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Lowry says she belongs on the bench

Associated Press

LAS CRUCES, N.M. -- Former New Mexico State coach Nikita Lowry is angry the school took her off the bench and named her an assistant athletic director.

"I'm a basketball coach, that's my craft, that's what I do," Lowry said Tuesday.

The move followed allegations by some of Lowry's players that she was abusive. One player said Lowry had pulled her hair during a practice. Another said she was forced to run until she collapsed and had to be hospitalized.

Lowry, who was in her second year as head coach, has denied the allegations and said Tuesday she wants the university to look further into the allegations.

"Am I guilty of the allegations. Am I innocent. I would think that's what people would want to know. If the allegations are so bad, should I be reassigned or should I be removed?" she said.

Athletic Director Brian Faison said the school's contract with Lowry gives NMSU the authority to reassign her. He said Lowry would have various duties in her new job, from working with programs that target former NMSU student athletes and youth to working on community outreach projects.

Lowry's new title is assistant athletic director for constituent relations, Faison said in a telephone interview.

Lowry said she had not talked with Faison about her reassignment and found out about it through a memo. She said the school had not addressed the allegations by reassigning her.

"I would hope they would do a good faith investigation," Lowry said. "It seems to me they've (allegations) been swept under the rug and I've been reassigned. I don't think that's fair."

"We've had drawn-out, protracted discussions and we've had several points where we had an agreement ... and things have changed," Faison said Monday.

Faison said the move was the best way for the program to move forward. Both Faison and Lowry declined to comment on what would happen if she refuses the reassignment.

"We'll address that if it happens," Faison said.

Lowry was placed on administrative leave Dec. 20 and assistant coach Marlene Stollings was named interim coach. Stollings and the two other assistants, Derek Johnson and Josh Pearson, quit last week in protest, saying the athletic department had stopped communicating with them.

On Sunday, several NMSU players talked about their grievances with the coach at a school-arranged news conference. Most of the players said they would quit if Lowry remained the head coach.

Faison said the school has started a search for a new coach. Elmer Chavez, an assistant to the men's basketball coach, is the current interim coach.

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