The proposed cuts voted on by the University of New Mexico Board of Regents last summer was one of the biggest sports stories of 2018 for Albuquerque.
But despite campaign promises by both candidates running for governor of New Mexico — beach volleyball, men's soccer, and men's and women's skiing will no longer be a part of UNM Athletics as the calendar hits July 1.
Some members of the community were outraged by the decision to eliminate the four sports, questioning the fairness involved in forcing current student-athletes to make a sacrifice for problems they played no part in creating. The decision to eliminate the sports had to be made twice, as the first meeting was said by the Attorney General to have violated transparency laws.
There were plenty of people who vowed to fight the decision, pledging to get the programs reinstated before they were slated to be cut — including from some prominent politicians, such as State Reps Patricia Lundstrom, D-Gallup, Moe Maestas, D-Albuquerque, and Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller. At one point, legislative funding was contingent on reinstating the four sports, but that provision was struck from the final bill.
As the clock ticked down on the final week of the men's soccer program, Jeremy Fishbein took to Twitter to reflect on his tenure as the team's head coach and discuss his immediate future.
He said Lobo men's soccer embodied what collegiate athletics are supposed to be about and said it was an honor for him to serve as the team's head coach for the past 18 years.
"We have developed great and impactful young men," Fishbein tweeted. "We are part of the educational mission and have made New Mexico a better state."
He added that it was up to "all of you" to bring the program back.
The likelihood of program reinstatement is a long shot, according to University officials. Title IX compliance, budget concerns and fan engagement are all factors UNM said it had to consider. UNM had sustained 22 sports until 2019, much higher than the 19 the NCAA reports as athletic program averages.
President Garnett Stokes and Athletic Director Eddie Nuñez both maintained the plan to eliminate the four sports, which also included roster management implementations to other programs, was a difficult decision — one that was not made lightly.
Academic success and the prestige of the programs probably didn't make things any easier.
Beach volleyball compiled a cumulative 4.0 GPA at the time of the Regents' vote, while skiing and the men's soccer program also garnered perennial high academic marks.
The ski team brought UNM its first National Championship in 2004. This season, Ricardo Izquierdo-Bernier added an individual national title in the Nordic Classic. He was selected as the Men's Nordic National Skier of the Year, while UNM's Joe Downing was tabbed as the National Alpine Coach of the Year.
Men's soccer had also experienced plenty of success, making 12 NCAA Tournament appearances this millennium — including a run all the way to the NCAA title game in 2005.
Arguments could be made that each of the sports are experiencing growth across the United States — and perhaps even more so here in Albuquerque when evaluating the soccer landscape and the fan reaction to New Mexico United's inaugural season.
Regardless of how one weighs the popularity of these non-revenue sports and the successes they experienced both in and out of the classroom, July 1 will bring an end to the four programs.
During the 2018 August board meeting, the Regents clarified that the University of New Mexico would honor the scholarships of all student-athletes involved in the programs if they decided to stay at UNM to allow them the opportunity to earn their respective degrees.
Robert Maler is the sports editor for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers basketball and baseball and contributes content for various other sports as well. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Robert_Maler