UNM men's soccer team at risk of being dropped, coach says | KOB 4
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UNM men's soccer team at risk of being dropped, coach says

J.R. Oppenheim
April 17, 2018 07:10 AM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The University of New Mexico's Athletic Department is "very seriously" considering an end to the men's soccer team in order to deal with financial problems, according to the team's head coach.

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In an email provided to KOB Monday afternoon, UNM head coach Jeremy Fishbein said he was told during a meeting with Vice President for Athletics Eddie Nuñez that the program could be discontinued.

Nuñez and new UNM President Garnett Stokes last week brought a budget proposal to the Board of Regent's Finance Facilities Committee. The plan included major cuts to reduce the department's $4.7 million deficit for the upcoming fiscal year. Those cuts included a reduction in the number of sports.

"We are better off supporting fewer sports but doing it well than we are stretching ourselves too thin and compromising the high-quality experience our student-athletes should expect from this institution," Stokes said last week.

Fishbein, however, said in his email that UNM shouldn't cut any athletic program and they "can and should be great in everything we do" with proper oversight and support.

"Give our new athletic director [Nuñez] and president [Stokes] time to develop a plan without losing great young people who are future leaders locally, nationally and globally," Fishbein wrote.

Just got off phone with Lobo Soccer Coach Jeremy Fishbein who says cutting soccer is “not an option.” @KOB4

— Jen French (@JenFrenchKOB) April 16, 2018

In 16 years under Fishbein, the men's soccer team has been one of the university's more successful programs. He's led the team to 11 NCAA national tournaments, including the championship game in 2005 and to the semifinal round in 2013. Fishbein's teams have won nearly 75 percent of its games, and he's sent more than 30 players to the professional ranks.

The men's soccer program began 1983. They are currently in Conference USA, which men's soccer members include major collegiate schools like Kentucky and South Carolina.

"Nothing should be cut in my mind," Fishbein told KOB. "Our student-athletes are our greatest asset. We have to protect them, and that's a promise we made when we recruited them to UNM."

UNM spokesperson Dan Jiron said a decision won't be made anytime soon. Nuñez has until July 1 to complete his evaluation of the sports programs and present them to the university president.

"Decisions regarding the number of sports that UNM athletics is able to support will be made over the course of the coming months," UNM Jiron said.

Fishbein said some Lobo alumni plan to address the Board of Regents at its Tuesday morning meeting.

"To hear men's soccer as a chance surprised me," said UNM associate head coach Mike Graczyk, himself a Lobo alum. "The amount of incredible things this program has done in this city, done for myself, done for countless friends, players, community here- I was kind of shocked to hear."

"I think that you could take a little bit from all of the sports," added another UNM alum, Volcano Vista High School soccer coach Billy Thiebaut. "You could be fiscally accountable to what's going on now and look at the long-term impacts number one that soccer or any of the sports have had and look at the long-term impacts that they will have in the future as well."

Former @UNMLoboMSoccer and current MLS player (San Jose Earthquakes) Chris Wehan comments on the UNM men’s soccer team possibly being cut #GoLobos pic.twitter.com/iW0pzDVOke

— Isabel Gonzalez (@cisabelg) April 16, 2018

The men's soccer team isn't the only program on the potential chopping block in recent years. One year ago, then-athletic director Paul Krebs announced his intention to shut down the UNM ski team – the first Lobo program to win an NCAA title – to save $600,000 yearly in operating costs.

The ski team lobbied the university to save their program, and acting President Chaouki Abdallah decided to overrule Krebs' recommendation and reinstated the program for the 2017-18 season.

UNM competes in nine men's sports and 11 women's sports.

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J.R. Oppenheim

Copyright 2018 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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