Amid NCAA investigation, Reffett hired to coach New Mexico's defense

Updated: February 8, 2008, 12:02 AM ET
Associated Press

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- New Mexico coach Rocky Long insisted Thursday there was "absolutely no link" between an NCAA investigation into his program and the departure of his top defensive assistant.

Announcing the promotion of cornerbacks coach Troy Reffett to defensive coordinator, Long denied that former coordinator Osia Lewis recently left for the same position at UTEP because of the NCAA probe.

"There's absolutely no link between him leaving and anything to do with the NCAA," Long said. "You ought to ask on the other end. ... The other school wouldn't hire you if there was a problem."

The NCAA has accused New Mexico of four rules violations in an academic fraud investigation. The school conducted an internal investigation that confirmed three of the charges.

New Mexico is contesting an allegation that an assistant coach interfered with the NCAA investigation. The school will present its case to the NCAA infractions committee at an April 18 hearing in Indianapolis.

Three unidentified assistants are accused of helping four recruits and one student athlete already enrolled at New Mexico improperly obtain course credits through Fresno Pacific University.

Two of the accused coaches were no longer with the program when the investigation was disclosed last fall.

Long, who is not accused of any wrongdoing, defended Lewis.

"He's been cleared of all problems with the investigation," Long said. "It had nothing to do with him leaving."

New Mexico is coming off a 9-4 season highlighted by the school's first bowl victory in 46 years, while Texas-El Paso went 4-8. The Lobos ranked in the top 20 nationally in many defensive categories while UTEP was near the bottom.

Long said there's a simple reason the 45-year-old Lewis would leave. Lewis aspires to become a head coach, Long said, and feels he can improve his stock under UTEP coach Mike Price.

"I'm a defensive head coach," Long said. "A guy who wants to run the show wants to work for an offensive head coach and that's what he'll do at UTEP. Mike Price is an offensive head coach, so Osia will be in complete control of the defense."

Efforts to reach Lewis for comment were unsuccessful.

UTEP hasn't announced the move, adding a measure of confusion, but a school official confirmed that Lewis is expected to be hired next week. An announcement has been delayed because his job application was being processed.

Reffett, 40, coached cornerbacks under Long for the past four years. Before that, he spent 14 seasons at UTEP, including in 2002-03 as defensive coordinator under former coach Gary Nord.

Reffett said he has no qualms about working as coordinator under Long, who makes the decisions about defensive schemes leading up to each game and, after kickoff, determines the adjustments.

"You can learn a lot that way," Reffett said. "When you sit in the meetings with him, he's got over 30 years of experience running this defense. Then, on game day, how he handles the course of the game, the flow, what he's thinking, how he puts together a game plan.

"It's a great situation to be in," he said.

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press