By Daniel Libit
In the latest apparent casualty from the financial scandals surrounding the University of New Mexico’s athletic department, UNM Lobo Club Executive Director Kole McKamey announced Wednesday that he will resign his post, effective Dec. 4.
“This decision has come with much consideration, discussion and self-reflection,” McKamey wrote in an email to the Lobo Club Board of Directors.
Asked by NMFishbowl.com, McKamey was adamant that his resignation was not forced.
“This was my decision 100%, on my timeline, and I’m excited about what I’m getting into next,” McKamey said. He added that he will also be leaving his role as senior associate athletic director with the University of New Mexico Foundation. “I won’t be with the UNM Foundation in any capacity, even though that was an option,” McKamey said.
Lobo Athletic Director Eddie Nuñez also told NMFishbowl.com that “this was (McKamey’s) decision.”
The timing of his decision, McKamey said, was not in any way related to the current state investigations into the finances of Lobo athletics. McKamey said that he has provided documents and information to the Office of the State Auditor, which has since June been conducting a “special audit” into UNM athletic finances. He suggested that he looked forward to the results of that report being made public.
“The best thing is that we look forward to the audit report and whatever comes out in that, people can decide for themselves,” McKamey said in a telephone interview Wednesday evening.
McKamey has been under siege since media reports earlier this year revealed that public monies had been used to pay for UNM athletic officials and Lobo boosters to attend a 2015 golf trip to Scotland. KRQE found that the university also spent $8,189 to cover travel-related expenses for McKamey.
In anticipation of that story breaking, McKamey and former UNM Athletic Director Paul Krebs sent a joint letter to the Lobo Club Board on April 28, trying to quell concerns and show a unified front:
We feel this trip was a good investment of time and resources to help further the mission of the athletics department. We take being good stewards of athletics department and Lobo Club funds very seriously.
But the Scotland saga caused an immediate rift within Loboland, as officials sought to protect their own hides. On Monday, the Albuquerque Journal reported on a contentious email exchange between Krebs and McKamey in late April, as they went back and forth over how to preempt the fallout.
“We have always acted as a team. In this together attitude. As an example I took significant hits for a bad lobo club audit several years ago,” Krebs wrote to McKamey and UNM Foundation Vice President Larry Ryan. “I didn’t distance myself or seek to justify my role. I stood with the lobo club thru that time and we stood united together.”
“This Letter like the previous one today attempts to clear the Lobo Club/Kole and doesn’t really address the larger issue of the story,” Krebs wrote.
McKamey, a former Lobo quarterback, was named to lead the UNM Lobo Club in January 2016.
Since then, he has held dual titles as the Lobo Club’s executive director as well as the senior associate athletic director for the UNM Foundation, the entity that technically pays his salary. NMFishbowl.com sent a request to comment to the spokesperson for the foundation. The mishmash of McKamey’s roles within the UNM fundraising borg is among the evidence cited in my public records lawsuit against the foundation.
After the Scotland debacle, McKamey and Krebs were also set in opposition over revelations that UNM had failed to collect hundreds of thousands of dollars from luxury suite-holders at University Arena. In May, NMFishbowl.com reported on an email Krebs sent McKamey and other UNM Foundation employees on April 19, demanding, “I want a concerted effort to collect all past due money for suites and club seats from previous years. Have we taken anyone to collections?”
In the months that followed, media outlets discovered that as much as $432,000 in suite dues had not been collected, and that many suite holders were under the impression that they did not have to pay. In defending his role in the mess, McKamey found himself at one point publicly contradicting Lobo booster and WisePies owner Steve Chavez, about the status of his suite payment.
Subsequently, Attorney General Hector Balderas announced that his office would be investigating the way in which the suite deals were handled. McKamey told NMFishbowl.com that he has not had any contact yet with the AG. As part of its investigation, the state auditor has also undertaken a review of Pit suite transactions.
UNM has recently sought to redefine the roles of the UNM Lobo Club, as it relates to the athletic department. In a letter to the the university’s accrediting agency in September, Interim UNM President Chaouki Abdallah said the school was, “in the process of all developmental (enhancement accounts) to be transferred/managed by the Lobo Club.” Abdallah also claimed the school was revising the Memorandum of Agreement between the university and the Lobo Club.
NMFishbowl.com made a public records request last for any updated MOAs this year; UNM said there were none. The last revised agreement was signed in 2015.
The Lobo Club has been beset by turnover and controversy for much of the last decade. An independent 2011 audit called into question the general accounting practices of the Lobo Club. Among other things, the audit found cash being kept in employees’ drawers, for weeks at a time, before being deposited. Lee De León, now the athletic director at Abilene Christian University, was the Lobo Club’s executive director at the time.
In addition to being a UNM letterman alumni, McKamey is also the son-in-law of Rocky Hughes, the Albuquerque car dealer and a major Lobo donor. Hughes was among those who attended the Scotland trip.
You can read McKamey’s full resignation letter below:
November 8, 2017,Dear Lobo Club Board of Directors,It is with a heavy heart that I draft this letter. I am submitting my letter of resignation as the Executive Director of the UNM Lobo Club effective December 4th, 2017. This decision has come with much consideration, discussion and self-reflection. It has been an absolute honor to represent my alma mater and the Lobo Club over the past two and a half years. Working with you as a board has been extremely rewarding in so many ways and I will value the relationships and friendships that I have developed. I will always to continue to be a loyal lobo alumni, letterman and fan as well as continue to advocate for the University within the community.I am excited and look forward to the next chapter in my life as I will be transitioning back into the private sector. I ask that you all please be cognizant of the Lobo Club staff during this transition, as it will be another burden laid upon them to operate at a high level while under-staffed. They will need your leadership and support during this time. I also ask that you rally around and support Eddie, as he will also need your full support.Again, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. This experience has been invaluable and a wonderful learning opportunity. Please don’t hesitate to reach out, as I look forward to speaking with each of you.Regards,Kole McKameyExecutive DirectorUNM Lobo Club