LAS CRUCES, N.M. (KTSM) – New Mexico State University police released a redacted report on Sunday detailing allegations of false imprisonment, harassment and criminal sexual contact made against three members of the Aggies men’s basketball program.
Shortly after the police report was released to KTSM, NMSU chancellor Dan Arvizu announced the men’s basketball program had been shut down for the remainder of the 2022-23 season and wouldn’t play its final five games of WAC play.
“This action is clearly needed, especially after receiving additional facts and reviewing investigation reports related to the hazing allegations involving student-athletes on the team,” Arvizu said in a statement. “Hazing has no place on our campus, and those found responsible will be held accountable for their actions. We must uphold the safety of our students and the integrity of our university. It’s time for this program to reset. I have spoken with Western Athletic Conference Commissioner Brian Thornton earlier today and informed him of this decision.”
First year head coach Greg Heiar and his entire coaching staff were place on paid administrative leave as a result of the allegations on Friday. As of Sunday night, a university official told KTSM that they were still employed.
The report states that on Feb. 10, the victim – a member of the NMSU men’s basketball team – went to campus police wishing to file a report regarding a possible assault, but did not want to pursue criminal charges.
The police report cites three offenses for the three players: one count of false imprisonment, one count of harassment and two counts of criminal sexual contact. The victim told police that the incidents had been occurring since July or August of 2022.
In the witness report, the victim states that on Feb. 6, 2023, three members of the basketball team – whose names were redacted in the police report released to KTSM – allegedly, “held him down with him facing down, removed his clothing exposing his buttocks and began to ‘slap his ass.’ He also went on to state that they also touched his scrotum.”
The victim also alleges in the report that the inappropriate physical and sexual touching by his teammates had been ongoing issues inside the locker room at both the Pan American Center and on road trips.
The victim stated to police that he “had no choice but to let this happen because it’s a 3-on-1 type of situation.” The victim also told police that the incidents would usually happen in front of the entire team and that no one ever intervened.
The police report also states that there could be another member of the NMSU basketball program that has been subjected to the hazing and inappropriate conduct.
No criminal charges have been filed against any of the three players as of Sunday afternoon.
NMSU police are still investigating the incidents, according to the report.
Meanwhile, an exodus from the NMSU program continued on Sunday due to the new hazing allegations. Guard Kyle Feit announced his exit from the team on Sunday, joining two players who announced Saturday they were leaving after the team arrived back to Las Cruces after being in California.
The Western Athletic Conference issued a statement following the cancellation of NMSU’s season, saying that the remaining 12 WAC teams would qualify for the WAC Tournament automatically. The conference said it was still evaluating how games that would have included New Mexico State would be addressed with regard to seeding for the WAC Tournament.
“The Western Athletic Conference is committed to both the mental and physical wellbeing of all of our student-athletes. We are saddened and disappointed that hazing continues to be a part of our society at any level,” the league said in a statement. “Over the last 48 hours, our staff and membership have been working to find a solution that best protects every WAC student-athlete and institution. We fully support New Mexico State’s decision to suspend the rest of its season, as they take this time to focus on the health and safety of their student-athletes.”
WAC commissioner Brian Thornton also released his own statement regarding the shutdown and sent well-wishes to the alleged victim.
“My heart aches for the young man tied to these hazing allegations. The final decision is in the best interest of our conference as well as providing New Mexico State with an opportunity to heal and determine the future direction of their Men’s Basketball program,” Thornton wrote.
All of these new accusations against the New Mexico State program are completely unrelated to a separate ongoing investigation into a deadly shooting in Albuquerque on Nov. 19, 2022, involving now-suspended Aggies basketball player Mike Peake and four University of New Mexico students.
Police allege that the four students conspired to lure Peake to the UNM campus on Nov. 19, with plans of assaulting him as retribution for a fight at the Oct. 15 UNM-NMSU football game in Las Cruces. Peake and NMSU were in Albuquerque for the Nov. 19 rivalry game with UNM that was eventually cancelled.
Brandon Travis was killed in a shootout with Peake and Peake was shot in the leg after police say Brandon Travis, Eli’Sha Upshaw and Jonathan Smith assaulted him in the early morning hours of Nov. 19.
Smith, Upshaw and a 17-year-old girl who helped lure Peake to campus that morning on the promise of sex were also charged with multiple felonies in relation to the case, including aggravated battery and conspiracy.
Neither Peake, nor anyone else associated with NMSU has been charged with a crime in that case as of now.
New Mexico State University is currently having Rodey Law Firm conduct an external, third-party investigation of the events of Nov. 19 and the response to it by NMSU coaches, players and administrators.
Police say that three players – Marchelus Avery, Issa Muhammad and Anthony Roy – can be seen on surveillance video aiding Peake in the moments after the shooting and placing the gun used by Peake, plus a tablet, into the trunk of a car.
Multiple sources told KTSM that Avery, Muhammad and Roy are not the players involved in the alleged hazing incidents that have emerged in the last few days. The three players who have left the program since Saturday were also not the alleged hazing perpetrators.
New Mexico State will see its tumultuous season under first-year head coach Greg Heiar end abruptly, with a 9-15 record, 2-10 in WAC play.
Heiar was hired by New Mexico State in April of 2022 and signed a five-year contract that pays him $300,000 annually. However, there are certain elements of Heiar’s contract that the university could explore to potentially terminate Heiar and his staff for cause given what has transpired this season.
While the staff is currently still employed by NMSU and on paid administrative leave, Heiar’s contract stipulates that he has a duty to monitor Institutional Control and Program Management.
“Coach recognizes and acknowledges the importance of maintaining and observing the principles of institutional control over every aspect of the Program,” the contract reads in Section 1.1: Reporting and Institutional Control.
Under Section 1.2: Program Management, Heiar’s contract reads, “Coach must faithfully perform the customary duties of a head coach, including managing and supervising the Program, and must perform such other duties University’s athletics programs, consistent with his status as head coach, as the Director may assign.”
Further down in Heiar’s contract are 15 stipulations in which the university could terminate him with cause. Of those 15, two stick out in particular regarding the current state of the NMSU program.
One way the university could potential terminate Heiar for cause is a, “Failure by coach to report promptly to the Director any violations known to Coach of the Rules or University policy, rules or regulations, by assistant coaches, students, or other persons under direct control or supervision of Coach.”
Hazing is prohibited by the NMSU student code of conduct.
A second way the school could presumably fire Heiar for cause, per his contract, is, “A serious or intentional violation (or if University has a reasonable basis for believing that a serious or intentional violation occurred) by Coach (or any other person under Coach’s supervision and direction) of any law, rule, regulation, constitutional provision, bylaw or interpretation of University, the Conference or the NCAA.”
It must be reiterated again that Heiar is still employed and on paid leave as of Monday, Feb. 13. However, the NMSU Board of Regents will meet on Tuesday to discuss personnel matters in a closed session.
The Board cannot make any decision to terminate an employee behind closed doors; it must be done in an open session. However, NMSU’s chancellor does reserve the right to make personnel changes without Board approval, according to an NMSU spokesperson.