The NMFishbowl Podcast: Isaac Avilucea

By Daniel Libit

There should be a movie made about Isaac Avilucea.

I write this in full recognition of how tropey it is to summarize a person’s life story in terms of its screenplay potential. Nevertheless, let it be stipulated for the record: there should be a movie made about Isaac Avilucea.

A native New Mexican, Avilucea currently works as a reporter for The Trentonian newspaper in New Jersey’s capital city. He got his start in journalism at the Daily Lobo while a student at the University of New Mexico, cutting his teeth on the jagged edges of ex-UNM football coach Mike Locksley’s ignominious tenure. From there, Avilucea has caused a right-minded (if, ocassionally, wrong-headed) stir at nearly every place he’s reported, from the Rio Grande to the Delaware River. Continue reading “The NMFishbowl Podcast: Isaac Avilucea”

The NMFishbowl Podcast: Steve Berkowitz

By Daniel Libit

Berk Podcast Image illustration

Here we are in the final leg of college football’s regular season: teams are battling for bowl eligibility and highly paid coaches are pocketing tidy sums for the on-field successes of their amateur players.

Ah, nothing heralds autumn like crisp air and fringe benefits.

And when it comes to the yearly harvest-time cash grab of intercollegiate athletics, nobody keeps better tabs on the yield than USA Today’s Steve Berkowitz.

Since 2006, Berkowitz, a sports projects reporter, has stewarded the newspaper’s annually updated databases of college coaching salaries and athletic department budgets. The compilations are frequently referenced in multitudes of stories by USA Today and numerous other media outlets; basically, if you cover a college sports beat, you have them bookmarked.

Berkowitz, meanwhile, has cultivated a following in recent years by live-tweeting the various triggered bonuses that college football coaches accrue during the course of the season.

“It’s a function of keeping an eye on a scoreboard during a Saturday afternoon or Saturday evening, and trying to do this without it completely wrecking my life,” Berkowitz tells me in the latest episode of The NMFishbowl PodcastContinue reading “The NMFishbowl Podcast: Steve Berkowitz”

Unplugging the Lobo Club Matrix

By Daniel Libit

How much should you spend on a gift for a retiring college athletic director?

For the University of New Mexico Lobo Club, the answer to that question, as it came to pass last August, was $412. 

According to a copy of the organization’s expense records, that is the amount the Lobo Club paid to buy former UNM AD Paul Krebs a handcrafted, solid maple ass-pedestal from Standard Chair of Gardner. The purchase was designated, “Miscellaneous”.

Now, mind you, there were some extenuating circumstances surrounding Krebs’s departure.

He was not so much retiring, in the affirmative sense, as he was resigning under intensifying pressure over a 2015 Scottish golf trip he had arranged for himself and some Lobo boosters, which had fallen under the scrutiny of the Offices of the New Mexico State Auditor and Attorney General. That burgeoning scandal — and a contemporaneous one involving the discovery of nearly a half-million dollars of unpaid luxury suite revenue for UNM men’s basketball games — had now fully breached the levees of the Lobo Club.

In due course, the controversies would put an embattled Lobo athletic director and UNM’s bedraggled sports booster group at a tense, face-saving impasse.

Little known to anyone outside the Lobo Club’s Executive Committee is that Krebs had already been spearheading an effort, months in the making, to officially do away with the organization.

At points last summer, before all hell broke loose, this looked to be the direction things were headed: the Lobo Club was going to be officially swallowed up by the UNM Foundation.

But alas, before you can get rid of the Lobo Club, you first have to understand what the Lobo Club is. Continue reading “Unplugging the Lobo Club Matrix”

The NMFishbowl Podcast: Jay Bilas

By Daniel Libit

Last September, the FBI and federal prosecutors in New York held a splashy press conference announcing the arrests of 10 people alleged to have committed fraud by paying bribes to college basketball recruits. Six of the nation’s top college hoops programs were said to be implicated in the criminal investigation, and there was instant buzz that it could amount to the most consequential intercollegiate athletics scandal of modern times.

Others of us, however, could only harrumph over the news the Feds had now decided to start policing the NCAA’s self-serving and idiotic rules on amateurism.

“I was very surprised that the federal government was getting involved in this sort of thing,” ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas tells me in the latest episode of The NMFishbowl Podcast. “It just seemed too small for the government to be involved in, and the theory of the case just seemed to be too shaky, to me. It didn’t seem to be criminal in nature.” Continue reading “The NMFishbowl Podcast: Jay Bilas”

The NMFishbowl Podcast: Rick Maese

By Daniel Libit

A college football coach is suspended amidst a school investigation into various allegations of player mistreatment. It’s later revealed that school administrators had received a letter, long before any action was taken, warning of an abusive culture in the program. The football coach is adamant about staying in his job and seeking vindication. Moreover, he has a huge contract buyout, and the athletic department is already under financial pressures caused, in part, by the continued debt owed on a pricey athletic construction project.

Is any of this sounding familiar, dear reader?

The catalytic difference, for the University of Maryland and its embattled football coach D.J. Durkin, is that there was a death: Jordan McNair, a Terrapins offensive lineman, collapsed from exhaustion and heat stroke during a team practice in late May, passing away in the hospital a few days later. It was subsequently reported by that the Maryland football staff had, at best, failed to act on obvious signs of McNair’s physical distress. Since that time, reporting by the Washington Post’s Rick Maese has further illuminated other institutional failures and oversights that may have preordained this horrendous result.

“We are not talking about a thing specific to Maryland football,” Maese tells me in the latest episode of The NMFishbowl Podcast. “They can be found at Michigan or Ohio State or New Mexico. It’s just: is it acceptable in college football? Is it acceptable in any kind of work place or any kind of school environment where we send kids?” Continue reading “The NMFishbowl Podcast: Rick Maese”

The NMFishbowl Podcast: Linda Estes

By Daniel Libit

In her 32 years as an administrator in the University of New Mexico’s athletic department, Linda Estes burnished a reputation for forthrightness. Given her charge as the purveyor of gender equity for Lobos sports, and guardian of the school’s so-called “non-revenue” programs, Estes kept on her toes all the way until she retired in 2000.

“I saved every piece of paper in my career, because I thought I would eventually end up suing the university for sex discrimination,” Estes tells me in the latest episode of The NMFishbowl Podcast. And had it not been for former Athletic Director Rudy Davalos, who Estes “loved” working for, she said she probably would have ended up filing suit. Continue reading “The NMFishbowl Podcast: Linda Estes”

The NMFishbowl Podcast: Andy Schwarz

By Daniel Libit

In the statewide commotion over the University of New Mexico’s decision to terminate several of its Olympic sports programs, including its perennially ranked men’s soccer team, there has been no shortage of political grandstanding and moral melodrama. But amidst all the warring diatribes, all the schmaltzy rhetoric about soccer’s sacred place in New Mexico, perhaps the most convincing and sane argument against the cuts came from my guest in today’s episode of The NMFishbowl Podcast. Continue reading “The NMFishbowl Podcast: Andy Schwarz”

UNMF Comes Clean on Branch Field Deal

By Daniel Libit

Facing mounting media scrutiny — and an adverse public records lawsuit ruling — The University of New Mexico Foundation acknowledged today that it quietly amended a gift agreement last year with university booster Margaret Branch, which cut the price of her naming-rights deal for the Lobo football field by almost half.

The Albuquerque Journal, which was first to report the news, said that it had made multiple requests for the Branch Field payment information over the last two years. But the disclosures came just weeks after made an Inspection of Public Records Act request for these materials on September 12. Continue reading “UNMF Comes Clean on Branch Field Deal”

Weir’s Bosses Urged His (Bad) Pit Suite Idea

By Daniel Libit

Newly obtained emails suggest UNM men’s basketball coach Paul Weir wasn’t operating as a lone Lobo with his widely panned pitch to convert almost half The Pit’s luxury suites into office space for his staff. Continue reading “Weir’s Bosses Urged His (Bad) Pit Suite Idea”