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.