UNM Taps Ex-DOE Lawyer for Davie Probe

By Daniel Libit

As its investigation into football coach Bob Davie carries forward, the University of New Mexico is enlisting the help of the former top lawyer at the U.S. Department of Education.

Charles P. Rose, now a partner at the Chicago-based law firm Hogan Marren Babbo & Rose, has been in consultation with UNM officials over the last month, a source tells NMFishbowl.com.

It is not known whether Hogan Marren has yet been formally hired by the university, but Rose was recently spotted on UNM’s campus. (UPDATE: The Albuquerque Journal confirmed late Sunday night that UNM has retained the firm, with a $60,000 contract.)  His involvement in the Davie matter would indicate the university is severely ramping up its efforts to vet the various claims of professional misconduct that have been made against the Lobo pigskin boss.

Reached by cell phone Sunday, Rose declined to comment, directing inquiries to the university. A UNM spokesperson did not respond to a question about the school’s current relationship with the law firm.

Last month, following a report by NMFishbowl.com that interim UNM President Chaouki Abdallah hoped to continue the Davie investigation, Abdallah told the Albuquerque Journal that the university was looking to hire an outside firm to piggy-back off the preliminary work done by former federal judge Bruce Black.

Black was retained by UNM in August to conduct an initial review of allegations that Davie mistreated players and mishandled the athlete drug-testing process. According to the source, Black continues to be involved in the Davie investigation, even though his memorandum of agreement with UNM formally expired on Oct. 31. UNM has been strenuously guarded about the investigation and has refused to even acknowledge that Davie is a target.

Hogan Marren is a boutique legal practice specializing in education and employment law, and also has experience advising universities on Title IX compliance. Before joining the firm in 2014, Rose served as general counsel for the Department of Education from 2009 to 2011, where he oversaw all of DOE’s litigation.

(Last year, Hogan Marren made national headlines when it was fired by the Department of Education from overseeing the distressed sale of Corinthian Colleges, a for-profit education company that had fallen into bankruptcy. An Associated Press report found that the law firm had an attorney-client relationship that called into question its ability to serve as an independent monitor.)

Since Black’s investigation began, according to a UNM source, concerns have been raised that Davie or his staff may have been improperly involved in sexual assault investigations of Lobo football players. It is not known what specific instances the university may be considering.

In 2015, a former female UNM student, who alleged being sexually assaulted by football players Crusoe Gongbay and SaQwan Edwards, brought a federal Title IX lawsuit against the university, claiming that administrators in the school’s athletic department and Office of Equal Opportunity interfered with the police investigation.

The lawsuit, which UNM settled for an undisclosed sum in 2016, also claimed that Davie had failed to properly report the alleged assault to UNM’s Title IX coordinator. Gongbay and Edwards were never charged with a crime. Subsequently, they filed their own federal lawsuit against UNM and the university’s police department, claiming that their civil rights had been violated in the course of that investigation. Their civil case is still pending.

Years before, Edwards figured into another incident that has called into question Davie’s behavior as head coach. As NMFishbowl.com previously reported, Davie accosted Edwards during half-time of a game against Boise State, in what several eye witnesses would later describe as an unprovoked attack. That was one of several incidents, broached during the course of UNM’s investigation, where the coach is accused of inappropriately putting his hands on players or staff.

NMFishbowl.com has learned that one incident UNM investigators seem particularly interested in was an altercation Davie had last season with former tight end Michael Walsh, which occurred on the sidelines of the game at New Mexico State. After dropping a pass during a decisive late-game sequence, Walsh was undergoing concussion protocol by team doctor Chris McGrew when, according to multiple sources, Davie aggressively grabbed him by either the head or neck and shook him with fury. McGrew confirmed that he reported the incident to former Athletic Director Paul Krebs.

Reached last week, Walsh said that he has not been in contact with UNM about the investigation for several months.  On Saturday, UNM announced that offensive coordinator Bob DeBesse and cornerbacks coach Al Simmons were not being retained by Davie, following the Lobos’ disappointing 3-9 season. In interviews with the Journal, both coaches had kind words for Davie, who has given all public indication that he expects to lead the Lobo program next season. Davie’s current contract runs through 2021.

But if the current investigation somehow preempts it, UNM’s hiring of Hogan Marren would make for a literary bookend to Davie’s 20-year head coaching tenure. Shortly after landing his first head gig at Notre Dame in 1997, Davie became embroiled in legal drama over his decision to fire an assistant coach who he told was too old for the job. That coach, Joe Moore, wound up hiring another Chicago law firm and prevailing in a federal age discrimination suit against the school.

(Featured image by Loren Orr / Getty)