- Mark Schlabach, ESPN Senior Writer
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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- J.B. Gerald, the former New Mexico assistant coach involved in an altercation with Lobos coach Mike Locksley earlier this year, said this week that Locksley choked and punched him during the attack.
Gerald, the team's former wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator, said Locksley jumped on his chair and punched him while other New Mexico assistants tried to separate them during a heated staff meeting on Sept. 20.
Locksley and University of New Mexico officials dispute Gerald's charges, saying the fracas was nothing more than a shoving match during a heated coaches' meeting.
But documents obtained by ESPN.com and "Outside The Lines" through New Mexico's open records laws support Gerald's claim that he was choked and that Locksley tried to punch him.
The altercation led to Locksley's being suspended without pay for 10 days on Oct. 13. Locksley, who is 0-6 in his first season at New Mexico, returns to the sideline when the Lobos play at San Diego State on Saturday.
Gerald, 27, said Locksley attacked him after the two argued about a play while watching film from the Lobos' 37-13 loss to Air Force on Sept. 19.
"Next thing you know, he's jumped into my lap," Gerald said. "He put his hands around my collar and neck and was choking me. He's pulling me up out of the chair, and I grabbed his hands so I could get them off my neck."
At that point, Gerald said, New Mexico quarterbacks coach Tee Martin and offensive tackles/tight ends coach Cheston Blackshear grabbed his arms to pull him away from Locksley. Mike Degory, who coaches the team's centers and guards, was trying to restrain Locksley, Gerald said.
"All the coaches kind of rushed over, and Tee and Cheston grabbed me by my arms and Degory grabbed Locksley," Gerald said. "But Locksley's hands were free and he was just throwing punches. He was throwing punches and hit me right in the mouth. I could taste the blood in my mouth."
According to an Albuquerque Police incident report, a copy of which was obtained by ESPN.com and "Outside The Lines," Gerald suffered a split upper lip and scratches on his arms.
Locksley doesn't deny an altercation took place, but he said that the dispute was nothing more than "pushing and shoving" and was over in only a few seconds. Locksley adamantly denied punching or choking Gerald.
"I walked up to him and grabbed him around the collar for about a second and a half to three seconds," Locksley said. "The next thing I know, Cheston Blackshear jumped over the table, grabbed me and separated us. A lot of pushing and shoving ensued as coaches got in to intervene and it was defused, like I said, in a matter of seconds."
When New Mexico suspended Locksley, athletic director Paul Krebs said the school's investigation couldn't corroborate Gerald's claims that Locksley punched him. Krebs said none of the other offensive coaches at the meeting told investigators from the university's Human Resources Division that they saw Locksley throw punches during the incident.
However, ESPN.com and Outside The Lines obtained Human Resources Division investigator Shannon Garbiso's handwritten notes from her interviews with other assistant coaches who witnessed the altercation. Garbiso's notes, which are believed to be the only notes or transcripts from the interviews, were obtained through New Mexico's open records laws.
According to the notes, Degory told Garbiso that Locksley "reached out and started choking him." Degory added: "I held Locks back as he was still swinging at Gerald."
Blackshear told Garbiso that Locksley "grabbed him by the throat and started choking him." Martin told Garbiso that "all of the sudden, coach Locks was grabbing coach Gerald around the throat choking him."
"All I can say is what I've said throughout the HR investigation," Locksley said. "I grabbed J.B. Gerald, which is wrong, and I shouldn't have done. The fight was broken up within a matter of seconds, and that I never threw punches and that I never landed or hit J.B. Gerald."
In an interview with ESPN.com and "Outside The Lines" on Wednesday, Krebs said the school had no evidence that Locksley threw punches during the fracas.
"There has been no evidence that supports a punch," Krebs said. "There is no witness that confirms he saw a punch thrown."
Gerald declined to pursue criminal battery charges against Locksley, but reported the incident to Krebs and the school's Human Resources Division the next day.
Krebs initially reprimanded Locksley for his role in the altercation, but the Human Resources Division stepped in to determine if Locksley violated university policies against campus violence. The coach could have been fired under the policies.
Gerald said Locksley apologized to him during a meeting in Locksley's office on Sept. 22.
"When I went to talk with him, he told me, 'I don't even remember punching you. I must have blocked out,'" Gerald said. "He told me I gave him 'that look.' I was like, 'The look? That made you do that?' He apologized to me, but told me, 'I'm more sorry I put my life in your hands.'"
According to coaches who have worked with Locksley in the past, this isn't the first time he was involved in an altercation with a coaching colleague. Two coaches who worked with Locksley when he was offensive coordinator at Illinois said that Locksley threw a chair and bottle at former Illini defensive line coach Tom Sims during the summer of 2008. Sims is now defensive line coach at Kansas.
Locksley acknowledged having an heated argument with Sims, but denies throwing a chair at him.
"We've had a heated discussion, argument, chairs kicked and things like that, but never a chair thrown," Locksley said.
Two other coaches said that Locksley was involved in a heated altercation with current Illinois special-teams coach Mike Woodford in a hotel bar in Nashville during the American Football Coaches Association convention in January. Gerald said he and another Lobos assistant had to pull Locksley out of the bar to defuse the situation.
"He was going crazy," said the head coach of another NCAA school, who witnessed the incident in the bar. "I told the New Mexico coaches to get him out of there or none of them would have a job."
"Woody and I are great friends and we have had a number of debates, arguments, incidents," Locksley said. "But nothing to this magnitude like J.B. and I [had]."
Gerald said that Locksley threatened to hit him during an argument at a New Mexico practice on Aug. 13. Gerald said Locksley became upset with him after the team's third-team offense botched a play during practice. Locksley denied ever threatening physical violence against Gerald.
"He walked over to me and said, 'This is my [expletive] field. I reserve the right to say whatever I want to whomever I want and that includes coaches,'" Gerald said. "I told him, 'Coach, that's true, but you're not going to talk to me like I'm one of your kids or players.' He said, 'I'll slap you right now. I'll slap you right now.' I told him, 'No, you won't slap me. You will not slap me.' I walked off and he walked off."
Locksley described Gerald's actions during that particular practice as "insubordinate."
"I think somehow J.B. may have taken offense to something I said to his players," Locksley said. "It became what I saw or thought to be an insubordinate conversation on the field, [which] normally doesn't take place between assistant and head coach."
Krebs said he believes New Mexico has taken the appropriate actions.
"I think what we're doing is operating on the facts as we know them, based on the information from the people in the room," Krebs said. "Nobody can confirm and nobody acknowledges a punch being thrown."
Krebs said he doesn't condone Locksley's actions, but believes his coach has a paid a fair price for his mistakes.
"There was a physical altercation and we've acknowledged that from the beginning," Krebs said. "We're acknowledged that Coach Locksley put his hands on him. It was a physical altercation. It was wrong. He's been suspended, fined and a number of actions have been taken because of what he did. There's no way to condone what's been done. It's wrong and he paid the price for that and our football program has paid a price for that."
Locksley said he's sorry for what happened.
"By no means am I condoning my actions," Locksley said. "There is no place for a leader like myself or any leader to let a heated argument get to that point. So for that, I was wrong and again I've apologized. I've suffered some embarrassment as far as my family, the university, the university community and I can't apologize enough for it."
Gerald, who is on paid administrative leave, said he's paid a price for the fracas, too. Krebs said Gerald was offered an opportunity to rejoin Locksley's coaching staff, but Gerald said his coaching career at New Mexico is over.
"I refuse to work for somebody who thinks they can put their hands on me in the place of work, let alone anywhere for that matter," Gerald said. "I won't work for him another day."
Mark Schlabach covers college football and men's college basketball for ESPN.com. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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