New Mexico Lobos

Vance Jackson transfers to New Mexico

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With more than a handful of departures this offseason, New Mexico is set to have a new-look roster for the 2017-18 season. On Monday, Paul Weir, now at the helm of the program, landed a player who should make an impact in the three remaining seasons of eligibility he has left.

Vance Jackson, who spent this past season at UConn, decided to make the move from Storrs to Albuquerque, picking the Lobos over Rutgers, San Diego State, TCU, and Washington.

The 6-foot-8 rising sophomore will have to sit out next year due to NCAA transfer rules before resuming his collegiate career in the fall of 2018.

“The coaches — they trust in me,” Jackson told Geoff Grammer of the Albuquerque Journal last month during his official campus visit. “We’re on the same page. They see a vision.”

Weir, who led New Mexico State this past season to a NCAA Tournament appearance in his one and only season as head coach, succeeded Craig Neal in April.

This offseason has been headlined by transfers, though, those mostly were about players leaving the program. Jackson is the second transfer to land at UNM with Akron’s Antino Jackson electing to use his final season of eligibility with the Lobos. Antino Jackson is a graduate transfer, allowing him to play immediately next season.

Vance Jackson, who was rated as the No. 80 overall player in the Class of 2016 by Rivals, averaged 8.1 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.4 assists per game while shooting just under 40 percent from three for the Huskies as a freshman.

New Mexico reportedly overpaid Craig Neal by $150,000

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Craig Neal was relieved of his head coaching duties following this past season.

The university will owe him $1 million as part of a buyout. That sum was nearly exactly how much money he made in his first season at the helm of the program. During the 2013-14 season, Neal made a little more than $900,000. Although, according to Daniel Libit of NMFishBowl.com, he was mistakenly paid an extra $150,000, an error the school did not notice for a year.

On Thursday, confronted with these findings, a UNM spokesperson acknowledged the bungle while declining to explain how it all came to happen.

“There was an unintentional overpayment to Craig Neal, which was repaid in full some time ago through payroll deduction,” UNM’s Steve Carr told NMFishbowl.com in an email.

You might think this kind of payroll snafu would serve as a giant wakeup call for an athletic department in need of every penny. But, sure enough, almost the exact same thing happened recently with UNM’s head baseball coach.

The sum was paid back in Neal’s second season.

This story, published last week with pay stubs, only fuels the current criticism that department faces, especially when you consider that this was not an isolated incident.

Earlier on Monday, athletic director Paul Krebs announced he would retire at the end of the month. Two state investigations are looking into public money he used on golfing trips.

In seven of the past nine years, the department has failed to reach budget.

In four seasons with the Lobos, Neal compiled a 76-52 (42-30 Mountian West) record, failing to reach the NCAA Tournament in each of the last three seasons.

New Mexico AD stepping down amid spending scrutiny

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — University of New Mexico athletic director Paul Krebs, who has faced intense criticism for spending public money on a 2015 golf trip to Scotland that included athletics officials and private donors, abruptly announced Friday that he is stepping down.

In a letter to acting school President Chaouki Abdallah, Krebs requested approval for retirement and said he wanted to step down for a while. “However, I believe my retirement at this time is in my best interest and the University’s,” Krebs wrote without directly mentioning the spending controversy.

His last day will be June 30.

The move follows weeks of criticism and the announcement of two state investigations into the trip that has drawn scrutiny from New Mexico fans, elected officials and administrators.

State Auditor Tim Keller said late Thursday that he has designated the university for a special audit and that it was important to get to the bottom of questions raised about expenses, compensation and perks for donors and senior staff in the athletic department.

Keller sent a letter to the university’s leadership informing them of the expanded inquiry and requesting access to documents and staff.

Last week, state Attorney General Hector Balderas announced his office was launching a formal inquiry into the spending on the Scotland trip. Balderas said officials who leave office “can still face legal consequences for actions they took while in office.”

University officials have said they will cooperate with state authorities.

Records show the golf trip cost about $39,000 for Krebs, former men’s basketball coach Craig Neal and Lobo Club executive director Kole McKamey. But the university did not reveal what it paid for the private donors to attend the trip and initially recorded the trip as a basketball tournament in Ireland.

Abdallah told an Albuquerque television station that Krebs recently came to him and acknowledged the university picked up the tab for the boosters. He described it as a serious omission.

In a statement Friday, Abdallah thanked Krebs for his “outstanding leadership” as athletic director. “His tenure will go down as the most productive and successful in school history,” Abdallah said. “Paul has tried to retire several times over the last year, and now I finally have reluctantly agreed to accept his retirement.”

During Krebs’ tenure, the Lobos have won 57 Mountain West titles and seven other titles in different conferences. The 34 championships won over four years from 2011-12 to 2014-15 make up the best title stretch in school history.

He also is credited with helping turn around a lackluster football program with the hiring of former Norte Dame head coach Bob Davie. New Mexico posted only its second bowl victory in a half-century, topping Texas-San Antonio 23-20 in the New Mexico Bowl in December.

Still, the Lobos men’s basketball team, a mainstay in a state where hoops reign supreme, never made it to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 under Krebs’ leadership and he faced criticism for the last two years after the team failed even to make the tournament.

Krebs, who became the athletic director in 2006, also faced heat for various coaching hires. Former head football coach Mike Locksley, for example, was fired after going 2-26 and after a number of off-the-field problems that included a 10-day suspension following a fight with an assistant coach.

His abrupt firing of popular women’s head basketball coach Yvonne Sanchez last year also drew criticism from some Latino activists who charged Krebs wasn’t doing enough to hire and promote Hispanics at the largest university in the nation’s most Hispanic state.

In addition, the athletic department has seen budget deficits in seven of the last nine years.

Field for 2016 DirecTV Wooden Legacy announced

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Another in-season tournament field for next season was revealed, as the DirecTV Wooden Legacy announced the eight teams that will make the trip to Fullerton, California.

UCLA, which was led to ten national titles by the event’s namesake, will take part as well CSUN, Dayton, Nebraska, New Mexico, Portland, Texas A&M and Virginia Tech. Six of the eight teams have made prior appearances in the event, with Dayton and Nebraska being the two programs who will make their DirecTV Wooden Legacy debuts next season.

Portland and Virginia Tech reached the title game in their prior appearances, with the Pilots losing to West Virginia in 2009 and the Hokies falling to UNLV in 2010.

New Mexico’s Devon Williams leaves game with neck injury

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Sunday night in-state rivals New Mexico and New Mexico State played the first of their two meetings of the season, and while the play of guard Elijah Brown in the Lobos’ 83-74 victory will get headlines there was also a scary situation involving New Mexico redshirt junior forward Devon Williams.

Williams left the game with 11:16 remaining the second half after colliding with teammate Jordan Hunter while going after a loose ball. Williams remained on the Pan-American Center court for several minutes following the collision, with paramedics placing him onto a stretcher.

Williams was taken to a Las Cruces hospital for evaluation of what was described by head coach Craig Neal following the game as a neck injury.

UPDATE: Williams’ mother commented on the status of her son following the game, noting that she had spoken with him.

New Mexico lands three-star wing

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New Mexico landed its first 2016 commitment Saturday evening, as three-star small forward Damien Jefferson made his verbal pledge to the Mountain West program. Jefferson, a native of East Chicago, Indiana, took his official visit to New Mexico this weekend and the Lobos were considered by many scouts as the favorite to land him.

News of Jefferson’s commitment was first reported by Scout.com.

Jefferson attends East Chicago Central HS, where as a junior he averaged 23.4 points, 9.9 rebounds and 2.8 assists per contest. Jefferson was named to the Indiana boys Junior All-Star team at the end of last season, and he played for the SYF Players grassroots program this summer.

Jefferson’s commitment gets UNM back on the board in the class, as forward Mitch Lightfoot de-committed in mid-April. The Lobos have just two scholarship seniors on their roster for the 2015-16 season (guard Tim Jacobs and center J.J. N’Ganga), and among the wing options Jefferson will join on campus in 2016 are sophomores Xavier Adams and Sam Logwood, and freshman Dane Kuiper.