New Mexico officials are downplaying an incident that occurred in July between coach Mike Locksley and Ryan Tomari, the sports editor of the student newspaper the Daily Lobo, at the Uptown Sports Bar and Grill in Albuquerque.
The university also denied it is involved in a possible coverup to protect Locksley.
According to the Daily Lobo, Locksley became involved in a heated exchange with Tomari over a column the sports editor wrote that was critical of the coach and program. Tomari later told his bosses that he became uncomfortable with the discussion and Locksley's demeanor because the coach used profanity.
Locksley was apparently uncomfortable too. After learning that the incident might be reported, he returned to the bar a few days later and obtained a copy of surveillance video, which is now at the center of the alleged coverup.
The Daily Lobo released a statement Thursday night saying it originally had no plans to report the incident "because at the time we did not know about the existence of surveillance footage that would support Tomari's account." Once the newspaper was told of the tape, it requested a copy from the university, but officials denied the request.
Albuquerque TV station KOB also asked Lobo officials if a reporter could view the tape but were told no.
The newspaper also requested a copy from bar owner Adam Krafft and he declined.
"Your employee was not confronted, and the tape shows a respectful encounter," he wrote in an email response to the Daily Lobo. "I gave a copy to Locksley since he is always misrepresented. Write something good about the program, and fill the seats. All the negativity doesn’t help the program win."
A twist to the story is that New Mexico did allow Albuquerque Journal reporter Greg Archuleta to review the tape on Aug. 26 in the presence of Locksley and an unnamed athletic department official. The university said Archuleta "came to the identical conclusion of the athletic department that there was nothing to the dialogue, and there was no story or wrongdoing on the part of coach Locksley or the reporter."
The Daily Lobo contacted the Journal to get a response from Archuleta but was told "that the substance of his interview is present in today’s Albuquerque Journal."
In that story, Archuleta writes: "I did ask Locksley if he cussed at him, and he said 'no.' He said he [approached Tomari because] he had a problem with one of the columns Ryan had, because Ryan said the program was in 'shambles.' "
KOB talked with Locksley Thursday night after his weekly radio show and the coach continued to deny any wrongdoing.
Lobo sports information director Frank Mercogliano now says the school disposed of the video after allowing Archuletea to view it.
"We do not have possession of the video," he said. "After the video was viewed, we got rid of it because there was nothing on it. There was no reason to keep it."
Locksley, the university and Board of Regents are being sued by former receivers coach Jonathan Gerald over a altercation between the men a year ago. Gerald, who is no longer with the program, alleges that Locksley choked him, punched him in the face and cursed at him in front of peers and athletes. The lawsuit alleges race discrimination. The suit does not specify an amount, but says Gerald experienced physical and emotional pain and suffering, lost wages and other damages.
Locksley was suspended for 10 days for his role in the incident.
Locksley was also sued for sexual harassment by a former administrative assistant. The case was settled out of court.
Locksley, in his second season as coach, is 1-13. His team, which has been outscored 124-17 in two games this season, plays host to Utah on Saturday.