Jeremy Fishbein endured one of his most painful experiences as a coach within the past week when he helped a New Mexico men’s soccer player transfer from the Lobos, he said at a press conference Tuesday.
Fishbein, the men’s soccer coach in his 17th season at UNM, would not comment to the Journal last Wednesday when it was reported the Lobo men’s soccer team was told its spring soccer season will not happen. Men’s soccer was one of three sports cut after a UNM Board of Regents vote in August because of athletic department budget struggles. At that time, regents, UNM President Garnett Stokes and Athletic Director Eddie Nuñez said the student athletes in the cut sports would be fully supported through the duration of their coming seasons (men’s soccer’s regular season ends in November) and would all remain a part of department until the July 1, 2019, elimination date.
Fishbein was candid with the media, yet held back at times, saying, “I have to be careful in what I say,” and, “I have a very biased opinion. Now is not the time for me to share my biased opinion.”
However, Fishbein expressed disappointment about the decision to cut the Lobos’ spring season, which consists of practices and five matches used to prepare for the regular season in the fall.
“I have to support our leaders but it was tough,” he said. “It’s really upsetting to our players. To their credit, our guys are keeping focus. They’re looking into other options.”
Several men’s soccer players said they feel UNM broke a promise to them by not letting them have a full spring program of practices and games, it was reported in the Journal.
Fishbein remains proud of his team, which defeated visiting South Carolina 2-1 on Saturday, when the Lobos moved from eighth to sixth in the Conference USA standings, in position for a spot in the postseason conference tournament.
The Lobos (4-9-0, 2-3-0 in conference) are preparing for a tough matchup at No. 3 Kentucky (10-1-1, 4-1-0), which sits atop Conference USA, Sunday at 11 a.m.
Fishbein said it was humbling to help the player he did not name with transferring.
“As a coach and as a coaching staff, our first priority is supporting our guys and to provide the best experience as possible,” he said. “If it’s not going to be here unfortunately — because they want to be here — I have an obligation to support them. It’s not easy. It doesn’t seem natural.
“I feel like I’ve been here, man, 18 years,” he continued. “I’m a loyal New Mexican through and through. This is the greatest place to play sports in the country in my mind. How can I help them go somewhere else? But that’s my job right now.”
Fishbein only smiled, as if he were holding back on what he wanted to say, when a television reporter commented that if even if it is possible for a reinstatement of the program that there would not be any players in the program.
Fishbein said he will be employed at UNM through June and that he has not made future plans after November.
“As long as I’m here I have to believe there is hope,” he said. “I have to, don’t I? I respect hard decisions that have been made … I work for smart people who care for our students. I have to believe at the end of the day that everybody associated with UNM is all about the students, the student-athlete experience and cares about them. There must be more to it, but all I can do is love our guys, and support our guys, and help them become successful men. It’s challenging.”