'Media silence' offered for $500,000

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- University of New Mexico president David Schmidly said Wednesday that an attorney representing an assistant football coach sent a letter offering "continued media silence" in exchange for a $500,000 settlement in a dispute with head football coach Mike Locksley.

Schmidly said the overture was rejected.

"I outright refused it," Schmidly said during a news conference. "I turned the letter over to our legal staff and told them the answer is no."

Julian Haffner, a lawyer in Bethesda, Md., who is representing receivers coach J.B. Gerald, didn't immediately return telephone messages seeking comment.

Gerald, who claims he was punched and choked by Locksley, made his first public comments about the dispute during an interview broadcast last week by ESPN. Schmidly said he "wouldn't be surprised" if Gerald files a civil lawsuit against the university.

Later, administrators released a Nov. 3 letter to Haffner in which university lawyers expressed concern that Haffner had tried to speak to other New Mexico assistants without the school's permission.

After weeks of criticism over the Locksley mess, administrators gathered reporters on campus Wednesday to clarify their version of events since the Sept. 20 altercation.

Gerald said he sustained a split lip when Locksley struck him. Locksley admitted grabbing Gerald's collar but maintains he never threw a punch.

The latest developments changed nothing for Locksley, who last month served a 10-day suspension for his role in the altercation. Athletic director Paul Krebs said the coach will enter an anger management program after the season.

"Coach Locksley's behavior surrounding an argument with a member of his staff was wrong, plain and simple," Schmidly said. "He has painted this university, the athletic department, Lobo football and himself in an extremely poor light."

New Mexico (0-8, 0-4 Mountain West) plays Saturday at No. 17 Utah (7-1, 4-0).

Schmidly acknowledged the school made mistakes in following internal personnel procedures as the investigation unfolded. He also said the university improperly failed to provide records requested by several news organizations, including The Associated Press.

"We bungled the process in the areas I have mentioned, and we have already taken steps to correct and refine our procedural issues," Schmidly said. "But, and I want to repeat this, I am not aware of any evidence that would suggest a cover-up."

The university's vice president for human resources, Helen Gonzales, emphasized her investigation wasn't able to corroborate Gerald's claim to police that he was punched.

Gonzales also said notes gathered by an athletics administrator were not used in the university's official investigation because that person, Shannon Garbiso, was not a trained human resources investigator.

She also said Garbiso didn't use a tape recorder to document her meetings with assistant coaches and later compiled the notes from memory.

Garbiso's notes confirm that Locksley was swinging his arms while being restrained by assistant Mike Degory. Another assistant, Cheston Blackshear, reported that "Locks grabbed him (Gerald) by the shirt and started choking him."

Gonzales said her subsequent talks with the coaching staff failed to corroborate Gerald's claim.