A Year in the New Mexico Fishbowl

By Daniel Libit

Today marks the one-year anniversary since NMFishbowl.com went online. And how long ago that now seems.

Back then: Craig Neal was the University of New Mexico men’s basketball coach; WisePies was the arena; Paul Krebs was the athletic director; Bob Frank was the school president; Scotland was sans “gate”; Bob Davie was an unblemished paragon of virtue (in Albuquerque, at least); Cody Hopkins’ P-Card was the great accounting scandal of Loboland; IPRA was perhaps better known as the International Professional Rodeo Association; and UNM athletics was not yet the target of three state investigations.

Time flies when, well…

The originating purpose of this website was to exhibit a model for the kind of infiltrating, fearless and adversarial journalism (in other words: journalism) that is lacking in the realm of intercollegiate athletics. The University of New Mexico, by happenstance of my birthplace, became the unwitting subject of this experiment.

I had no doubt that the ground was fertile, but I didn’t realize just how abundant the harvest would be. For that, all credit must go to the subject. UNM: you have truly been a reporter’s godsend — a taxpayer’s horror, perhaps, but a reporter’s godsend. And so this project took on a life of its own. To spare you a thousand more words along these lines, I enlisted the talents of illustrator Jim Siergey, who I think quite marvelously captured (above) the experience of the last 12 months.

During this time, I endeavored not only to produce interesting and relevant journalism for New Mexicans, which may not otherwise have seen the light of day, but to prick the national conscience on what it actually means to cover college sports journalistically — and why it is important for journalists to cover this beat, first and foremost, as that of a public institution.

Since launch, NMFishbowl.com has been visited by roughly 100,000 people from over 80 countries (plus or minus Russian bots). The site has been profiled by the Chronicle of Higher Education and the New York Times and its reporting has been cited by ESPN, USA Today, Deadspin, the Washington Post, Politico, Sports Illustrated, and many other news outlets.

There are still things I hope to publish in this space, but over the next few weeks I’m going to begin to wind things down here as my attention migrates to other concerns, which include exploring ways of applying Fishbowl-esque scrutiny to the larger world of college sports.

Steve Alford once remarked, parroting Jim Valvano, “You don’t mess with happy.” I’m not sure what that has to do with this, but it seems to be the thing you say when you’re about to take leave of the Lobos. Yet, I’m not entirely disappearing from the scene.

I plan to keep this website up for as long as I don’t forget to pay my web-hosting fees. And so long as it’s up, I’ll be keeping tabs and accepting tips, to whatever extent I can do anything about it. My public records lawsuits against the UNM Foundation and Lobo Sports Properties will carry forward (the recent state audit report into Lobo athletics underscored the civic importance of this litigation). And I will continue to try and find ways to support investigative journalism and open government efforts in New Mexico.

Those who wish to track my future exploits and general ravings are encouraged to follow my personal Twitter account, @daniellibit. You can continue to send messages to me at editor@nmfishbowl.com or through this site’s contact page.

At last, I want to extend a heartfelt note of gratitude to the site’s readers — devotees and detractors, alike — and particularly to the dozens of named and unnamed sources who have been the lifeblood of this reporting. From one New Mexican to another: this work has been my distinct honor, even if it hasn’t always been your pleasure.

FOREVER #SHOWLOBOS

(Lead illustration by Jim Siergey for NMFishbowl.com)