Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Locksley suspended 1 game
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- New Mexico coach Mike Locksley won't be on the sidelines when his team plays UNLV later this month, part of a 10-day suspension issued Tuesday as punishment for his role in a fight with an assistant coach.
"I'm the leader of the team and my staff," Locksley said. "I should have used better judgment. I showed poor leadership and I won't let it happen again. I've learned some harsh lessons, lessons that I feel will make me a better leader."
Mike Locksley, one of only six African-American coaches at Football Bowl Subdivision schools, is still seeking his first victory at New Mexico.
Locksley initially had been reprimanded. Athletic director Paul Krebs said during a news conference the coach won't be allowed to have any contact with the team until Oct. 25, one day after UNLV visits Albuquerque. The Lobos have a bye this week.
Locksley also will be required to attend conflict resolution training.
Defensive backs coach George Barlow will serve as an interim coach. Locksley said Barlow will handle administrative responsibilities so offensive coordinator Darrell Dickey and defensive coordinator Doug Mallory can focus on preparing their players.
The university's Human Resources Division stepped in after Krebs announced the reprimand last month, opening an internal investigation to determine if Locksley violated policies against campus violence. The coach could have been fired under the policies.
"I told the team that was a very real possibility," said Locksley, who will lose about $29,000 from his $750,000 annual salary during the suspension. "I made no bones about it. It was a very grave error in judgment. ... That was a very real consequence of my decision."
Receivers coach J.B. Gerald told Albuquerque police Locksley struck him during a Sept. 20 staff meeting at the football office, splitting his lip.
However, Krebs said the investigation couldn't corroborate Gerald's version of events because none of the other offensive coaches at the meeting saw a punch thrown. While Locksley has acknowledged putting his hands on Gerald, he disputes striking him.
"It was a heated argument with some grabbing, pushing and shoving," Locksley said. "I did not throw a punch."
Gerald hasn't been with the Lobos since the incident. This week, he turned in his keys and university-issued cell phone but remains under contract on paid administrative leave.
Krebs said he was satisfied the investigation was thorough and fair. Asked what would happen to Locksley if the coach was involved in another physical altercation, Krebs replied: "Then he would be terminated, which we don't expect to happen."
The suspension resolves the second of two off-field problems facing New Mexico's first-year coach.
On Monday, the university announced that Locksley had resolved legal claims involving a former football administrative assistant who had accused him of age discrimination and retaliation. A statement issued by the school indicated an earlier sexual harassment allegation didn't fit the situation.
"I'll be a better leader because of this," he said. "What I've gone through in the last eight months will help me grow, not just as a football coach but in all aspects of my life."
The coach's off-field turmoil mirrors what's happening with the team right now.
After last weekend's 37-13 loss at Wyoming, the Lobos are winless through six games for the first time since going 0-11 in 1987. New Mexico has lost 10 straight overall, the longest skid since dropping 10 in a row over the 1990 and 1991 seasons.
Locksley called the fight "a one-time mistake" and said he didn't think it will impact recruiting because he took responsibility for his actions and held himself accountable by accepting the university's decision when he could have appealed.
He said he plans to spend time with his family and work "with a charity that is dear to my heart" during the suspension.
"I'm really looking forward to Oct. 25," he said.