NMSU men's basketball program shrouded in controversy
On Tuesday, NMSU fired head basketball Greg Heiar in relation to hazing allegations within the men’s basketball program. On Wednesday, university leadership answered questions from the media on the decision to fire the coach. NMSU Chancellor Arvizu and Athletic Director Mario Moccia took questions from the press at the Fulton Athletics Center on the university’s campus.
During the press conference, Arvizu said that he’s repulsed by what has occurred. However, despite the state of the program, he has not lost confidence in Athletic Director Mario Moccia.
“Clearly there are some issues that we need to see why did it take so long to understand that there was an issue,” Arvizu said. “We will get to the bottom of that. Again, partially a coach responsibility, partially a process responsibility, and we will look at all of those things simultaneously. But I think there’s plenty of evidence to support that this particular incident, or set of incidents is contained in our men’s basketball program, primarily a coach responsibility, but the oversight of that is in question, and we will continue to look at that going forward.”
On Feb. 10, a member of the NMSU basketball team told police that beginning around July of 2022, he was a victim of multiple instances of hazing. In a redacted police report obtained by KRWG, the victim alleges sexual contact, false imprisonment, and harassment by three teammates, with the most recent incident happening on Feb. 6. As of Feb. 15, no charges have been filed.
As a result of the allegations, NMSU Chancellor Dan Arvizu cancelled the men’s basketball season, and subsequently fired head coach Greg Heiar. The rest of the men’s basketball staff is on paid administrative leave according to the university, and three players have entered the NCAA transfer portal.
New Mexico State’s basketball season has been shrouded in controversy since NMSU player Mike Peake was involved in a shooting on the UNM campus last November that left one UNM student dead and three UNM students arrested. So far, no charges have been filed against any NMSU personnel in that incident, but investigations surrounding the incident are still ongoing.
When asked if there was extra oversight of the program after the deadly incident in November, Moccia said that there was.
According to the Feb. 10 police report, allegations of hazing were not unique to NMSU’s home locker room at the Pan American Center, but also happened during away games. However, it is unclear when and where each instance occurred.
“As far as an increase of oversight, I can tell you on every single away trip, we sent an upper-level administrator to that game, whether it was myself, whether it was one of our two deputy [athletic directors,] or one of our two senior associates. So there wasn’t a time where there was an away trip from home that there wasn’t a senior-level administrator with the men’s basketball program,” he said.
Arvizu said that the investigation surrounding the Nov. 17 shooting hasn’t been concluded in part because it’s been difficult to talk to Heiar.
“One investigation regarding that particular event has not been completed. And part of the reason it hasn’t been completed is because the coach has represented council, and it’s been difficult to interview him. In the context of that, we’ve looked at all the surrounding evidence to essentially bolster our case for the termination of the coach. And in that context, that decision was made based on the information that we have at the current time,” he said.
Moccia said that he has been in contact with the commissioner of the Western Athletic Conference and Conference USA, NMSU’s new athletic conference beginning July 1, 2023. He intends to have the men’s basketball program operational by next season.
“As far as the continuation of the program, there certainly are games left. Our focus right now is not to rush out and seek a new coach. We’re trying to get a resolution to this circumstance, but we certainly intend on playing men’s basketball next year for the Aggies,” he said.
In less than a year, the NMSU men’s basketball program went from celebrating a first-round upset in the NCAA tournament against the University of Connecticut, to being shrouded by controversy and ultimately shut down.