ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Tuesday afternoon, University of New Mexico Athletic Director Paul Krebs finally faced the media to explain why he changed his mind and decided to fire Lobo Basketball Coach Craig Neal. He also laid out how the school plans on coming up with Neal’s $1 million buyout.
Krebs says when he announced a few weeks ago that Craig Neal would be coming back for another season, he was trying to quiet the noise that he says had become a distraction. Then on Friday, he decided it was time for Neal to go.
“There were some things that influenced our decision. Transfers were certainly part of that. Economics are a part of that,” Krebs said.
Four scholarship players decided to leave the team before Neal was fired. Of course, attendance is way down the past few seasons.
To add to the money problems, the athletic department is now on the hook to pay a $1 million buyout to Neal over the next two years.
Krebs believes getting the right head coach could ease the sting of a buyout.
“With the right leader in place, I would expect that our season ticket sales would rise. I would suspect that associated with that we may see an uptick in donations,” Krebs said.
Krebs says another option to deal with the department’s money woes is to backload the contract of the new head coach.
As for the coaching search, he would not say if they were close to hiring a coach.
This is the fourth big payout during Krebs’ 11 years on the job. He has sent basketball coach Ritchie McKay packing, along with football coaches Rocky Long and Mike Locksley, who was a Krebs hire. They costed more than $2 million combined to buy out.