ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) - The University of New Mexico is expected to cut some sports teams to cut costs and now a prominent Lobo coach is stepping forward to fight back for the athletes it could affect.
Lobo men's soccer team coach Jeremy Fishbein is speaking out on the seriousness he believes his team and other sports may be facing.
Fishbein believes the men's soccer team could be facing elimination based on a recent conversation with UNM Athletics Director Eddie Nuñez.
"I met with our Athletic Director Eddie Nuñez this morning, and I asked, 'Is this a real concern, is this something... is this real?' and he said, 'Yes,'" said Fishbein.
A 16-year veteran of Lobo men's soccer, Fishbein has seen a lot of success as a coach. The men's soccer team has been to the NCAA soccer tournament 11 times in the last 16 years. The team's attendance is also among the best in the entire NCAA.
"These are winners man, these are kids that leaders amongst our peers, these are excellent students," said Fishbein of his team's players.
However, Fishbein believes soccer and its athletes are at risk due to the dynamics of the situation UNM is facing. The university is looking to cut nearly $2 million from Athletics Department costs by July 1.
"In terms of numbers, in terms of budget, in terms of gender equity, you know, there's a lot of soccer players," said Fishbein.
Fishbein is preparing to speak to his concerns during public comment at a UNM Board of Regents Tuesday.
"I'm going to do everything in my power to make sure no sports get cut," said Fishbein.
On Monday, the coach sent an email to alumni and media outlets, saying, "men’s soccer is one of the sports being 'very seriously' looked at in terms of being discontinued."
He believes that would have a negative impact on Albuquerque and New Mexico.
"I'm a little bit angry to be quite honest, it just should not even be it shouldn't be a thought," said Fishbein.
A former Lobo soccer player, Mike Gracyzk shares the frustration with his former coach, now co-worker.
"For this to be even in the conversation, it's tough... it's tough to swallow," said Gracyzk.
Gracyzk played on the 2005 men's soccer team that was the runner-up for the NCAA Division One national title. Today, he's an associate coach for the team.
Gracyzk worries about the leadership he believes New Mexico could lose without a Lobo soccer team.
"I can talk for days about how this program has done such a good job of serving this community and giving back to the community," said Gracyzk. "Just the amount of people that we're providing and business people within our community."
The UNM Athletic Department still has yet to finalize any sports that may go. Money from any team cuts would go toward paying back $5 million in debt, or money that university has lent to athletics throughout the years on the promise of getting paid back.