New Mexico State men’s basketball coach fired after alleged hazing incident on team
(LAS CRUSES, N.M.) — The New Mexico State University men’s basketball coach has been fired days after the program was suspended for the rest of the season amid an investigation into alleged hazing incidents, the school’s chancellor said.
Dan E. Arvizu, chancellor of New Mexico State University, said he decided to terminate coach Greg Heiar earlier on Tuesday, after learning of the hazing allegations involving the students on the team.
“As I’ve stated previously, hazing has no place on our campus, and those found responsible will be held accountable for their actions,” Arvizu said in a statement. “I am committed to the safety and well-being of all members of our campus community, as well as to the integrity of our university.”
The chancellor added that the school will work to “ensure that support systems are in place to prevent this from happening again.”
Arvizu said he informed the university’s director of athletics, Mario Moccia, of his decision Tuesday afternoon.
Heiar, the former Northwest Florida State coach, was hired by New Mexico State University in March 2022.
ABC News was not immediately able to reach Heiar for comment.
The decision to terminate Heiar comes two days after the chancellor announced he had suspended the men’s basketball program for the rest of the season.
“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 on Sunday, adding that it’s “time for this program to reset.”
The allegations surfaced Friday as the men’s basketball team was in Southern California preparing for a game against California Baptist University in Riverside, Arvizu said in a statement Saturday night. He said he immediately suspended the basketball program, canceled Saturday’s game and placed the coaching staff on paid administrative leave.
“We took this action after receiving reports of alleged hazing incidents within our men’s basketball team,” Arvizu said in his statement.
According to a New Mexico State University Police Department report, a player reported the alleged incidents on Friday, claiming they have been “hazed” by three teammates in the locker room of both home and away games for several months, usually in front of the entire team.
Arvizu said the players and coaching staff were called back to the school in Las Cruces and interviewed by university personnel specially trained to conduct investigations into hazing incidents.
“The most important job I have as Chancellor of the NMSU System is to ensure our students are safe and protected from harm,” Arvizu said. “That’s why I was so heartbroken and sickened to hear about these hazing allegations.”
Arvizu did not provide details of the incidents or say when they occurred. In his statement, Arvizu added, “hazing is a despicable act. It humiliates and degrades someone and has the potential to cause physical and emotional harm, or even death.”
“Sadly, hazing can become part of an organization’s culture left unchecked,” Arvizu said. “NMSU policy strictly prohibits hazing, in all forms, and it’s something we simply will not tolerate.”
School personnel were “recently informed of new allegations” involving the potential violations of school policy, the Las Cruces university said in a statement.
The New Mexico State University Board of Regents said in a statement that it “supports the action taken by the university leaders and is confident a full and thorough investigation will be conducted.” The board noted it was informed of the suspension Friday evening.
In a statement on the university’s website, the Board of Regents announced it will hold a closed-door meeting on Tuesday on matters that “may include discussion of personally identifiable information about individual NMSU students.”
The men’s basketball team competes in the NCAA Division I Western Athletic Conference.
In a statement Sunday night, WAC Commissioner Brian Thornton said: “The Western Athletic Conference is committed to both the mental and physical well-being of all of our student-athletes. We are saddened and disappointed that hazing continues to be a part of our society at any level.”
“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,” Thornton said. “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.”
The allegations are unrelated to a fatal shooting involving one of the men’s basketball team players that occurred in Albuquerque late last year, the school said.
On Nov. 19, forward Mike Peake was allegedly involved in a pre-dawn shootout on the University of New Mexico’s campus while in Albuquerque for a game against the school, New Mexico State University officials said.
Brandon Travis, 19, and three other University of New Mexico students allegedly lured Peake to the campus to assault him, New Mexico State Police said.
Travis allegedly confronted and shot Peake, 21, who returned gunfire, police said. Travis was pronounced dead at the scene, and Peake was transported to a local hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, police said.
A 17-year-old was arrested and charged with aggravated battery and conspiracy in connection to the shooting, and no additional arrests have been announced. The incident remains under investigation by state police.
That weekend’s Albuquerque game and a Dec. 3 rematch in Las Cruces were canceled, and Peake was suspended from the team.
In December, New Mexico State University announced it will launch an independent investigation into the events and university response involving the shooting.
ABC News’ Nick Kerr contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.