Locksley survived rough first season at New Mexico

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By The Staff

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico coach Mike Locksley isn't hiding from his mistakes.

Going into his second season, Locksley has quietly rebounded from a turbulent rookie year, aided by guidance from coaches like Tony Dungy and eager to show his program can make news for more than lawsuits and fights between coaches.

Last season, Locksley was in the wrong headlines. There was a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by a former administrative assistant, then came an ugly altercation with a former assistant, which led to Locksley serving a 10-day suspension.

Things were rough on the field, too — the Lobos finished 1-11. This fall, they're picked last in the nine-team Mountain West. New Mexico opens Sept. 4 at Oregon.

Still, Locksley remains confident his vision will elevate his team to the heights of conference heavyweights Utah, TCU and BYU. He has accepted responsibility for his off-field problems and moved on after taking more than a few lumps.

"If you look at the non-football news, they were human resource issues," Locksley said. "If I learned anything from it, it's that the head coach is like a CEO. There are structural things involved in managing. As an assistant, you're not put in that role."

Locksley said he survived last season with help from friends in the business — Houston coach Kevin Sumlin, Larry Fedora at Southern Mississippi and Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy.

"Mike has really kind of taken care of himself," said Gundy, who worked with Locksley at Maryland early in their careers. "He'll call every so often and ask questions. He's a smart guy. He wants to gather information and do everything he can to put himself in position for success."

After last season, Locksley also started regular chats with Dungy, the former NFL coach who won a Super Bowl with Indianapolis. They rarely talk football; More often, it's things like management philosophies or dealing with family in a profession known for long hours.

"It's a wealth of knowledge when you get a chance to speak to him," Locksley said.

In the fallout after last year's mess, New Mexico athletic director Paul Krebs told Locksley that any more off-field problems would prompt his firing.

Against that backdrop, Locksley kept nearly every member of his coaching staff — only quarterbacks coach Tee Martin left for Kentucky.

Among those who stayed in Albuquerque are Doug Mallory, a member of LSU's national title staff in 2008; George Barlow, who helped craft James Madison into a Football Championship Subdivision national contender; Darrell Dickey, the former North Texas head coach; and Rubin Carter, a standout with the Denver Broncos from 1975-86.

"These guys are big-time coaches who have other opportunities, year in and year out," Locksley said.

Then on signing day, defensive tackle Calvin Smith of Hialeah, Fla., stunned viewers on a national cable television show when he announced he was picking New Mexico over Alabama, Florida State and Tennessee. Locksley credited his recruiting contacts and those of his coaches.