Johnson column: Imaginary trial, but a real deficit at UNM

Note to readers: While based on real people, the following exchange is entirely one of my own creation.

Hear ye, hear ye, the court of popular opinion is now in session. Presiding is the honorable Susana Martinez.


Our first case is the People vs. Paul R. Krebs.

Susana Martinez: What are the charges?

Prosecutor: We submit that Mr. Krebs has not fully carried out his duties as athletic director at the University of New Mexico.

SM: How does the accused plead?

PK: Not guilty. We’re at record graduation. We’ve led the Mountain West Conference in the past four years in student athlete academic awards. Over the last five years, we’ve won 36 conference championships. This is nothing but the invention of a misguided, uninformed media bent on disparaging myself and our university.

SM: I know that feeling. Nevertheless, proceed Mr. Prosecutor.

P: Your honor, the people believe an athletic director has two main functions: Hire good coaches and balance the department’s budget. Given this year’s deficit $1.54 million, we raise the issue again.

SM: But don’t we like Bob Davie?

P: Yes, ma’am. At Texas A&M or Notre Dame, a 7-6 record would be considered mediocre. But by New Mexico standards, it is an achievement. Yet, fans have not responded to the level of Mr. Krebs’ football budgeting optimism.

SM: I see. But what about basketball? I know Craig Neal. He’s a nice man.

P: Seemingly so. However, fairly or unfairly, the standard for men’s basketball is far greater. UNM needs it to succeed at a high level because it largely funds all the programs. Again, fans have not responded as expected. Two mediocre seasons put the department budget at risk.

SM: Still, Craig’s a nice man. He’s explained extenuating circumstances.

P: As your honor certainly knows, people will criticize you one week and praise you the next if they believe it puts them in a more favorable light.

SM: That’s true. I know this Donald fellow … well, let’s not go there.

P: Agreed. Let’s not go there. But there is also the case of Yvonne Sanchez.

SM: She seems very nice.

P: Very nice, yes. Two years ago, Mr. Krebs rewarded her with an extension. A year later, he fired her, but still has to pay her $150,000. Even if you agree she was not doing the job, you have to admit it was handled clumsily.

SM: Perhaps. But the hiring of Mike Bradbury looks promising.

P: It appears Mr. Krebs has returned to his unofficial policy of hiring proven head coaches. So, yes, it is promising. However, the real issue I would like to address is that Mr. Krebs has balanced his budget only twice in nine years. This latest news only exacerbates that. As a true conservative, your honor certainly appreciates the importance of that.

SM: Responsible budgeting takes long-term planning.

P: Yes, ma’am. And when revenue falters, fans are asked to pay more. Donors are asked to contribute more. It takes more to reserve season tickets. Athletic programs are forced to make cuts.

SM: At least we get to drink beer this season.

P: There is that. But how much beer balances a budget? Plus, $60,000 unaccounted for here, $23,000 for a contractor there, it all adds up.

SM: All right. Let’s hear from the defense.

P: Mr. Krebs has left the premises, your honor.

SM: He has?

P: It appears no one has ever held him accountable for balanced budgets before, so why start now? Presidents have come and gone. Regents have come and gone. There has been little more than lip service given the issue. If they don’t care, why should he? That’s why we come to you, a higher authority who understands fiscal responsibility.

SM: I see. What kind of punishment are the people seeking?

P: If it pleases the court, a one-week suspension without pay.

SM: That seems a little harsh.

P: He does make $319,000 a year.

SM: He does? That’s $200,000 more than I make.

P: I would say he’s had a better year, but I’m not sure that’s true.

SM: Still, it does seem like a lot of money.

P: It could go to help balance next year’s budget.

SM: How about instead we make him give up his next round of golf to attend a Legislative Finance Committee hearing?

P: He’d probably rather give up the $6,000.

SM: Nevertheless, that’s my ruling. Case closed. Now someone get me a photo-op. And tell Donald to stop calling. Doesn’t he know I only have presidential eyes for Marco?

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