Athletics department finance chief to leave after year on the job

December 18, 2018

ALBUQUERQUE — The person charged with fixing the accounting practices inside the University of New Mexico’s mangled athletics accounting office has decided to leave that task for someone else.

Rob Robinson announced he has stepped down as the chief financial officer of UNM athletics effective Jan. 2, vacating a post he started less than a year ago. Hired in November 2017, he began work at UNM in January.

He was hired away from the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga to take control of UNM athletics’ accounting practices, inheriting a mess that had come with multiple investigations that revealed shoddy bookkeeping and mismanagement of funds. The department had run up a multimillion dollar deficit under previous athletic director Paul Krebs, forcing incoming AD Eddie Nuñez to eliminate four sports in order to bring spending under control.

While Nuñez has become the public face of Lobo athletics, Robinson slid into the role of being the man running things behind the scenes. He appeared alongside Nuñez at numerous Board of Regents meetings as well as the Regents’ monthly Finance and Facilities Committee meetings.

“It’s bittersweet,” Robinson said by phone Monday. “Moving away from Tennessee was a hard thing to do for my entire family and, really, I’ve come to love everything about New Mexico in my short time here.”

Robinson was an undergraduate student at the University of Tennessee and later graduated from law school in his native state. He has spent nearly all of his seven years after law school working in college athletics, first at UT-Chattanooga and then UNM. He will return to Tennessee to practice law, likely serving in a role working for the city of Chattanooga, although nothing was formally announced Monday about his next job.

In a press release issued by the school, Robinson thanked Nuñez, UNM President Garnett Stokes and the Regents, as well as the staff and people inside the athletics department.

“My time here has been an invaluable experience, especially working with such a dedicated and creative team,” Robinson said in the school’s release.

Nuñez said he would begin the search for Robinson’s replacement immediately but did not set a timetable for when he would have the next CFO in place. It coincides with several new spots being filled on the Regents, meaning a number of significant changes will be made in both athletics and in the administration that has taken a hardline stance against the department’s repeated failures to properly manage its budget.

“Rob has been a great asset to the department and UNM,” Nuñez said in the release. “He came in at a point where we needed to completely overhaul the way the athletic department’s finances and policies were managed. In a relatively short period of time, Rob has updated our business policies and procedures, helped the department address all the various audit and HED issues and put Lobo athletics on more stable financial footing.”

In short, if money was part of the discussion at UNM, Robinson was there dictating how it was used and where it was going.

He was being paid $105,000 annually from the school, but Nuñez said his successor may not earn the same amount. Robinson’s official title was that of senior associate athletic director and chief financial officer, and his departure is the second high-level loss felt by the athletics department in December. Less than two weeks Nuñez fired associate athletic director Brad Hutchins.

He said Monday he will work through the end of this week, return to Tennessee by the holidays and then hand over the reigns as the new year begins.

“I know the timing’s not ideal with some of the things coming up, but I’m at peace with this,” Robinson said.

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