 season opener. The thoughts being expressed, that one of UNM’s seven wins came against an inferior team from a lower classification, are fair and accurate.

But, for the record, Mississippi Valley State is not a Division II (or III, or NAIA) program. The Delta Devils play in the NCAA’s Football Championship Subdivision, a step below the Football Bowl Subdivision in which UNM plays – but still Division I.


Along those lines, getmoresports.com, a blog site, ranks UNM’s 2016 schedule as among the five softest in the FBS. The combined 2015 record of the Lobos’ 2016 opponents was 62-90.

“New Mexico is looking to build on what it accomplished last season, and based on their schedule that shouldn’t be difficult,” writes blogger Geoff Harvey.

Of course, basing new rankings on old data is an imperfect science at best.

MORE FROM HOLM: As reported in the Journal earlier this week, Holly Holm has distanced herself from comments by UFC President Dana White to the effect that the Albuquerque MMA fighter’s management failed her in allowing her to fight Miesha Tate on March 5. Holm lost by fifth-round submission (rear naked choke), losing her UFC bantamweight title in the process.

White blamed Albuquerque’s Lenny Fresquez, Holm’s longtime promoter and now her agent, for not keeping her out of the cage until a lucrative rematch with Ronda Rousey could be made.


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Monday, on mmafighting.com’s “MMA Hour,” Holm said the decision to fight Tate was hers. Without mentioning White, she went on to say she didn’t appreciate the shot he took at Fresquez.

“He’s been nothing but supportive for me and my career,” she said of Fresquez, who has been working with Holm since 2004. “He always looks out for my best interests. So it’s frustrating when people kind of put down the things that he’s worked so hard for.

“I don’t like it when people think that he’s pushing me to do things against my will. (The Tate fight) was my wish and what I wanted.”

In the interview with mmafighting.com’s Ariel Helwani, Holm said her preference would be a rematch with Tate as opposed to one with Rousey, whom she defeated by second-round TKO in November.

But, in any case, she’s aware that her victory over Rousey, her loss to Tate and Tate’s two losses to Rousey make for an intriguing situation similar to what boxing’s heavyweight division once had with George Foreman, Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali.

“Kind of a round robin,” she said. “… Like a lot of those famous matchups over history have been.”


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