Originally created 12/08/00

NM State coach will honor his contract

LAS CRUCES, N.M. - Lou Henson was at New Mexico State for the school's finest season.

He promises he'll be here for what's likely to be a shaky future.

A day after the school imposed penalties on the men's basketball program for alleged recruiting violations that occurred during the tenure of former head coach Neil McCarthy, the 68-year-old Henson assured Aggie fans he has no plans to return to retirement.

"I'm stubborn and I plan to honor my contract," Henson told a group of school officials and boosters at a luncheon Thursday.

Henson, who turns 69 next month, earlier this year signed a four-year contract extension. The latest scandal to hit the Aggies' program, Henson said, won't keep him from trying to return New Mexico State to national prominence.

Henson is in his second coaching stint with the Aggies. He was here from 1966 through 1975, and led the Aggies to the Final Four in 1970. He went on to coach for 21 years at Illinois, retiring after the 1995-96 season as the Illini's all-time winningest coach.

When McCarthy was removed days before the start of practice for the 1997-98 season, Henson agreed to take over the program on an interim basis. At the end of that season Henson signed a full-time contract.

School president G. Jay Gogue on Wednesday announced the school was self-imposing the sanctions for NCAA violations dating back to 1996, the season before McCarthy was ousted during a contract dispute with former athletic director Jim Paul.

The sanctions include a ban on postseason competition this season; the loss of four scholarships over the next three years and two-years probation. NMSU also will not recruit any junior college players for the 2002-2003 season.

The university reported the possible violations last February and the NCAA has been investigating since then. The alleged infractions were discovered during a lawsuit involving McCarthy and the university.

According to a 142-page report released by NMSU in February, McCarthy allegedly obtained fraudulent academic credits - through correspondence courses - for two players with the help of a Mississippi junior college coach who was hired by McCarthy as an assistant coach.

The report said then Jones County Community College coach Fletcher Cockrell thwarted the efforts of other schools to recruit two of his players and that Cockrell's hiring by McCarthy appeared to be conditional on the two players signing with NMSU. The players, Louis Richardson and Antoine Hubbard, did sign with NMSU.

The accusations are similar to charges leveled against McCarthy's program several years ago that led to three years' probation and similar sanctions.


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