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Heiar: Was ‘sacrificial lamb’ after NMSU incidents

Myron Medcalf, ESPN Staff WriterAug 2, 2023, 02:35 PM ETClose Covers college basketball Joined in 2011 Graduate of Minnesota State University, MankatoFormer New Mexico State basketball coach Greg Heiar said he did not know about hazing allegations within his program when was fired with cause in February and accused the school of terminating him

Heiar: Was ‘sacrificial lamb’ after NMSU incidents

  • Myron Medcalf, ESPN Workers AuthorAug 2, 2023, 02:35 PM ET


    • Covers school basketball
    • Joined in 2011
    • Graduate of Minnesota State College, Mankato

Former New Mexico State basketball coach Greg Heiar stated he didn’t learn about hazing allegations inside his program when was fired with cause in February and accused the varsity of terminating him as a result of it wanted a “sacrificial lamb” after a collection of incidents, in response to arbitration paperwork obtained by ESPN.

Heiar’s termination adopted a call by Dan Arvizu, the varsity’s former chancellor, to cancel the season in February after former participant Mike Peake had been concerned in a self-defense taking pictures in November and the revelation of a hazing investigation tied to accusations of sexual assault and harassment inside the crew.

In June, NMSU agreed to pay $8 million mixed to former NMSU participant Deuce Benjamin and his father, William, and former NMSU participant Shak Odunewu.

In its response to Heiar and his authorized crew, NMSU denied the majority of the previous head coach’s allegations, in response to the arbitration paperwork, nevertheless it additionally stated the coach “refused to cooperate” with the hazing investigation previous to his termination for trigger.

Heiar stated he was unaware of hazing allegations inside his program, regardless that the varsity had been notified greater than a month earlier than informing him about an investigation hooked up to these accusations. In its response to Heiar, the varsity stated that it couldn’t inform Heiar or any coaches concerning the allegations, which have been conveyed to highschool officers in December, on account of Title IX and faculty insurance policies.

Heiar is searching for an undetermined sum for breach of contract and actions that have been “willful, wanton, and with reckless disregard.”

“Coach Heiar has suffered and continues to endure financial and/or financial damages … which have and can proceed to forestall him from related gainful employment within the teaching business, for which he’s entitled to an award of financial damages and aid,” New Mexico-based Danoff Legislation Agency, which represents Heiar, stated in its assertion of claims.

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Heiar, who has since been hired as the pinnacle coach at Mineral Space School (Park Hills, Missouri), a junior school, additionally alleged NMSU failed to tell him of a “poisonous and secretive tradition” that restricted accountability for gamers when he was employed to succeed former head coach Chris Jans in 2022.

Heiar additionally stated he didn’t learn about his program’s tutorial points — the varsity’s APR dropped following the COVID season — when he accepted the job.

Heiar’s assertion of claims detailed a prolonged listing of accusations in opposition to NMSU that preceded his termination.

Heiar stated he was with AD Mario Moccia at his home when he acquired a video that confirmed an October battle at an NMSU-New Mexico soccer sport, which concerned Peake and New Mexico pupil Brandon Travis. Heiar stated the athletic director “smiled” and stated the video confirmed NMSU gamers “whooping up on some Lobos.” Heiar alleges that he was blocked from suspending Peake or different gamers for his or her roles within the brawl.

Heiar additionally alleges that Moccia and his superiors seized control of the program and wouldn’t permit him to self-discipline gamers who had been concerned within the aftermath of a November taking pictures that resulted in Travis’ loss of life.

In its response, NMSU stated Heiar by no means misplaced his authority to self-discipline gamers in the course of the 2022-23 season and that the varsity “solely made recommendations relating to basketball associated self-discipline as a result of [Heiar] did not act.”

After the self-defense taking pictures in November, Heiar spoke with native authorities in Albuquerque. He stated he feared retaliation when he determined to depart city with out answering follow-up cellphone calls from police who, in response to incident studies, have been looking for proof and searching for interviews with gamers.

In his assertion of claims, Heiar stated he instructed a bus driver to go to a relaxation cease and look ahead to police to reach when he realized officers have been pursuing the crew’s bus, the place they discovered Peake’s iPad. His gun was retrieved on the resort. His cellphone was on the bus, however police didn’t receive it throughout their search. The police report stated authorities had instructed officers to cease the NMSU bus after it had left city in the course of the preliminary investigation and Heiar had did not reply their cellphone calls.

Following the taking pictures, Heiar stated he needed to droop and self-discipline gamers who’d been seen on video with Peake, who was additionally wounded, however Moccia instructed him “we simply have to win, win, win. This can all go away however we don’t want any extra unhealthy media at this level; we’re on skinny ice, getting thinner.”

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Marchelus Avery, Issa Muhammad and Anthony Roy, who transported Peake to the hospital after the taking pictures, have been subsequently suspended for one sport by NMSU administration.

College officers had been made conscious of hazing allegations inside the crew on Dec. 31, 2022, when the daddy of a pupil supervisor mentioned the allegations with an NMSU administrator, who later contacted the varsity’s Workplace of Institutional Fairness, which handles Title IX investigations, on Jan. 3. The college, in its response, stated that it didn’t inform Heiar concerning the allegations inside his program due to Title IX and faculty insurance policies.

New hazing allegations in February preceded the administration’s resolution to cancel NMSU’s season and hearth Heiar.

In his assertion of claims, Heiar stated he was in settlement talks with the varsity after his crew’s season was canceled and rescheduled an interview with Title IX investigators concerning the hazing allegations, days earlier than his firing, as a result of his former lawyer had been unavailable. He stated he was terminated with out the completion of the investigation.

In its response, the varsity stated it didn’t have to complete its investigation to fireside Heiar, per his contract, however stated the previous head coach failed in his “obligations to cooperate” within the hazing investigation.

An arbitration listening to between the 2 events is predicted to start someday in 2024.

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