ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The successful coach of the University of New Mexico’s men’s soccer team lobbied Monday against the possible loss of his program as administrators consider eliminating multiple sports teams to get finances under control within the troubled athletics department.
Coach Jeremy Fishbein told reporters his program was among those being “very seriously” considered for elimination. He and other alumni plan to address the Board of Regents at a meeting Tuesday.
“No sports should be cut at UNM,” he said in a statement. “Give our new athletic director and president time to develop a plan without losing great young people who are future leaders locally, nationally and globally.”
After taking over the program in 2002, Fishbein turned Lobo soccer into a perennial NCAA Tournament team. Trips to the postseason tournament were nearly automatic, with the team having made 11 appearances in 13 seasons.
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The team also has advanced to the Sweet 16 five times since 2004, which included trips to the Final Four and the national championship.
The outcry over cuts comes as the athletics department tries to recover from inquiries into the handling of public money by former Athletic Director Paul Krebs, who resigned last year.
A 2017 special audit of the department and affiliated fundraising groups found a lack of financial controls over public money, resulting in unpaid access to luxury basketball arena suites, overpayments to coaches and donor perks of golf and alcohol that failed to elicit donations.
There was also an expensive buyout for one coach, overestimated revenue projections for ticket sales and underestimated costs for travel, scholarships and personnel.
Although the university has instituted new controls and oversight, the athletic budget under consideration now is being scrutinized as it marks just the latest in a string of unbalanced budgets over the past decade.
Athletic Director Eddie Nunez is scheduled to address Regents on Tuesday. His office said there have been no decisions yet as to which teams could be cut and Nunez has said student-athletes will have a say before decisions are made later this year.
University President Garnett Stokes, who took over last month, had warned during a recent meeting that balancing the budget would not be possible without making “some extremely tough decisions.”