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Leshin’s take on UNM’s decision to eliminate sports programs

Decision made: University of New Mexico eliminates its men’s soccer program, its coed ski team, its women’s diving team, beach volleyball, and soccer coach Jeremy Fishbein is outraged

Fishbein’s team is the hardest hit, for it made the Final Four twice and was a respected top 25 national program

Arnie Leshin

By ARNIE LESHIN, Santa Fe Today

Kept in the dark throughout the process, the University of New Mexico can  now see the light, can now see what a hit its athletic department took.

It was done as the result of financial stability, of gender equity, and of ensuring the department’s future with proper management.

And so the men’s soccer team, the coed skiing program, the women’s diving team, and beach volleyball have been eliminated. It didn’t require a 24-page report chronicling, but that’s what was drawn up, It also effects slicing scholarship numbers.

The biggest hit was felt by the men’s soccer program coached by Jeemy Fishbein, who has spent 17 years at the school. He brought respect to the program by reaching the Final Four twice. His Lobos were also ranked in the top 25 numerous times.

Fishbein hadn’t heard anything about the situation and what it brought until he was contacted Wednesday night. His team will play its final season this fall, and hope that the possibility of the program will somehow being saved by through alumni donations, and the gathering masses with pitchforks and torches, or somewhere along those lines.

But Feinbein was so upset, he wasn’t interested in any of this.

“I don’t want to survive this way,” he said. “If the school decides they don’t want us, then why try to exist in a place where we’re not welcome”?

After hearing the unsetting news Wednesday night, Fishbein sent an email to the local news media saying soccer was too important to cut. He and six of his players plan to attend Thursday’s board of regents meeting to make one last plea to have the program saved.

“Lobo men’s soccer is too important to our state,” said Feinbein. “As well as soccer being the world’s most popular sport, or maybe they didn’t see the World Cup played in Russia. Thirty two nationals watched by millions all over the planet, and we become history to this great state.”

He added that the men’s soccer team has a winning history every other program at UNM can’t come close to matching.

This would indeed be a sad ending to Fishbein’s career with the school. He built a nationally respected program that had a popular fan base and reputation for transforming student athletes into productive members of society.

As for skiing, if the program hadn’t won a national title back in 2004, it’s doubtful anyone in the state would even know UNM had a ski team.

Beach volleyball and women’s diving was an easy target for elimination. Neither of them electrified the fan base.

But the loss of men’s soccer really hits hard. Fishbein hopes there’s still one final chance to inform the school that it was making a huge mistake.  “The bottom line,” he said, “is that the team doesn’t deserve the public dismissal it received”.

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