The finances of the University of New Mexico (UNM) athletic department are back in the news once more, this time with allegations of spending nearly $65,000 in public funds to pay for a 2015 golfing trip to Scotland and then actively hiding the trip and its participants, on top of a recent history of money-losing sports programs and expensive coaching buyouts.
As FasterSkier previously explained, citing reporting originally from the Albuquerque Journal, the UNM athletics department recorded a deficit of $1.54 million for the fiscal year that ended in June 2016, against an overall athletic department budget of roughly $30 million total. FasterSkier also noted the timing of the men’s basketball coach receiving a $1 million buyout on March 31, and the ski team being cut to save funds less than two weeks later.
(For their part, UNM officials disclaimed any connection between the two developments, and pointed to a mitigation clause written into the quondam coach’s contract that means UNM will be out less than $1 million over the next two years if the coach gains employment elsewhere.)
Finally, FasterSkier analyzed data that the university submitted to the federal government under the Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act to suggest that football at UNM cost nearly as much in allocated expenses last fiscal year as 19 other sports combined, and that as many as 21 of UNM’s 22 varsity sports programs – all save men’s basketball – lost money last year.
Against this financial background, the Albuquerque Journal reported on May 1 that the UNM athletics department had spent $39,000 on a fundraising golf trip to Scotland in summer 2015 (the start of the fiscal year in which the athletic department lost $1.54 million) for athletics-department personnel and supporters. UNM Acting President Chaouki Abdallah said at the time, “The purpose of the trip makes clear that the [private] UNM Foundation should have covered the expenses paid by UNM, which included air fare, six nights lodging and five rounds of golf for athletic director Paul Krebs, golf and lodging for then-men’s basketball coach Craig Neal and golf and lodging for Lobo Club director Kole McKamey,” the Journal reported.
Also in 2015, Krebs “signed a four-year contract with the school worth over $300,000 in base salary, with $70,000 more in potential performance bonuses,” Deadspin noted on Tuesday afternoon.
The athletics-department expenditure came to light following a public records request by local newspaper the Albuquerque Journal. Expenses for the Scottish golf sojourn were listed as the deposit for a men’s basketball tournament in Ireland in the records that were provided to the newspaper. Extensive portions of the rest of the records were redacted completely, as shown in this screenshot of some of the records provided to the Journal.
Earlier this month, after the Journal and other local news media had reported on the allegation that the university had paid for three athletics department employees to go golfing in Scotland on the public’s dime, Krebs remembered something he had previously forgotten to disclose.
“VP Krebs came to me and told me that he wanted to tell me something that he had forgotten or did not tell me before,” local television station KRQE quotes Acting President Abdallah as saying in a story published earlier this week.
Krebs now mentioned that three private donors had also gone on the golf trip, and also had their expenses covered by the university. The three private boosters, businessmen Darin Davis, Raleigh Gardenhire and Paul Gibson, are not state employees.
The failure to previously mention the presence of the three private citizens was a “serious” omission, Abdallah told KRQE. But Abdallah added that he had worked with Krebs for some time, “and I think he is an honorable man,” he said. “Even honorable men sometimes make a mistake.”
The revelation that UNM paid for three boosters to go golf in Scotland at a time of athletic department deficits is not only poor optics, it also raises issues of criminal exposure and constitutional violations. On the criminal side, a spokesman for the state Attorney General’s office told the Journal that the office “is always concerned about public funds being spent appropriately,” but could “neither confirm nor deny an existence of an investigation” into any specific case.
On the constitutional side, article IX, section 14 of the New Mexico Constitution contains what is known as the anti-donation clause, which bars the state from “mak[ing] any donation to or in aid of any person, association or public or private corporation . . . .” For the University of New Mexico, a state actor, to make a gift to private citizens in the form of three Scottish golf trips at roughly $8,000 apiece is facially a violation of this provision.
Additional information about the anti-donation clause and its interpretation may be found at this instructive site, a subsite of the University’s main Unrestricted Accounting page. This branch of UNM’s Financial Services Division “review[s] all purchase requisitions [and] travel reimbursements” submitted to the school, the Unrestricted Accounting page explains. “We approve the transactions based on compliance with University policy.”