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ESPN Report: Former NMSU head coach says he was the ‘sacrificial lamb’

LAS CRUCES, New Mexico (KVIA) -- Former New Mexico State University men’s basketball coach Greg Heiar is accusing the school of firing him because it needed a “sacrificial lamb.” That’s according to arbitration documents between NMSU and Heiar, obtained by ESPN.

This comes after Heiar was fired on Feb. 14th, 2023 for cause after players were accused of sexual assault and hazing in the locker room and earlier in the season some players were also involved in a fight at a football game that led to an NMSU player (Mike Peake) killing a UNM student in self defense.

In a press conference on Nov. 29, 2022, following the shooting, Heiar said "I take full responsibility for everything that happened."

ESPN is reporting that Heiar is seeking an undetermined sum for breach of contract and that the school denied the majority of the claims.

Heiar is claiming that NMSU failed to inform him about a toxic and secretive culture before he took over.

However when Heiar became head coach, only three players carried over from the season prior.

‌Heiar also says he never knew about the hazing allegations. But in a lawsuit filed by two former players Shak Odunewu and Deuce Benjamin and his dad, William Odunewu, said he reported the assaults to Heiar on three different occasions and in one of those meetings Heiar reportedly told Odunewu he would look into the allegations and suspend players.

That lawsuit was settled by the school for almost $8 million.

‌Heiar also alleges, Athletic Director Mario Moccia and other school officials did not allow him to discipline players after the deadly shooting in November or the fight leading up to it.

But the school says he never lost his authority to discipline players and NMSU "only made suggestions regarding basketball related discipline because [heiar] failed to act."

After the shooting, Peake was removed from the team and the three players who reportedly took evidence from the scene served a one-game suspension.

The documents also reveal Heiar said Moccia smiled when he saw the video of the fight between NMSU players and UNM students. And that Moccia also told Heiar after the shooting “we just need to win, win, win. This will all go away but we do not need anymore bad media at this point; we are on thin ice, getting thinner."

ABC-7 reached out to Moccia for comment but were told no comment. Meanwhile NMSU is working to supply ABC-7 with the arbitration documents where they respond to a lot of the claims.

ABC-7 also reached out to Heiar and his lawyers and have not heard back.

ESPN is reporting there is an arbitration hearing between the two parties set for sometime in 2024.

Article Topic Follows: NMSU

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Rachel Phillips


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