New Mexico State men’s basketball coach fired amid program suspension from hazing allegations

By Gregory Karp and Lann Nguyen, March 21, 2023

According to a report from the New Mexico State University police department, a team member on NMSU’s men’s basketball team claimed that they were sexually assaulted during a hazing incident.

NMSU Chancellor Dan Arvizu announced the men’s basketball program’s suspension for the remainder of the 2022-23 season, insisting on an expansive review and full investigation into the case.

NMSU men’s basketball coach Greg Heiar and his entire coaching staff were fired or placed on paid administrative leave following the chancellor’s decision.

Jackson Gray | The Poly Post

The incident caused many universities around the nation to take notice of the allegations.

Cal Poly Pomona has a strict code of conduct on hazing, stating the department unequivocally prohibits any situation resulting in mental or physical discomfort, embarrassment, harassment or ridicule, according to the 2022-23 Student-Athlete Handbook.

Hazing is defined by the university as, any act, whether physical, mental, emotional or psychological, that subjects another person, voluntarily or involuntarily, to anything that may abuse, mistreat, degrade, humiliate, harass or intimidate the person — whether intended or unintended.

CPP’s Assistant Athletics Director and Acting Deputy Title IX Coordinator, Christie Joines, elaborated on hazing and its zero tolerance policy from the department.

Essentially, if an allegation of hazing is brought forth, then it is handled by the office of Student Conduct & Integrity and the Title IX office.

“Of course we’re here for advocacy support emotionally however we can assist,” said Joines. “I’m going to make sure that they are okay, that their well-being is okay, and then I can offer them additional support like, ‘Would you like me to walk with you up to the Title IX office or student conduct?’ Basically it’s ‘How can I be there to help you?’”

“Both parties are taken care of,” Joines said. “It’s not one-sided. I’m not in authority to make decisions on what’s right and wrong. I’m here to support and advocate and provide additional help if needed.”

Joines has worked in compliance for over 20 years and reflected upon the fact that hazing was not in the forefront like it is now.

“That’s the problem with hazing,” Joines said. “It seems really simple and fun, and then all of a sudden, somebody’s hurt in the hospital.”

She experienced a case in a previous institution where she worked where athletes thought it was funny to put laxatives in brownies for the cross-country runners.

“Once they took off running, they became so dehydrated and sick which led them to the hospital,” said Joines. “I’m sure it started as something so simple with the intent of making them sick to their stomach, but it really turned into something a lot bigger.

“There’s just no room for it in our programs, so if something like that comes up, the appropriate offices will be notified and police will be involved,” said Joines. “Since we are mandated reporters to a higher authority and we do not handle that in-house.”
Joines is proactive by meeting with each team in the athletics department at the beginning of each school year, covering hazing policies and emphasizing CPP’s zero tolerance policy.

“What I really try to focus on is all the great things we have going on in our department, like, we’re conference contenders year after year in all of our divisions,” said Joines. “We should be building each other up, focusing on the positive, looking towards the future and all the great things that we do.”

Caitie Mueller, CPP volleyball setter and liberal arts student, expressed the ways in which sports players sometimes confuse team building exercises with acts of hazing.

“I feel like a lot of people don’t feel like they’re hazing, initially, so that’s the issue of why it comes up more frequently than you’d think,” said Mueller. “There’s special cases where people know what they’re doing, but I think a lot of the hazing happens when they use the term ‘unity’ for a team or fraternity or, ‘Oh, we’re just bonding’ — but there’s so many different ways to do that without putting people at risk.”

Mueller added her involvement in CPP’s Student Athletic Advisory Community and the support offered to individuals in different campus sports teams.

“I’m a part of SAAC, and we have a lot of events that we put together for our athletes that help with community, not only with the teams, internally, but team to team,” said Mueller. “You can meet other athletes from different sports, and so I feel like a lot of support comes from that, being able to have those events that are outside of going to someone’s game to meet other athletes.”

Ryan Fields, a CPP track athlete and business student, relayed feelings of discomfort towards hazing practice within sports departments.

“I think hazing can be avoided by just holding each other accountable,” said Fields. “It definitely falls on the leaders of sports teams and fraternities. There’s definitely other ways than hazing and going to the extreme for initiation.”

Fields, a team captain for the track and field team, reinforced these statements by adding his personal experience of morale-building between teammates under counsel from his coaches.

“There’s a lot of support coming from both my coaches and my team,” said Fields. “This year and last year, our team was very strong, teamwork-wise and relationship-wise. They’re my second family. When I’m hurt or did badly at a meet, they’re always there to pick me up and support me. And likewise, we all have each other’s backs.”

NMSU’s basketball team has received much news coverage recently from hazing allegations and a shooting. While head coach Greg Heiar has been fired, hazing in athletics has only begun to be dealt with through effectively reporting cases and spreading a zero tolerance message to other universities.

Feature image by Jackson Gray

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