NMSU Faculty Senate expresses ‘deep concern’ with Athletic Director’s contract renewal
LAS CRUCES, New Mexico (KVIA) -- In a letter obtained by ABC-7 dated May 1, the NMSU Faculty Senate call the contract extension of Athletic Director Mario Moccia "both astonishing and deeply disheartening."
"It is irrational why the former NMSU Chancellor would so handsomely reward an individual when the non-academic unit they supervise (Athletic Department) was almost single handedly responsible for diminishing NMSU’s reputation on a national level over the past year," the Faculty Senate wrote in a 12-page letter addressed to the NMSU Board of Regents, Interim Chancellor Gogue and the Provost and Chief Academic Officer Shoho.
As ABC-7 reported on April 21, Moccia's contract was signed on April 7, 2023, the same day former NMSU Chancellor Dan Arvizu announced he was stepping down the position and three months before his contract was set to expire.
"Faculty are exhausted and disillusioned by not only the continued lack of accountability, but the actual rewarding of individuals who create a toxic workplace and learning environment," the letter says.
In the letter, the Faculty Senate said the "illogical act" substantially rewards Moccia after numerous incidents that clearly show a lack of following the NMSU mission, vision and values.
Those incidents include a deadly shooting on the UNM campus in which police say NMSU basketball player Mike Peake broke curfew to meet a girl and when jumped by three UNM students shot and killed one of them in self defense. According to police reports, three other NMSU players also broke curfew that night and took evidence from the scene. Greg Heiar who was the coach at the time left Albuquerque with the team before police were finished talking to them. Evidence from the scene of the crime ended up in three different locations. Heiar was fired on February 14th, 2023.
On April 19, two former NMSU players and one parent filed a lawsuit against the NMSU Board of Regents, Heiar, Assistant Coach Dominique Taylor and three players Deshawndre Washington, Doctor Bradley and Kim Aiken Jr., where they allege they were sexually assaulted for more than six months by the three players and that the Heiar, Taylor and the University did nothing to stop it.
"If the desire was to afford this individual an opportunity to prove they have the leadership skills to turn the Athletic Department culture around from one of dysfunction to dignity, there was no need for a contract renewal; there was still a year left on the AD’s contract," the Faculty Senate wrote in the letter.
In the letter the Faculty Senate makes note that in both Moccia's old contract and new contract he is in breach of the agreement if he shows an inability to control the behavior of coaches and staff.
Moccia can be terminated for cause if he neglects or has inattention to any of his duties in the contract. The Faculty Senate says Moccia breaches the responsibilities of Athletic Director multiple times.
"Clearly, as an academic institution, we have lost our way. Collectively, we need to get our priorities straight and stay true to our mission, vision, and values. This will take time and a renewed commitment by everyone in the NMSU community to a high standard of integrity. This cannot be accomplished when those who (through their actions or inactions) create a culture that has (allegedly) put the safety of students at risk, and has deeply damaged the reputation of NMSU.
You can read the full letter and where the Faculty Senate highlight what they deem as a breach of Moccia's contract here.
The letter is a resolution set to be presented to the New Mexico State Faculty Senate at its meeting regarding Moccia's contract. If approved, it would be sent to the Boards of Regents and other admin.