The University of New Mexico board of regents approved a plan to eliminate men’s soccer, men’s and women’s skiing, and women’s beach volleyball after the 2018-19 season to address a need to close a nearly $2 million budget gap.
In addition, the program cuts will help get the university more in compliance with Title IX guidelines, as UNM does not offer participation options for female student-athletes that are in line with enrollment figures.
Numerous students, coaches, and members of the community voiced their disapproval of the recommended cuts, including men’s soccer coach Jeremy Fishbein and members of the men’s soccer team.
“Soccer is the future. Soccer is diversity. Soccer is progressive. Do you think they’re cutting soccer in Arizona, in Denver, in Salt Lake City? They are not,” argued Fishbein.
The men’s soccer program has been one of the most successful team sports for the university since its inception in 1996, with eight conference championships, 12 NCAA tournament appearances, including an NCAA tournament runner-up finish in 2005.
With a stadium capacity of 6,200 and a much smaller budget, the soccer program could never compete with other sports like football and men’s basketball in regards to attendance and revenue, but Fishbein and his coaching staff succeeded in building a nationally recognized program at New Mexico.
The plan to eliminate the four programs was developed and supported by first-year Athletic Director Eddie Nuñez and first-year President Garnett Stokes.
“This outcome weighs heavily on me,” said Stokes. “These are things over which we as leaders lose sleep when we have to make such tough recommendations.”
“I know there is nothing I can say to you that makes this situation any better. Please do know this, our recommendation has been made with great deliberation, and with the sincere belief our very painful choices are what is needed for the long-term future success of athletics.”
The elimination of the four programs will provide the athletic department approximately $1.2 million in savings. The remaining $800,000 budget gap will need to be addressed with other cost savings in the department.