If the squeaky wheel is all that gets noticed, perhaps it takes the wheel snapping off the axle and careering onto a crowded sidewalk to get anyone to do something about it.
Sure, The University of New Mexico’s monthslong investigation(s) into its athletic department and its football program created a flash bomb of media attention Thursday when interim president Chaouki Abdullah handed down a 30-day unpaid suspension for Lobos football coach Bob Davie. It generated sound bites, flashy headlines and banter for the talk shows, even making a tiny splash on the national wires.
What it didn’t really do is land the stiff arm of justice on those calling for Davie’s head.
How could a man who was accused of civil rights violations, intimidation and interference with police investigations still have a job? How could the state’s highest-paid public employee still have an office when all around him are allegations of wrongdoing?
We’ll get to that.
Within 24 hours, Davie had launched a formal appeal. That night, he was back on the field, coaching the Lobos through the first day of spring practice at Dreamstyle Stadium and denying he did some of the things he has been accused of doing.
Bottom line, the majority of the people who pointed a finger at the coach — the players who accused him of forcing them to take the field despite injuries, of using racial epithets, of creating an unhealthy work environment through intimidation — didn’t cooperate when push came to shove.
What’s more, the people entrusted with channeling their complaints into action didn’t follow through. The system broke and that is what’s at the crux of Abdullah’s ruling.
He has implemented a plan to educate students, staff and coaches about the nuances of airing grievances and launching complaints. Within a matter of weeks or months he hopes to have everyone within the athletic department know the proverbial hotline for the university’s Office of Equal Opportunity, the arm that investigated Davie and issued an exhaustive 43-page report that, in part, outlined the cracks in the system.
For one, if someone lodges a complaint, he or she needs to know where to go. Writing anonymous letters to the media or talking about it in social settings isn’t enough. Problems don’t get fixed through anonymity and nothing gets done if the perception remains that the person responsible is the last line of defense. Students and staff need to know there’s always a formal option beyond the person in front of them.
Whether the allegations against Davie — including the salacious accusations of him protecting players in the face of sexual assault or other crimes — are true is anyone’s guess. The blurry lines of he said/she said got muddled by third-party reports and a lack of hard evidence when it was needed.
For immediate purposes, it probably doesn’t matter. The university exhausted months looking into the issue and found the coach may very easily be a bully, but no one could conclusively determine that he’s worthy of termination.
Until someone does, that squeaky wheel will be just that.
It’s going to take someone to do more than just complain.
Will Webber covers high school and college sports. Contact him at email@example.com.