Thursday, November 12, 2009

UNM Today: A Rudderless Ship In The Night; Who Will Reset The Course? Our Analysis And Commentary Amid The Storm, Also: New GOP Lt. Guv Hopeful 

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 over its future.


Sen. Cravens
Alligators are reporting that ABQ/Sandoval County GOP State Senator Kent Cravens is ready to take a free ride and toss his hat into what is becoming a competitive contest for the 2010 GOP nomination for lieutenant governor. They say he is poised to announce soon. The two termer is not up for re-election until 2012. He has owned and operated Alphagraphics with wife Melanie for ten years. She continues there, but Cravens also recently took a job as a broker with Vaughn Co.

This looks like a good move for Cravens. He is the only candidate in the race from the vote-rich ABQ area. His main challenger will likely be former State Rep. Brian Moore of Clayton. Santa Fe's J.R. Damron is also in the race.

We blogged last week how 2002 GOP Guv candidate John Sanchez told us he is now weighing a bid for the '10 GOP Guv nod. He also mentioned a light guv run. John is a former neighbor of Kent's. If they ended up on the GOP ticket together, that's one neighborhood they should carry big, unless they've kept the neighbors up with those loud Republican parties.

(P.S. Be the first to name all the Republicans who have served as lieutenant governor since 1965 and we're buying you a New Mexican lunch.)

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