Copyright 2017 Albuquerque Journal
Albuquerque Journal (New Mexico)
It's the fourth quarter of Paul Krebs' tenure as athletics director at the University of New Mexico, and he would like to run out the clock on his $419,000-a-year job on his own terms.
Krebs has two years remaining on his contract and was asked last week if he was planning to retire. He said in an email "if and when I decide to retire from athletics it will be on my timetable."
That should be now rather than later - especially in light of new details of the Athletics Department's 2015 Scotland golfing junket where it spent $65,000 in public money to pick up the tab for department personnel (Krebs included) and several donors. Add to that the fact the department's response to requests under the Inspection of Public Records Act seeking information on the trip could charitably be described as "stonewallling." A less charitable term would be "coverup."
That makes it game over for Krebs at UNM. Let's hope he does the class thing and resigns, sparing the university more grief. If not, UNM should make the tough decision to pull him. For cause. No buyouts. No parachutes.
So how did we get to this point in the game?
Krebs has been on the job here for 11 years, and like many college athletics directors is involved in controversy. It's part of the job when you are the top Lobo, when you hire and fire high-profile football and basketball coaches, and when you manage a department with a budget that tops $30 million.
He has detractors, who point to things like his role in the departure of Lobo Legend Rocky Long, his hiring of football coaching disaster Mike Locksley (whose off-the-field hijinks were almost as bad as his 2-26 record) and the fact the men's basketball team has never reached the promised land of the Sweet Sixteen.
Meanwhile, Krebs' department has racked up budget deficits in seven of the last nine years and projects that it will finish about $97,000 in the hole for the coming year. Athletics owes the cash-strapped "main" university an estimated $4.4 million.
But Krebs also has supporters. He made student athletes' grades and graduation rates a priority, resulting in steady gains that put Lobo classroom stats among the highest in the Mountain West Conference. He's been credited with strong coaching hires. Lobo athletics is highly competitive in the Mountain West. And there was this year's new $10 million naming rights deal signed with Dreamstyle.
But the debate goes out the window when you start talking about spending tens of thousands of public dollars for people who don't work for the university to go on an international golf trip. That goes beyond mismanagement and raises the question of whether public money has been misappropriated in violation of internal rules or state law. And that's a line that cannot be crossed.
And then there is the way the information was kept under wraps, eroding the public's trust and raising additional questions of violations of state law. Another line that should not be crossed.
Now, both state Auditor Tim Keller and Attorney General Hector Balderas have announced they are looking into the matter.
The story unfolded in two chapters, with the disclosure three weeks ago that Krebs, then-hoops coach Craig Neal and athletics fundraiser Kole McKamey had gone on the trip courtesy of the public. Those disclosures initially came as the result of a report by KRQE's Larry Barker. Krebs defends the trip as being successful in relationship building and long-term fundraising.
UNM acting president Chaouki Abdallah criticized the spending and said it should have been done through UNM's foundation, which does fundraising.
Then, Krebs went to Abdallah last week to say he had been reviewing notes about the trip and "noticed" UNM athletics had also picked up the expense for three donors, about $8,200 apiece, and that money was never reimbursed as intended. The university said $25,000 has been donated to the UNM Foundation to cover the expense two years after the fact. The school has refused to reveal the source, and the nonprofit foundation does not release such donor information. Under these circumstances, it sounds a bit like money laundering. And restitution two years later doesn't undo the improper expenditure.
As for timing, the donor expense story broke the day before a regents meeting where the governing body raised tuition and continues to grapple with a projected $8.9 million shortfall.
UNM has said Abdallah is considering discipline, and to his credit he has said this isn't how public dollars should be spent and won't be spent that way in the future. But UNM leadership needs to send the message it is serious about being a good steward of taxpayer dollars - and that means a final whistle on Krebs' tenure at UNM.
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