LAS CRUCES, N.M. (KRQE) – Following a decision to fire the University of New Mexico State Aggies men’s basketball team coach Greg Heiar, university administrators are addressing hazing allegations that have ended the team’s basketball season. Holding a first news conference on the topic Wednesday morning, NMSU Chancellor Dan Arvizu called the situation “a gut punch.”
“I’m both disgusted and I’m angry about what has occurred,” Arvizu said. “Everything that I’ve learned is that our men’s basketball program has been infected with behavior, a culture of bad behavior.”
NMSU announced Heiar’s firing Tuesday amid the continued hazing investigation. At least three men’s basketball teammates are accused of holding one player down to the floor and inappropriately touching him. The behavior is alleged to have occurred since last summer.
During Wednesday’s news conference, Arvizu also announced that Heiar has been terminated “with cause,” meaning the university does not owe him a buyout. While the university announced the cancelation for the remainder of the season, officials said the team intends to play next season.
The case began unfolding on February 10, when the university announced it would suspended all team operations indefinitely. Later in the evening, allegations surrounding team hazing emerged.
By Sunday, February 12, NMSU‘s police department released a redacted version of a police report containing allegations against several people on the basketball team. The team also announced the cancelation of the remainder of the basketball season.
The player who levied the accusations told police he’s experienced ongoing hazing since July 2022 by other teammates. The most recent incident is alleged to have occurred last Monday, February 6, 2023.
While acknowledging “egregious violations” of NMSU’s student code of conduct “other despicable acts,” Arvizu said he believes the “culture of bad behavior” has been contained to the men’s basketball program. The NMSU Chancellor said allegations of a hazing culture are “not elsewhere” in other athletics programs within the university.
No charges have been filed in the case so far, and the university continues to investigate the entirety of the hazing allegations. Multiple players have since announced departure from the NMSU men’s basketball team. Arvizu described the men’s basketball program as resetting for the year.
No determinations have been made about the future for the team’s assistant coaches, according to Arvizu, who pointed to the ongoing investigation. However, NMSU Athletics Director Mario Moccia said the Aggies intended to have a team ready to play for the 2023-24 season.
The 2022-23 season marked the first season at NMSU for Heiar, who was hired in March 2022. When asked if Moccia regretted Heiar’s hiring as head coach, he said he is disappointed in the outcome for the victim and everyone involved.
“I regret the outcome, but more I regret what’s happened to the victim,” Moccia said. “I certainly think hiring is 20-20, and I made a list of every coach I hired at my alma matter, where I was also a student-athlete at New Mexico State, and you know, we’ve had an excellent batting average. Nobody bats 1000.”
The team faced its first scandal in November after basketball team player Mike Peake was involved in a deadly shooting on the UNM campus the night before a scheduled UNM-NMSU game. The shooting resulted in the death of a UNM student, while Peake was wounded by gunfire. Peake has not been charged in the case. The rivalry series was also canceled for the season.
When asked why the University did not fire Coach Heiar after the November shooting, NMSU Chancellor Arvizu said NMSU has not completed its administrative investigation into the matter. He also said Heiar had been “difficult to interview.”
“Part of the reason [the investigation] hasn’t been completed is the coach has representative council and its been difficult to interview him,” Arvizu said. “In the context of that, we’ve looked at all of the surrounding evidence to essentially bolster our case for the termination of the coach, and in that context, that decision was made based on the information we have at the current time.”
Arvizu also expressed support for Athletics Director Moccia, calling him “extremely transparent.” The Chancellor said he and other administrators were not aware of the hazing allegations or incidents before they were reported.
“We’ve been in constant contact about all the various things that we had both control of,” Arvizu said. “I have not lost confidence in Mario’s ability to essentially be our athletic director, he still has my complete confidence to turn this program around.”