I would have written this a few weeks ago if I anticipated its outcome correctly. Obviously, I did not.
I thought the University of New Mexico was suspending head coach Mike Locksley as a pretense to fully relieving him of his duties, the standard “We’re suspending you without pay until our lawyers tell us how to fire you the cheapest.”
But, on Sunday, Locksley returned to his office in Albuquerque, N.M., resuming his duties as if nothing had ever happened.
What happened, of course, was that Locksley attacked receivers’ coach J.B. Gerald, leaving Gerald with a split lip and the accusation that Locksley punched him.
“It was a heated argument with some grabbing, pushing and shoving,” Locksley told the Associated Press about the Sept. 20 altercation. “I did not throw a punch.”
But even if Locksley did not throw a punch, even if all Locksley did was grab and push and shove Gerald, then that should have been enough to lead the termination of Locksley’s contract. Immediately. Permanently.
Sure, coaches have gotten away with worse. Heck, Bobby Knight got away with events like this on a weekly basis. And in some parts of the country, if Paul “Bear” Bryant had come into a house and murdered someone, the family of the victim would not even press charges.
But that does not make any of these actions any less wrong.
Locksley is an employee of the state of New Mexico, much of his salary paid by residents of the state of New Mexico, and he has been entrusted by the state to help educate nearly 100 of its young adults. And Locksley, while on the job, violated the trust the university put in him, lost his temper, and engaged in a physical altercation with another member of his staff.
Yet that’s a leader the state of New Mexico feels comfortable entrusting to its students? That, like Locksley’s actions, is garbage.
I was horrified when New Mexico Athletic Director Paul Krebs initially decided that Locksley only needed to be reprimanded, as ESPN reported, but a little researched showed that a reprimand was required by the university to open further investigations.
When, on Oct. 14, Krebs announced he was suspending Locksley without pay for 10 days, I thought that this was just the first step, that sometime during the 10-day suspension, Krebs would call another press conference and announce the dismissal of Mike Locksley, that the university was enforcing some clause somewhere in his contract that allowed the Lobos to terminate his contract without pay if he violated university policy against violence.
Certainly the good people of New Mexico want better, right?
I guess they don’t.
Of course, what Locksley’s did was not that dissimilar from what Oakland Raiders head coach Tom Cable did. An assistant with the Raiders filed a police report that Cable punched him on Aug. 5, and like Locksley’s case, that accusation too fell flat, resulting in the case being dismissed before it ever reached trial.
But there is one important difference between Locksley and Cable – Locksley is a state employee paid to educate young men and turn them into adults; Cable is a professional football coach for a private organization dealing with men who, one would want to believe, are already completely adults.
While Cable probably should be fired for many reasons, I can understand the decision not to fire him. But there is no reason to keep Locksley, no solid one at least.
Sure, Locksley made a mistake. Anyone in that situation could have done the same thing. Tempers rise, emotions flare, clichés become abundant, and for a second you lose control. But do you think for a moment that if that happened at work, if at a meeting you grabbed, pushed, and shoved someone who worked under you, your boss wouldn’t fire you?
And you’re probably not even entrusted to mold young boys into men.
But because Mike Locksley is the head football coach, because he is the big honcho on campus, because he apologized, that makes it all okay.
Yes, Locksley got suspended, but it’s a slap on the wrist.
What’s $29,000 to a man making $750,000 a year?
Okay, Locksley had to miss a game, a game that his team went on to lose, just like the Lobos have done in every other game this season, but that’s a small price to pay.
No, Mike Locksley should have been suspended. Then fired. Permanently. Gone, goodbye. There is no excuse for why Paul Krebs did otherwise.
Of course, someone is going to call me a racist. Articles like this always spark at least one such comment. Someone is going to send me an email saying something to the effect of “If Mike Locksley were not African-American, you would never have written this article.” And I’m not trying to discourage anyone from sending such an email, because they’re my favorite to deal with.
Because they’re hogwash.
If Urban Meyer had done this, I would have written the same article, would have called for Meyer’s head with the same furor and passion that I’m calling for Locksley’s, because Meyer would have failed to accomplish the one aspect of his job that is most important.
Urban Meyer, just like Mike Locksley, has to be a leader first and foremost, to both his coaching staff and to his players. If he attacks any one of them, then, well, what kind of leader is he?
Not the leader I want teaching my children, that’s for sure.
If Locksley were anyone but the head football coach (or head basketball coach), he would have been fired.
J.B. Gerald? He’s cleaned out his office and is on paid administrative leave, code word for fired, and he was the other party in the altercation with Locksley!
But on Sunday, Locksley returned to work, hopefully a little wiser, but still just as guilty as when he left.
Should Locksley be given another chance? Sure. But not at New Mexico. Not now.
Let someone else take the risk; let someone else see if Locksley has learned his lesson. But New Mexico, for the sake of the students, make him pay a price first.
Something more than $29,000 at least.