Absent from the NCAA Tournament this year is a frequent participant, my alma mater, New Mexico State University. The Aggies are usually one of the top teams in the WAC, and last year took Arkansas down to the wire in the second round. What followed one of the best seasons in school history was one of the most shocking scandals that have not been talked about enough. New Mexico State had both a player kill a person in self-defense, and a sexual abuse scandal, in the same season.
In March of 2022, head coach Chris Jans left the school for Mississippi State. Shortly after that NMSU hired little-known coach Greg Heiar, a coach with no Division 1 experience, to head the program. It has now become evident that Mr. Heiar was in way over his head.
In October of 2022, Forward Mike Peake was involved in a brawl at a football game between NMSU and the University of New Mexico. Brandon Travis was involved in this altercation, and in November, he and two associates jumped Peake at the University of New Mexico dorms. Travis had a firearm and one of the other men had a bat when they attacked Mr. Peake. Peake responded to the attack by running on foot while being shot at, to which he returned fire, killing Travis. Peake was hit by one of the rounds that Travis fired, suffering a leg injury.
Peake, after suffering his injury, was then taken back to the team hotel where he gave his gun to assistant coach Dominique Taylor. When the police sought to locate the gun and speak to NMSU players, Heiar had the team board their bus in an effort to return to Las Cruces. Eventually, the bus was stopped on the interstate and returned to Albuquerque. Peake’s gun was found inside Taylor’s hotel room wrapped in a towel. Peake will not be charged with murder because of the video footage that demonstrates a clear self-defense claim, additionally, the police have been referring to him as the “victim.”
Somehow, this was not the worst scandal that rocked the program. In early February it is revealed that three players were involved in the hazing of one of their teammates. The names of those involved have not been released. However, the allegations in the police report are the following: Harassment, False Imprisonment, and Criminal Sexual Contact. Details about this situation are scarce currently, however, the situation is serious enough that Chancellor Dan Arvizu canceled the season on February 12th, and two days later, he fired Heiar.
New Mexico State now stands at a crossroads, one of its own makings. Arvizu has said that there will be a season next year, but who would want to come into this situation? I cannot imagine a situation where the NCAA does not sanction the program. Further, they will need to hire a coach that can rebuild the school's credibility with both the community and the players.
Wake Gardner is a 1L at the Brandeis School of Law at the University of Louisville. Someday he hopes to work for a sports team in Florida. He can be reached on Twitter @WakeGardner and by email at [email protected].