Greg Heiar's first season as the head coach of the men's basketball team at New Mexico State University began in horrific fashion — and now it's over. The school has canceled the team's season and fired Heiar after a student at a rival school was fatally shot and one NMSU Aggies player accused several teammates of hazing him.
Last November, on the eve of a matchup in Albuquerque against the University of New Mexico, NMSU forward Mike Peake broke curfew and ventured out to a nearby apartment complex, where he got into a scuffle with four UNM students, three males and one female. The group allegedly began attacking Peake with bats, and Peake eventually drew a weapon and fired a single round. That round struck suspected attacker Brandon Travis, 19, who later died.
During the mayhem, Travis also managed to draw a weapon and fire a round which struck Peake in the leg. Peake has since undergone three surgeries to address that injury, he claimed on social media.
Investigators determined that the UNM students "lured" Peake to the apartment complex in order to "assault" him and consequently ruled the fatal shooting an act of self-defense. Peake has not been charged with any crime, but he was suspended from the team, pending further investigation into that incident as well as a fight during a football game which may have precipitated it.
"I'm apologetic about what happened. I take full responsibility for what happened," Heiar said at the time. "We are going to continue to get better as a basketball team and put a great product on the court. I take full responsibility. I can't say anything more than that."
Following the shooting, the basketball game between NMSU and UNM scheduled for Nov. 19 was canceled, as was the second matchup between the two teams in Las Cruces on Dec. 3.
But the game cancellations did not end there. On Sunday, NMSU chancellor Dan Arvizu canceled the remaining six games on the Aggies' regular-season schedule, as well as the team's participation in the Western Athletic Conference tournament after one player on the team alleged that three of his teammates had engaged in repeated acts of hazing.
According to a police report, the three teammates got hold of the victim in the men's locker room on Feb. 6, "removed his clothing exposing his buttocks and began to 'slap his a**.'" The report also stated that the three suspects touched the victim's "scrotum" during the alleged attack. The victim told police that he had to go along with the assault because it was "a 3 on 1 type of situation," and he was outnumbered, KOAT-TV reported.
The victim later stated that he did not want to press criminal charges against his teammates but added that the assaults actually began in July or August of last year. He claimed that the assaults were often conducted in front of the entire team, though it is unclear which team members are allegedly involved since all of the players' names were redacted in the police report. The offenses listed on the report include harassment, criminal sexual contact, and false imprisonment, but no one has been charged with any crime in connection to the allegations.
Following the accusations, Chancellor Arvizu issued a statement, announcing that Heiar had been fired. "As I've stated previously, hazing has no place on our campus, and those found responsible will be held accountable for their actions," wrote Arvizu, whose contract was not renewed and who will vacate his position at the end of the school year. "I am committed to the safety and well-being of all members of our campus community, as well as to the integrity of our university."
The NMSU Aggies will officially finish the season with a record of 9-15, as their final six games will be considered forfeits. Though they struggled in 2022-2023, the Aggies have been a strong basketball program historically. They have won their conference tournament nine times in the last 13 years, participated in 26 NCAA tournaments, and reached the Sweet Sixteen five times. Next year, NMSU will leave the Western Athletic Conference and join Conference USA.
Last year, Heiar, 47, led the Northwest Florida State Raiders to their third junior college national championship in school history. He was hired at NMSU in March 2022.
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