CORRECTION: Taos coach cleared of abuse allegations after weekend investigation

·3 min read

Sep. 21—Correction appended

Taos High School football coach Art Abreu Jr. said his school district cleared him of abuse claims made by a former player over the weekend and has resumed his coaching duties.

Abreu Jr., in his eighth year at the school, said Tuesday he was placed on leave Friday when district officials were informed of allegations of physical, verbal and mental abuse. Taos Superintendent Valerie Trujillo declined to elaborate on the investigation, calling it a personnel matter.

Abreu Jr. said he did not know of the specifics of the abuse but was told the accusations came from a former player. There were also allegations he allowed players to smoke marijuana and drink alcohol before and after games and practices, Abreu Jr. said.

Trujillo said the district did not look into any claims of alcohol use.

The investigation did not last long, as Abreu Jr. said Taos athletic director Hernando Chavez informed him Saturday evening he could resume coaching duties Monday because officials could not confirm any of the allegations. Abreu Jr. added he was told more than 50 people were interviewed.

Trujillo said she could not disclose how many people were interviewed.

"It was a very thorough and complete investigation, but I am unable to disclose anything since it is a personnel matter," Trujillo said.

Chavez and Trujillo confirmed Abreu Jr. will be on the sidelines for Friday's nondistrict game at Bernalillo.

The Tigers head into the contest with a 3-1 record, having won three straight after a season-opening loss to St. Michael's on Aug. 20.

Abreu Jr. called the decision a vindication of his coaching reputation.

"There was zero evidence found about the accusations," he said. "Let me repeat that — zero evidence. It was a thorough investigation, and it goes by fast when there is zero findings."

The allegations, he said, went against his philosophy of coaching, adding that any player who was under the influence of drugs or alcohol would pay the price just by participating in his practices.

"The way I conduct my practices, I would have kids dropping like flies [if that was happening]," he said.

Abreu Jr. comes from a family of coaches. His dad, Art Abreu Sr., was head coach at Las Vegas Robertson from 1991-2003, then in the mid-2000s was an assistant at New Mexico Highlands University. His grandfather, Leland Abreu, coached multiple sports in Northern New Mexico and is best remembered as a head basketball coach at West Las Vegas, Peñasco, Taos and Highlands.

Abreu Jr., a 2002 Robertson graduate, spent seven years as an assistant at NMHU before taking the Taos job in 2014. He said he learned to run a disciplined, rigorous program from them, and he felt hurt that his reputation was challenged.

"We hold ourselves to a high standard," Abreu Jr. said. "I got two other guys who I share my name with [along with his son, Art Abreu III]. We worked so hard on this name to build it into a respectable liking around the state of New Mexico and in the Southwest region. I'm not going to do anything do damage that."

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated Taos Municipal Schools Superintendent Valerie Trujillo said the district investigated abuse claims by a player. The statement was made by Abreu.