It’s been a little over a week since University of New Mexico regents voted to eliminate 4 sports programs, despite numerous passionate objections from around the campus and the city.
The men’s soccer program was one of the cuts, but Coach Jeremy Fishbein is holding onto hope that the reaction in the community, and among some state lawmakers, might signal that all is not lost.
He told KUNM’s Elaine Baumgartel that the players, who have one more season to go at UNM, are hanging in there ok.
Fishbein: I tell you what. I’ve learned so much about these guys in a short period of time and, they’re doing pretty well. It’s kind of a perfect storm, we’re right in the middle of camp, so these guys are dealing with hundreds of kids and I think they’ve been energized and unified to know the impact they have on our community and the responsibility. So it’s been, on one hand an incredible experience for them, and to realize that something that you take for granted that you are always going to have, it’s gonna both come to an end and it can be taken away from you. So, I couldn’t be more proud of a group of young men.
KUNM: It wasn’t just budget issues that were the source of this decision, you’ve got the UNM report about Title IX compliance and the lack of opportunity for women athletes. What responsibility do you think you have to help address that issue? Or do you?
Fishbein: My wife was an athlete here at UNM, my wife played tennis here. I got two kids, they’re both daughters and they are both athletes. So in terms of being an advocate for women’s sports you’re not going to find one stronger than me. So first and foremost, we have to create opportunities for women, they have to be treated at the same level as men. And we got to support it. That’s just common sense. Why that is even an issue here or anywhere for that matter, the only people we look at is ourselves. That’s an embarrassment.
Now we’ve made moves to work towards Title IX compliance. Now the problem with the Title IX, that throws Title IX out of whack, is when you have sports, male sports, with just huge numbers. And there’s an elephant in the room, but you know what, we are committed to football at the University of New Mexico, as we should [be]. That’s not the issue. We’re gonna have football, let’s have a great football team, let’s have a community based football team. So you have a large number of athletes and you gotta match that with women’s teams. But it’s gotta be serious women’s teams. We got to eliminate the fluff. If we got 116 serious male football players, let’s get 116 serious female athletes and the sport’s irrelevant. Let’s find out what best fits New Mexico.
KUNM: What are you doing right now to try to get this decision reversed?
Fishbein: It’s not even conceivable that Lobo Soccer’s not going to be part of our community. This has kind of galvanized people, but the bigger picture, it’s not Lobo Soccer. Maybe getting these groups of people together, maybe this public outcry, maybe we can look at ourselves and say how can we use this energy? Let’s get this state going. Let’s get things in our whole athletic department going. Let’s be unified. Let’s cross party lines. I think that’s the message and it’s been interesting this last week. I’m not a big political guy. I’m kind of a right and wrong guy, but we need to get past all this little infighting in this state. You wake up you see the sky, you smell the air, at the end of the day of thes camps, you look at those mountains, you see the sun set, man, this is the most incredible state in the country. What’s better than this? So, how are we struggling? We gotta get on the same page. Yeah, we’re gonna get this soccer thing sorted out, we’re gonna get our athletic department sorted out, but maybe somehow this message and by looking at ourselves closely, this can affect things on a much larger scale.