New Mexico State athletic director Mario Moccia signed a five-year contract extension earlier this month, on the same day his boss and a staunch defender, chancellor Dan Arvizu, stepped down nearly three months earlier than scheduled.
Moccia oversees a basketball program with former players who are suing the school’s board of regents and two former coaches. The players claim administrators did nothing after they tried to tell them they had been sexually assaulted by teammates.
Both the AD and Arvizu signed the contract on April 7, the date Arvizu announced he would leave immediately instead of at the end of his contract on June 30.
The Las Cruces Sun-News acquired the contract, which calls for Moccia to get nearly a $72,000 raise from his current deal and make $351,800 in the first year of the new contract. His pay will escalate to $425,000 in the last year, which ends June 30, 2028.
School spokesman Justin Bannister told KTSM-TV that the timing of the deal was a coincidence.
“It had been in the works for quite some time,” Bannister said. “The timing just so happened to be on Arvizu’s last day.”
In a February news conference held after Arvizu canceled the Aggies’ basketball season and fired coach Greg Heiar in the wake of hazing allegations – the details of which came out in the lawsuit filed earlier this week – the chancellor staunchly defended Moccia’s performance in his eight years as AD at New Mexico State.
And Moccia defended his record as athletic director, saying “I made a list of every coach I’ve hired … and, you know, we have an excellent batting average. Nobody bats a thousand.”
One of the allegations in the lawsuit was that one of the player’s father tried to reach Moccia to discuss the alleged assaults, but the AD did not return the calls. That led to the player taking his story to campus police, who opened an investigation.
The basketball program is also the subject of multiple investigations stemming from the fatal shooting of a University of New Mexico student by former player Mike Peake. Video of the shooting suggests Peake was acting in self-defense. He has not been charged. Police had to stop the team bus on Interstate 25 to question witnesses after the team left Albuquerque the morning after the shooting.
In a meeting late last year, the NMSU board of regents declined to renew Arvizu’s contract, which was set to expire at the end of June. On April 7, he announced he was leaving early to allow the school to focus on a search for his replacement.
Arvizu had previously drawn concerns in the NMSU community after police body camera video came out from a dispute at his home. The chancellor was accused by his wife, Sheryl, of having an affair with a NMSU staff member. He denied the affair.