New Mexico coach Craig Neal gets $5.7M, 6-year contract

Craig Neal is the only New Mexico coach to reach the NCAA tournament in his first season.

Troy Babbitt/Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports

 

New Mexico men’s basketball coach Craig Neal has agreed to a new six-year, $5.7 million contract after leading the Lobos to the NCAA tournament in his first season at the helm, the school announced Monday.

Neal, who took over after Steve Alford left for UCLA before last season, was already under contract through 2020, so the deal doesn’t extend the length but is ”essentially” a pay increase, New Mexico athletics spokesman Matt Ensor said.

New Mexico had signed Neal to a contract extension in March.

Neal led New Mexico to a 27-7 record last year and is the first coach to lead the Lobos to the NCAA tournament in his first season.

”This means a lot to me and our program,” Neal said. ”I’ve received tremendous support from our administration, university and fans in my first year as head coach. It all reaffirmed to me that the University of New Mexico is where I want to spend my career.”

Athletic director Paul Krebs said Craig has done an exemplary job in his short time as head coach.

”It became even more apparent to me over the offseason that Craig is well-respected nationally in the basketball community,” Krebs said. ”After watching him manage a national program, recruit high-caliber student-athletes and solidify himself as a top coach in nation, I felt it was vital to ensure his place as head basketball coach at the University of New Mexico for years to come.”

Neal was introduced as New Mexico’s coach in April 2013 after spending six seasons as associate head coach under Alford.

As the program’s top assistant from 2007-13, Neal was a key figure in the program’s six conference championships during that time, school officials said.