EXCLUSIVE: UNM Docs Detail Pitfalls of Athlete Experience

By Daniel Libit

Update (1/12/17): Following publication of this story, UNM Athletics Spokesman Frank Mercogliano took to Scout.com’s Lobo message board to push back against a solitary allegation addressed in the article: that the school did not honor members of the Lobo women’s cross country team after their 2015 National Championship. In a follow-up email exchange Mercogliano told NMFishbowl.com that UNM did not report any rules violations to the NCAA, based on student-athlete exit interviews, because: “There were no violations of NCAA rules to report.” 

What’s it like to be a Lobo athlete?

Well…

  • You might be fat-shamed by a coach who calls you a “Dorito-eater.”
  •  You might be unable to contact your academic counselor because that adviser is busy writing a term paper for another athlete.
  •  You might be struggling to personally pay substantial medical bills from injuries incurred on the field of play.
  •  You might be misidentified by a classroom professor who tells you, “All you black female athletes look alike.”
  •  You might not be permitted to pursue your preferred major because the coursework conflicts with your coach’s practice schedule.
  •  You might fear for your life during an 18-hour road trip because you play a secondary sport and the aging van you’re riding in seems barely able to remain safely on the road.

Each of these allegations were culled from the notes of exit interviews with University of New Mexico senior athletes during the 2014-15 and 2015-16 school years. The “confidential” documents (copies of which you can see here and here)  were obtained by NMFishbowl.com through a public records request. Continue reading “EXCLUSIVE: UNM Docs Detail Pitfalls of Athlete Experience”

Podcast: What is My Agenda?

By Daniel Libit

NMFishbowl.com was the recent guest of the  The Weekly Howl podcast, where I bloviated about the ethos of this website’s experiment in college sports journalism. Over the course of our (delightful) 75-minute conversation, we also hashed through the “Comeuppance of Craig Neal”; the potential scenario in which UNM buys out Neal’s contract; Albuquerque sports media; the history of Lobo fan-sites; and other UNM esoterica. Bonus subject: Moustapha Diagne. Remember him? Please check it out here.

(photo credit: Cole Young/Flickr)

The Comeuppance of Craig Neal

By Daniel Libit

It’s over. Even if it’s not over yet. Even if it might not be over for a while — that surely has less to do with the man in question than the exigencies of his situation.

Craig Neal’s problems as a college basketball coach have by now become self-evident: the mounting losses, for starters, but really the entire package — the cockeyed public statements; the scapegoating; the sophistry; the pretense; the lack of discipline; the thin skin (that’s worse than Steve Alford’s, if that’s possible).

At New Mexico, Neal has presided over a staff that has been in a perpetual state of flux; over successive teams in retrograde; and over a son who was compelled to transfer out of his father’s program. It is a testament to many uncomfortable truths (about the New Mexico Lobos, yes, but also about college athletics, in general) that Neal has been able to noodle himself into his high-paying, state-subsidized job, with so little contingent accountability. And the picture does not get prettier once the curtain is lifted.

“Craig Neal, known affectionately across the nation as ‘Noodles’…,” reads the head coach’s official bio on GoLobos.com. But that kind of praise tells only a part of the story.

Despite Neal’s semblance of fair-haired, Indianan affability, NMFishbowl.com has found, he has also left a long trail of rancor and recriminations in his path as he voraciously careered from Toronto, to Iowa City, to Albuquerque.

This story is based, in part, on two dozen interviews with sources who have known Neal at various stages of his career — including coaches, players, parents, boosters, pro executives and administrators. In many cases, the sources agreed to talk only on the condition they not be identified, in order to speak candidly. Through a UNM Athletics spokesperson, Neal declined to be interviewed for this story, or respond to a detailed list of questions addressing the various claims made about him here.  Continue reading “The Comeuppance of Craig Neal”

Can Build-Happy UNM Afford Facility Oversight?

By Daniel Libit

As the cash-strapped University of New Mexico Athletics Department yearns for more infrastructure, there’s a legitimate question as to whether it can afford to properly maintain that which it has.

A string of emails obtained by NMFishbowl.com indicates that, in response to last year’s budget shortfall,  the department sought to dramatically reduce the frequency of its facility inspections — a key effort in maintaining the functionality and safety of its property. Continue reading “Can Build-Happy UNM Afford Facility Oversight?”

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

On Sunday, the Gildan New Mexico Bowl sent out a tweet with this promo graphic for its upcoming match-up between the New Mexico Lobos and the UTSA Roadrunners. Continue reading “What’s Wrong With This Picture?”

Bob Davie’s Big Blinds

By Daniel Libit

Now is the time of year when the high-flown rhetoric of capitalism and meritocracy starts swirling around the nation’s college football fields. That is to say, we hear a lot about Coach So-And-So “deserving” a raise. And so it may soon be for the University of New Mexico. Continue reading “Bob Davie’s Big Blinds”

Lobo Football Has Gone Virtual

By Daniel Libit

At the end of his post-game press conference following New Mexico’s 56-35 drubbing of Wyoming, Lobo Football Coach Bob Davie cast a bothered glance at his watch. “12:14 [a.m.], that’s how we do it, right? That’s five weeks in a row we’ve done the middle-of-the-night thing.”

Davie, the former ESPN2 color commentator, was referencing the game’s 8:26 p.m. start time, which UNM acceded to at the behest of ESPN2 programmers. Saturday’s regular season finale was the third time this season the Lobos have been broadcast on The Deuce, banking a  $500,000 payout for each. That’s likely to be more money, if not substantially more money, than the school netted from the entire gate of Saturday’s game. (Consider the math: if those 16,698 paying fans spent an average of $30 a ticket, that would work out to a half-million dollars; and that assuredly overstates the average ticket price, given season-ticket discounts and a $10 game-day promotion.) Continue reading “Lobo Football Has Gone Virtual”

WisePies Arena, with a topping of politics

By Daniel Libit

WisePies Pizza & Salad CEO Steve Chavez doesn’t just care about custom-ordered pies and Lobo hoops. He has broader interests as well.

During the 2016 election cycle, according to records posted by the Secretary of State’s office, Chavez made $37,750 in state-wide political contributions, a very hefty sum. Indeed, a heftier sum than the penalty WisePies would have to pay if it ever bailed on its naming-rights deal with The Pit. (But that’s another matter.) Continue reading “WisePies Arena, with a topping of politics”

Betting the Come On Steve Alford

By Daniel Libit

Having spent much of the last 12 months writing stories that augured Donald Trump’s political annihilation, my predictive abilities leave a little something to be desired. So I’m probably doing myself an added disservice by even bringing up Steve Alford, but I suppose this is my chance at small redemption. Anyway, here goes:

On that fateful day in March 2013, when Alford announced his decision to abandon his contract and his word at New Mexico, for a head-scratching offer from UCLA, it seemed almost too easy to claim this wouldn’t work out in the end. Continue reading “Betting the Come On Steve Alford”