New Mexico State Fired Basketball Coach Greg Heiar Tuesday in sequence of allegations of hazing within the team that ended the program for the rest of the season.
Chancellor Dan Arvizu announced the resignation of the first-year coach and said “hazing has no place on our campus and those responsible will be held accountable for their actions.”
The chancellor said that decisions on the rest of the coaching staff will be taken after further investigation.
Arvizu ended the season’s program Sunday after reviewing a campus police report in which an Aggies player said three teammates attacked him. The report, which deleted the players’ names, included allegations of false imprisonment, harassment and criminal sexual contact.
Heiar, 47, spent time early in his career as an assistant to former Aggies head coach Chris Jans, who left after last season to coach Mississippi State. Last season, Heiar was at northwest Florida State, where he helped the Raiders win the junior college national title.
He brought two top players with him from the juke ranks, Issa Muhammad and Marchelus Avery, but the Aggies were in trouble almost from the start of the season.
Everything started to unravel when some basketball players got into a fight with New Mexico students at an Aggies football game in October.
A month later, the night before New Mexico State’s New Mexico basketball game in Albuquerque, forward Mike Peake came to the apartment complex of one of the students involved in the altercation. Security cameras from the apartment complex show the student drawing a gun, then Peake brandishing his own gun and shooting the student, causing fatal injuries. Peake was taken to hospital with injuries to his legs.
Peake was suspended from the team, but has not been charged with any crime while Albuquerque authorities investigate. The state of New Mexico hired an independent investigator to investigate the circumstances of the murder.
The hazing allegations occurred less than three months after the Albuquerque shooting. The police report says the hazing victim described teammates removing “his clothes exposing his buttocks and proceeded to slap his (buttocks). He also stated that they also touched his scrotum”.
The Aggies were 9-15 when the season was suspended ahead of Saturday’s scheduled game at California Baptist.
The Western Athletic Conference is counting New Mexico State’s last six games as forfeits. The team is expected to move to the bigger and better known Conference USA next season – a move that seemed like a good fit for a program that has a long tradition of strong basketball teams. New Mexico State has made 26 trips to the NCAA Tournament and reached the Sweet 16 five times.
But there have also been problems throughout the history of a program that has long relied on transfers and players looking for a second chance. An academic scandal in the 1990s brought a swift end to coach Neil McCarthy’s successful tenure. This led to relative stability during the second of two long tenures at Las Cruces, coaching the strong Lou Henson.
Most of Henson’s successors, including Marvin Menzies, Reggie Theus and Jans, were successful before moving on to bigger opportunities.
There was similar turnover in management. In the past 14 months, the university’s dean and dean have resigned or been removed from their posts. And Arivzu, the chancellor, is leaving in June after the regents refused to renew his contract. He said the school will investigate the hazing allegations.
“We will work to ensure that we fully understand what happened here and that those responsible are held accountable,” he said. “We will also ensure support systems are in place to prevent this from happening again.”