God and Man at CSU

The only real way to argue for an unnecessary, irrelevant, bankrupting, and bohemoth carbuncle right in the center of your campus is by way of recourse to the divine, and, in particular, to divine retribution. You need to scare people. If they don’t get going and get saved, there will be hell to pay. Without tithing hundreds of millions of dollars (many of them coming from students and taxpayers) toward a new football stadium, you will lose the battle with the devil (opposing teams).

There are of course many ways to argue against such a thing… And what Scathing Online Schoolmarm is going to do this morning is look at point/counterpoint, starting with the God Principle, and then moving on to a more secular stance.

Should Colorado State University build a new football stadium? (Note: There’s in fact no question about it. The stadium – at a school where vanishingly few students attend games despite a more than respectable winning average – will be built. So this post isn’t about urging people not to build the stadium. Although not officially announced, it’s a done deal. This is America.) SOS reviews the writing of Mark Knudson, an advocate, and Deborah Shulman, an opponent. Okay, first Knudson.

His title: PUT UP OR SHUT UP. [O come quickly, sweetest Lord, and take my soul to rest!]

CSU athletic director Jack Graham had a vision — a shocking and inspiring vision — when he first took the gig, and he has done a magnificent job of describing that vision. We can now close our eyes (or look on our computer screens) and see the glistening new stadium, blending in as a centerpiece and invigorating the entire campus.

Like Jesus, AD Graham is a radical visionary whose glistening stadium on a hill we too can glimpse when we close our eyes. Also like Jesus, Coach McElwain is beginning to run out of patience with his wayward flock:

How much patience will McElwain be asked to have while he waits for something to actually get done on the vision?

And now the more fleshed out theology:

The issue isn’t whether or not the new stadium is needed. If you know anything about college athletics, you know how badly it is. You know it’s time for the tiny but vocal minority of under-educated opponents to punt.

If CSU wants to remain at all relevant in college sports — remember, there is at least some chance that college football and basketball players might start getting paid in the next few years — then this kind of upgrade is not only needed, it’s critical to simple survival.

If the stadium project doesn’t happen, then it’s just as likely CSU will end up in the lower level Big Sky Conference as it is they will never play in another New Mexico Bowl.

The small-thinking opponents of the stadium can keep talking about dressing up Hughes Stadium and trying to make it look big time, but it never will be. Talking about upgrades to Hughes Stadium is simply another way of saying “putting lipstick on a pig.” Nothing screams “Smallville” like a dirt parking lot — out in the middle of nowhere.

It is so abundantly obvious to sect adherents that a university with a low-attendance football stadium should pay hundreds of millions of dollars for a new one that no argument is needed. Either you see the vision or you don’t. But let me put it this way: Without this stadium, you will die (“survival”). After you die, you will be buried (“a dirt parking lot”) and then go to hell (“the lower level”).

Okay, counterpoint.

Headline: CSU Can’t Afford a New Football Stadium. Not at all catchy or scary. Nothing Sinners in the Hands of an Impatient God about it. SOS fears we are in for a sober, fact-based analysis.

She mentions “millions [in] deficit spending for football.” She reminds us that “faculty had been on a pay freeze for four years” back in 2012 when the AD spent millions and millions on ten football coaches.

More than half the athletic department revenue comes from student fees and university subsidy. The students, faculty and taxpayers pay for football.

In a nationwide trend and at CSU, attendance at football games has been declining. At CSU, athletic ticket sales are less than 8 percent of revenue. Profit or breaking even is an unrealistic goal since most Division 1 schools operate football programs at a considerable deficit and require university subsidy.

The $125 million stadium guesstimate doubled, yet the Board of Governors determined these donors need to raise just half the money, not including costs imposed on CSU and the city. City Councilman Wade Troxell estimated the stadium would impose up to $50 million in city infrastructure adaptations. Taxpayers will cover this cost.

Blah blah. Facts. It’s about vision, baby! Get out of Smallville! Think big!

Why have athletic donors been granted such power and leverage to dictate development of CSU and Fort Collins?

Cuz they got the vision!

“There is no other component of the university that has the capability to receive the amount of media coverage enjoyed by the men’s and women’s sports that make up our athletic department.”

In a rousing letter to the editor of the local newspaper (“If we aspire to be known as one of America’s great universities, we are going to need to act like we are one of those universities today! That is what is called vision! When we believe in our vision; when we support our faculty; when we support our staff; when we support our administration; when we support our coaches and athletic director; and yes, when we support our board of regents; success will be ours! It takes courage to stand tall in the face of criticism. It takes heart to support our student-athletes who are giving it their all, each time that enter a competition. It takes special people to take NMSU to a new place, and I believe we are in a place in our history, with people of passion, who can help us get there!”) the chair of perennial loser New Mexico State University’s board of trustees reminds his indifferent, pissed off community (i.e., no one goes to the football games, and everyone’s pissed that people like this trustee are bleeding them financially in order to subsidize an athletic program about which no one cares) about our old friend, Athletics as the Front Porch of the University. Nothing else has the capacity to receive the amount of media coverage athletics does! If you understood anything about marketing brands, you’d know that!

Chairman Mike overlooks – fails to mention? – what all anti-intellectuals who somehow end up running American universities overlook. See, branding goes both ways. All that attention sports gives you goes both ways. Don’t get it yet? Let me make it as simple as possible for you. When you’re like New Mexico State, and your sports program is profoundly, repeatedly, embarrassing, the embarrassment always goes way-national. Ask Keith Olbermann, who’s gotten incredible mileage out of NMSU’s pathetic attempts to get anyone – anyone – to sit through one of its games. Ask the ESPN anchors who covered a recent NMSU basketball game where the team and a group of fans responded to having lost (NMSU almost always loses) by rioting.

Ask anyone who has followed NMSU’s efforts to hire an offensive line coach (UD‘s not sure what this position’s salary is, but let’s guess around $200,000. In 2013, NMSU’s head football coach made $363,000.):

[Chris] Symington replaced Steve Marshall, and was the third offensive line coach over the past year for the Aggies. Symington departs as the second offensive line coach over the past year to never coach a game with the program.

Marshall, who replaced Bart Miller in January, departed the program for an assistant offensive line coaching position with the Green Bay Packers of the NFL.

The Aggies have had a revolving door at the offensive line post for a number of years. Prior to Marshall, there was Jason Lenzmeier (who was hired by the University of New Mexico following the 2011 season), Brad Bedell (hired by Arkansas State following the 2012 campaign) and Miller (hired by Florida Atlantic following this past season).

Considering Marshall’s sudden departure — he arrived in January, coached spring football with the program and then left — Symington’s hire appeared to be a good one.

Imagine all the money and administrative time that’s been taken up at NMSU with the saga of the vanishing coaches. I wonder why they all keep vanishing? And now everyone’s talking about the latest one, Symington, who looked so good…

Las Cruces police cited Chris Symington twice in a four-day span for huffing compressed air, the second incident unfolding Tuesday morning inside the bathroom of a Las Cruces drug store… Sunday night, Symington received his first criminal citation after a different LCPD officer found him “slumped over sitting in his vehicle and apparently having seizures,” a police report states.

That officer reported he saw Symington inhale compressed air from a canister.

Yes, when your university is so desperate to find yet another coach that you’re willing to scrape the bottom of the canister, nothing else going on at your university will receive the amount of media coverage the fall-out will.

Keep it up, NMSU! Go Aggies!


The absolute catastrophe that the corrupt state of New Mexico has visited on its public university assumes, with each new scandal, the dimensions of a novel by Cormac McCarthy.

Maybe the darkest pages of All the King’s Men get closer to it. Or the film Mad Max, with its apocalyptic gore. Never, in UD‘s memory, has a university fallen so low.

A local writer, Joe Monahan, attempts to come to grips with the reality that an American campus has been buried. He asks whether it can be unearthed.


The slow motion destruction of the credibility of the University of New Mexico continues inexorably. It seems no one can or will stop it. Not the UNM Board of Regents. Not the Governor. Not the Lieutenant Governor who would be Governor. Not the powers that be in the Legislature. And not depressed university boosters who remain silent.

The university sails alone in troubled waters, captained by the politics of cronyism. The ship is listing badly, struck by too many torpedoes–the coach Locksley scandal, the faculty vote of no-confidence in the UNM president, the hiring of multiple Governor-backed political appointees and the blatant politicization of the UNM regents.

The leading figures at the helm of the university are locked so deeply in politically incestuous relationships that no one will check the other’s actions. What is to be done?


The time for bashing university president David Schmidly is past. This administration is effectively over.

Now we can only beseech him to announce that he will resign his position within a year and spend that time attempting to clean up the mess (Ditto for Schmidly’s right hand man, the politically connected executive vice-president David Harris). The president’s best chance to preserve any legacy is to acknowledge that his has been a very troubled tenure, but that in the end reality was recognized.

Once his resignation is announced the president will need to dismiss UNM athletic director Paul Krebs and his key associates. He will also have to hand walking papers to UNM football coach Locksley which could mean a large severance payout, but there is no choice. The damage is done, and irrevocable if the same players remain. The cover-up culture must be purged and with it the elitist salaries and perquisites.

After securing Krebs’ resignation, the president should then consider giving the title of athletic director to UNM Lobo basketball coach Steve Alford. Through this violent storm he has retained his credibility nationally and locally. Paid $1 million a year, Alford should have no problem handling both jobs on a temporary basis.

The search for permanent replacements for Locksley and Krebs should be confined to New Mexicans. There are many fine coaches and administrators at area high schools. UNM alumni, athletic boosters and the sports media cheerleaders need to have expectations dialed down.

In short, the bar needs to be reset on the aspirations of Lobo athletics. Student athletes–especially those in the football and basketball programs–have been subjected to unreasonable expectations which in turn leads to the chaos we now confront. Basketball coach Alford seems to be finding a balance–another reason why we see him as a prime choice for an interim athletic director.


There is apparently no chance that Governor Richardson will take any action to acknowledge the manifold messes strangling UNM. His forceful political personality, so effective in other matters, overwhelmed the institutional strength of the university and set in motion the events that are consuming the school. But if he were to see the light, he would call for the regents’ resignations and begin replacing them with appointees who are not from the world of politics. (Is that possible?)


There is still a chance for the Legislature to prevent a complete shipwreck. We warned during the 2009 legislative session that the decision of state Senate Rules Committee Chairwoman Linda Lopez not to hold an intensive confirmation hearing on the reappointment of regent Jamie Koch and the turmoil-ridden campus sent a signal that legislative oversight of UNM was not to be. Lopez could still hold that hearing in January and appropriators could start demanding change in exchange for dollars.


In the state House the current leadership is so deeply entwined with regent Koch and regents president and former longtime NM House speaker Raymond Sanchez, we don’t know where to look for reform. But university area state representatives and senators are a start. That would be Sen. McSorley and Rep. Chasey. They have safe seats for life. Where are they?


Lieutenant Governor Diane Denish has made education a banner issue, but she has yet to wade into the UNM waters. That will come when the campaign for Governor begins in earnest. But she needs to know now that deep concern is being expressed among major donors and supporters of UNM about her long political relationship with former Democratic Party chairman and regent Koch. It is causing worried speculation that her election as Governor would be more of the same–which in this case means an endless spiral of controversy, cronyism and damage to UNM’s reputation. Will she have the political will to break with the past? Will she send any early signals?


And where are the regents you hear little from–Santa Fe attorney Gene Gallegos, car dealer Don Chalmers, attorney Carolyn Abieta and Farmington’s Jack Fortner? These are all distinguished volunteers, but the time for being bumps on the log is long past. They have the power to pressure the UNM president and even the governor who appointed them. Being an “honorific” regent in the breaking point year of 2009 is not an option.

Change must and will come, but this rudderless ship is headed into the sandbars. How much more damage it will suffer before the rescue party arrives is the dreaded unknown hanging over the home of the Lobos and those who fret for its future.

Joe Monahan, New Mexico Politics

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