Friday, September 17, 2010
Locksley Incident at Bar Stirs Talk
By Mark Smith
Copyright © 2010 Albuquerque Journal
Journal Staff Writer
It started in late July with a tongue-in-cheek, video game-inspired prognostication of the Lobo football team's season opener at Oregon.
Which, incidentally, turned out to be spot on.
It has since turned into a he-said, he-said rumor-filled controversy surrounding an incident between coach Mike Locksley and a University of New Mexico student reporter at a local bar with members of the media now questioning whether UNM is violating the Inspection of Public Records Act regarding a surveillance video of their interaction.
"We haven't denied anybody (access to the video); we no longer have the video," says UNM athletics director Paul Krebs. He says the video has been returned to the bar.
But media outlets KNML-AM and the Daily Lobo say UNM did deny them access to the video.
And while UNM showed the video to a Journal reporter, he was told it would not be available to any other media, including the Journal.
What the Daily Lobo, KNML Radio and Journal wanted to see: Surveillance footage that Uptown Sports Bar And Grill provided the university's athletic department of a July 31 incident between Locksley and members of his coaching staff, and Daily Lobo sports editor Ryan Tomari and his friend Gil Gurulé.
"It wasn't so much that he confronted us," Gurulé says of the incident. "It's just in the manner he was holding himself. A coach that makes a million dollars a year shouldn't be dropping f-bombs about everyone in the media."
On Thursday, Locksley refused to comment for this story, according to Chris Deal, UNM sports information assistant.
Rumors quickly circulated about the incident and snowballed when word got out that Gurulé video-recorded what he says was 17 minutes of the scene on his cell phone.
Gurulé says that he and Tomari were at Uptown when Locksley and members of his coaching staff entered the establishment at about 6:30 p.m. He said Locksley "started yelling, from across the room" at Tomari about his column that appeared earlier in the week in the Daily Lobo.
Gurulé said he defended Tomari, and Locksley and the coaches came over to their table and continued to criticize Tomari. At times, Locksley used profanity, and repeatedly complained about how the local media, including the Lobo, wasn't giving him a chance.
One of the coaches then bought the two a round of drinks.
"I think they realized how, afterwards, how they conducted themselves ...," Gurulé said.
"I was like, 'Yeah, once you figure out you guys were acting like a bunch of idiots'."
In the column that upset Locksley, Tomari had written about playing the new EA Sports NCAA Football game, a video game that replicates the strengths and weaknesses of college teams.
Tomari's team was the Lobos and his opponent was Oregon.
The final score of the computerized contest: Oregon 72, UNM 3.
Tomari wrote that "I don't intend to take this too serious, but I'm embarrassed to see how awful UNM's football team rates out in EA's latest game." Tomari then pondered if it was an indicator of "what potentially lies ahead for a program that is in, well, shambles."
EA Sports NCAA Football, as fate would have it, actually overestimated the Lobos' offense.
The real-life game — played five weeks later: Oregon 72, UNM 0.
The Journal heard rumblings about the July 31 incident. In early August, Journal football beat reporter Greg Archuleta contacted Gurulé in an effort to obtain his cell-phone video. Gurulé said KNML and the Daily Lobo contacted him as well.
Gurulé at first said he would allow the Journal to see the video, but got tired of being "hassled" by the media and deleted it. He admitted he also wanted compensation for the video but didn't receive it.
Meanwhile, UNM obtained a silent surveillance tape from Uptown. Following the Aug. 26 practice, Locksley and Deal invited Archuleta to the UNM football office to view Uptown's video.
Locksley and Deal remained in the office during the viewing — which was about 30 minutes long — and Locksley told Archuleta what he claimed he was saying during the incident.
"There's no audio at all," Archuleta said on Wednesday. "Locksley is telling me his side of it. ... There was nothing to suggest, on the video, that it was heated.
"I did ask Locksley if he cussed at him, and he said 'no.' He said he (approached Tomari because) he had a problem with one of the columns Ryan had, because Ryan said the program was in 'shambles.'"
Archuleta said the video showed Locksley talking to Tomari and Gurulé from across the room, and then going over to his table and continuing the discussion.
Archuleta said that near the end of the video, either Locksley or one of his coaches appeared to have bought Tomari and Gurulé a round of drinks and had patched things up.
Archuleta said that while viewing the video, Locksley and Deal told him "I would be the only member of the media allowed to see it."
So far, he has been.
Video replay — please
That night KNML Radio's sports talk host Erik Gee asked Deal, Locksley and sports information director Frank Mercogliano if he, too, could watch the video.
At first Mercogliano said yes, but then changed that the next morning.
Gee say Mercogliano told him, "Chris Deal had the tape and that he and Locksley were done with it and they weren't going to show it to anybody else."
That day, Isaac Avilucea, managing editor of the Daily Lobo, said his paper requested it and was told that UNM would "consider" the request. He talked to Deal and Mercogliano several times, but was never given the video.
"They can split hairs all they want," he said. "They wouldn't give it to us."
The office of the attorney general states: "a public record is defined to include any document, tape or other material, regardless of form, that is used, created, received, maintained or held by or on behalf of a public body, and is related to public business."
Although Archuleta had been told no other member of the media would be allowed to see the video, the Journal on Aug. 31 made a formal request to obtain a copy. Sports editor Randy Harrison said the paper wanted to view it with Tomari and get his side of the story.
On Sept. 8, UNM replied, "according to Chris Deal, Coach Locks told him that he no longer had the DVD." It added the Journal needed to "contact the restaurant."
Frisch says that on Sept. 7, Gee made a formal request for the video, but has not heard back.
On Wednesday, Mercogliano said KNML's request is still "being processed." But he then said that UNM no longer has the video. He said he didn't know when it was returned to the bar. And he didn't offer an explanation on how KNML's request to see the video was still being processed, if UNM no longer has it.
Investigation of whom?
On Tuesday, the Journal received a statement from UNM that read, "We researched the dialogue that occurred between our football coach Michael Locksley and a media member... there was no wrongdoing on the part of coach Locksley or the reporter. We have encouraged the Journal and other media outlets to contact the establishment to obtain a copy of the video."
Gee says he and KNML's Brandon Vogt went to Uptown and asked owner Adam Krafft for the video, but were refused. "(Krafft) said he told UNM he would not give it to anybody else," Gee said.
The Journal has left messages with Krafft, which have not been returned.
"My question is, it happened in a public place," says KNML operations manager Pat Frisch. "... Here's the bigger question ... what is the head coach of the University of New Mexico football team doing in a bar to begin with?"
Frisch also is operations manager for KKOB Radio — which carries all Lobo football and men's basketball games. "I'm not here to get Locksley, Krebs or anybody," he said. "Trust me, I'm the first one who wants success for the football team because I depend on ratings to survive. If they're getting blown out every game, I get no ratings."
The Lobos, 1-11 in Locksley's first season last year, are 0-2 heading into their home game with Utah on Saturday and have been outscored 124-17.
Krebs is steadfast that UNM has not denied any media outlets the video, and on Wednesday reiterated that the university no longer has it. He said the reason the school chose to show it to Archuleta, and no one else, was "because Greg was our beat writer. We thought this might be a potential story that might get blown out of hand, like it appears to be. So we wanted the Journal, in the interest of full transparency, to take a look at it, and you guys have."
When asked if he saw the video, Krebs said "I didn't say that. I said our statement is self-explanatory. As a department, we looked at the video."
Krebs says the department investigated the incident, and the UNM statement says "we consider the matter closed."
Gurulé says no one from UNM called him; the Daily Lobo said that Tomari has not been interviewed either.
The Journal requested an interview with Tomari, and the Daily Lobo issued a statement: "We are aware of the incident involving one of our desk editors and head football coach Mike Locksley at a local bar. ... Sports editor Ryan Tomari has and will continue to perform his job in a courteous and professional manner."