Inside the Capitol

Thursday, March 15, 2012

3-19 Might Big Ten be looking at UNM coach?

31912 Alford
PHOENIX – The Millers are spending some time in Phoenix again at this time of year enjoying good weather, family events, Arizona politics and Major League Baseball spring training.
Arizona politics, of course, are a political writer's dream. The president of the Senate has been impeached, demonstrations are being staged to protest the banning of Latino studies in schools and the governor says she eats scorpions for breakfast.
This year, even the sporting events are creating new interest. As more teams move from Florida to Phoenix, an increasing number of Midwesterners come for the month of March. Since this also is the month for March Madness in college basketball, we are hearing much more about the Big Ten conference.
It usually gets a bit old rather quickly. But this year, the Big Ten folks are talking about New Mexico. After Coach Steve Alford's New Mexico Lobos won the Mountain West Tournament, the Big Teners have started talking about how Alford will be back coaching in the Big Ten again next year,
Alford has coached in the Big Ten before. He led Iowa to some good seasons and tournament victories. But as with football Coach Rocky Long at UNM, it wasn't quite good enough to become a perennial powerhouse. So he resigned and moved on to New Mexico.
Now, after some successful seasons in Lobo land, these Big Ten fans seem assured that their conference will want him back again. Their guess is that Alford will go to Illinois, which fired its coach at the end of the season.
It won't be the first time a coach from New Mexico has gone to the University of Illinois. New Mexico State University basketball coach Lou Henson produced some great teams. After taking the team to the Final Four, he moved on to Illinois, where he stayed 21 years, compiling records for most wins and highest winning percentage.
Will Alford also go to the Big Ten? He's in the early years of a 10-year contract. Of course, contracts can always be broken. And they can be renegotiated. The Lobos have had a love affair with Alford and already have fought off other suitors. I bet Alford will stay.
Steve Alford may be planning to stay but former state Sen. Shannon Robinson is planning to return to the New Mexico Legislature. Robinson was one of our state's most colorful lawmakers. A tough Irishman, he always was ready for a fight – either words or fists, he didn't care.
For years, Robinson was an officemate of Sen. Johnny Morrow, another of New Mexico's most colorful lawmakers. When Morrow left the Legislature, Robinson carried on Morrow's tradition of trying to claw back the land Texas stole from us in an old. boundary dispute.
Following several scandals, the largest involving an appropriation Robinson secured for the UNM soccer team he coached,
Robinson was defeated in the 2008 Democratic primary by a 2-1 margin. He will now challenge Sen. Tim Keller for the seat he lost to him. But this time, Robinson is running as a Republican. He never did previously care much for Republicans. He even pointed out that Keller used to be a Republican.
But something unusual happened. Robinson's party change document was signed by former state GOP Chairman Harvey Yates. Will Robinson be able to run better as a Republican in a general election than in the Democratic primary?
The district is Democratic but Robinson supports some Republican causes that may attract some votes. Robinson sometimes likes to refer to himself as a Bull Moose, the party adopted by former President Teddy Roosevelt after being a Republican.
And some of Robinson's interests are popular with many Republicans. He was a major supporter of the concealed carry legislation for firearms.


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