LAS CRUCES, N.M. (KRQE) – After a scandal-plagued men’s basketball season for New Mexico State University, new coach Jason Hooten is vowing a dramatic change in culture. Right now, he is working to recruit a team. “We’re just trying to, trying to get 13 guys together you know, and see where we can go with this. Lot of work to do, there’s always going to be good and bad with everything,” said Hooten.
Criticism regarding the university’s basketball team started after the fatal shooting of a University of New Mexico student by Aggie player Mike Peake during a road trip to Albuquerque. “As a guy who’s been brought in to maybe rekindle a culture, you have to take all of these things into consideration and again when you go back to it the most important thing is to make sure the student-athlete is taken care of,” said Hooten.
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Now, two months after NMSU canceled the men’s basketball season and fired their coaches over hazing and sexual assault allegations, two players are suing the university. The Attorney General’s office will decide if any NMSU players will be charged in the hazing case.
Hooten said he is ready for a clean slate. “It may be time to get a restart because regardless of what happened you know, you always want some clear air and I think it’s just better for everybody sometimes if that happens,” he said.
Hooten has previous experience after coaching at Sam Houston State University for 13 years. “I think you just have to look at my track record. you have to look at the past, you have to look at what we’ve always done and what we’ve always built there,” said Hooten. “There can’t be any slippage in culture. Culture is hard work, it’s hard work to gain it to build but then it’s also hard work to maintain it.”
Despite the challenges, he seems confident in his ability to turn the basketball program around. “I think things will start to pick up in the next couple of weeks and you know, before you know it, you’ll look up and you’ll have a team put together,” said Hooten.
Wednesday afternoon, the New Mexico State University sent this statement about the lawsuit that was filed in April:
New Mexico State University has reviewed the recent lawsuit filed by Deuce and William Benjamin and Shakiru Odunewu concerning the Men’s Basketball Program, and it continues to regard this matter as extremely important. NMSU has taken extensive measures, including, without limitation: recalling the entire basketball team from their road trip out of state, placing the entire coaching staff on administrative leave, launching an investigation, making mental health counseling available, canceling the remainder of the season, and firing the head coach. The kind of behavior described in those allegations has no place on our campus, and the university will soon launch a task force to facilitate implementation of preventive measures whose purpose is to identify and extinguish any opportunity for this to occur in the future.New Mexico State University