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Virgen: Fishbein still fighting for men’s soccer

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

Up until July 20, Jeremy Fishbein hadn’t really used Twitter as much. His handle @LoboCoachFish was mostly dormant or used by assistant coaches and sports information staff to remind followers of upcoming games or events, he said.

Fishbein is more about face-to-face contact and says that Twitter didn’t feel genuine enough for him. But then July 19 happened. That was when four sports were cut, including men’s soccer, because of budget and Title IX issues. His photo was on the front page of the Journal on July 20. He took to Twitter.

“LOBO SOCCER AIN’T GOING ANYWHERE AMIGOS!” he tweeted.

That was among the first of many tweets from Fishbein, who has experienced myriad emotions since men’s soccer was cut in July and then again last week at a Board of Regents meeting because the first one had not been in compliance.

“It’s a hard situation to be in,” Fishbein told me on Tuesday. “You almost feel like you’re an outsider looking in, in terms of anytime you’re involved with athletics you always want to be progressive, you’re always looking toward the future. I’ve given my heart and soul to this place for 17 years. It’s hard to imagine that you won’t have that ability.”

Fishbein didn’t appear defeated while sitting in his office. But he described his situation, his final season, “like living a slow death.”

He said he doesn’t know how to prepare for the end.

I see him more as a coach who is not going down without a fight. He tweets reminders of who is supporting his program (a photo of him with Albuquerque mayor Tim Keller), and the importance of men’s soccer in New Mexico and at UNM. He wants fans to show up to the men’s soccer game against Seattle on Friday night. He said he believes his job as coach has become even more important.

I see a coach who is reacting with anger. But that’s when Fishbein corrects me.

He said he’s careful when he goes on Twitter. He wants clarity when he tweets. He has experienced anger but doesn’t express such when he’s on Twitter, he said.

“You can’t be angry at individuals,” Fishbein said. “You have to be upset with the outcome. It’s not about being angry. It’s about being challenged and finding ways to protect something that’s so dear to me.”

Fishbein said he is careful not to criticize individuals. He’s aware of social media guidelines for UNM employees.

“They’re pretty vague,” he said of the rules. “I tried to cover myself. I asked our athletic director (Eddie Nuñez) about any concerns or anything that I did that might have affected the program. He said no. He gets it.”

Fishbein loves to write. He sees Twitter as an abbreviated form of writing.

I asked him if he ever has fun with it.

“I haven’t really had any fun in quite a while,” he said. “This thing has been 24/7. I have probably never been so consumed or so focused in my life. I’m proud of myself that I have been able to keep some form of balance, diet and exercise. (But) I probably haven’t been as good as a father or a husband as I should be. It’s been one heck of a challenge.”

Fishbein said he feels responsible for not living up to the commitments he made to players and recruits that he would coach them at UNM. It isn’t his fault, but he still feels that way. And it’s one of several reasons he will continue to stand up for his program until it’s officially removed.

This isn’t entirely about a coach who is not going down without a fight.

“It’s a coach who believes in this state,” said Fishbein, who has been humbled by the support. “It’s a coach who believes in the youth of this state. It’s a coach who believes in the impact of this program. As someone who loves New Mexico, I think (soccer is) an integral part of this state and I’m going to stick up for that. I don’t think (cutting men’s soccer at UNM) sends a good message to progressive-minded people.”

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