UNM’s public dismissals undeserved
Well, that couldn’t have gone much worse.
The public relations disaster that is the University of New Mexico’s elimination of team sports reached an all-time low Wednesday night when the school inexplicably jumped the gun by releasing a 24-page report chronicling its plan to cut men’s soccer, beach volleyball and both skiing programs, not to mention slicing scholarship numbers for other programs.
It was done in the name of financial stability, of gender equity and of ensuring the department’s future with proper management.
“It’s layoffs,” said one Lobo coach Wednesday. “People are losing their jobs and kids are losing their chance to play. That’s all this is.”
And it’s all done in a very public setting that seemed clunky and unfair. Multiple coaches said they were kept in the dark throughout the process, including one of those losing his job.
Men’s soccer coach Jeremy Fishbein hadn’t heard a single thing about the situation until he was contacted Wednesday evening. The Lobos will play their final season this fall, and when asked before Wednesday’s news broke about the possibility of his program somehow being saved through alumni donations and the gathering masses with pitchforks and torches, it was something he simply wasn’t interested in.
“I don’t want to survive that 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?”
Not so fast, people.
At 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, he 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 his program be saved.
“Lobo men’s soccer is too important to our state,” he wrote, ending it with, “Love New Mexico and what we stand for!”
With the people entrusted to keep his team safe, he’s the only one standing up trying to keep it alive. If he fails, it’s truly a sad end to a program that, until a few months ago, seemed impervious to the changing landscape at UNM.
The Lobos have reached the Final Four twice and been a national-level program for nearly two decades. It’s a perennial Top 25 team with a history every other program at UNM can’t come close to matching.
It’s also a sad end to Fishbein’s career with the school he’s called home for 17 years. The man built a nationally respected program that had a solid fan base and reputation for transforming student-athletes into productive members of society.
Bottom line, he didn’t deserve the public dismissal he and his team got Wednesday.
While he’d be the last to throw anyone under the bus, a few moves UNM made did actually make sense. Skiing was an easy target for elimination. So, too, was beach volleyball and women’s diving. None of those sports electrified the fan base and, let’s face it, if skiing hadn’t won a national title 14 years ago, it’s doubtful anyone in this state would even know UNM had a ski team.
Ending soccer therefore hits the hardest but, as Fishbein will point out Thursday morning, here’s one last chance to avoid making a huge mistake.
Will Webber’s weekly commentary is an opinon piece about local sports. Will covers UNM, prep sports and basically anything in between. To contact him, email email@example.com.