By Daniel Libit
Hasta la vista, take two.
Two Novembers ago, I announced on this blog my intentions to move on from the University of New Mexico’s problematic athletic department, so that I might delve into what disorders the wider world of college sports. This plan didn’t exactly happen, as it turned out, although I made my proclamation in good faith.
At the time, I was in discussions with the blockchain journalism startup Civil, which had recruited me to launch a national college sports investigative website on its platform. However, for various reasons — primarily, my uncertainties about the financial sustainability of the project — I pulled the plug on the deal just before signing an agreement with Civil, and shortly thereafter returned my attention to UNM’s South Campus for some unfinished business (h/t Steve Alford).
Since then, I: single-handedly bird-dogged UNM’s internal investigation of football coach Bob Davie; launched a 10-part podcast series (which included a news-making interview with men’s basketball coach Paul Weir); won my first public records lawsuit, against the UNM Foundation, on summary judgment; filed two additional UNM-related public records lawsuits (bringing the grand total to four); broke several key stories about the Attorney General’s criminal inquiries into UNM’s athletic department, including its plan to charge former AD Paul Krebs with conspiracy and fraud; sorted out how Lobo football cooks up its bogus crowd numbers; unveiled the convoluted, behind-the-scenes effort to repurpose the UNM Lobo Club; and gave the low-down on a duplicitous attempt to move UNM’s athletic administration into nicer offices, at a multi-million-dollar cost to the school. I also tweeted a fuckton.
All of that is to say: I’m confident that the last 16 months haven’t been a total waste.
The UNM Establishment never exactly embraced my existence, but those in charge did come to realize that the strategy of ignoring an aggressive journalist’s questions was not going to make me or their problems go away. Meanwhile, the kind of reflexive defensiveness of Lobo fans that I initially encountered, upon the site’s launch, has waned considerably over its duration. That perhaps has as much to do with the ongoing mediocrity of UNM’s “revenue” sports programs, as it does with any of the various scandals or skeletons NMFishbowl.com helped uncover.
Nonetheless, I’ve repeatedly been asked, especially over the last year, how long I would continue digging into this dunghill. “What’s your endgame?” is often how the query comes, typically from exasperated UNM supporters. I never had a good answer for how to assert a journalistic quota on a beat that reliably produces you-gotta-be-kidding-me stories.
To that point, if I was waiting for the reporting well to run dry, I’d still have a very long way to go. I’ve been fortunate to connect with such a robust and diverse network of sources, who have continued to ply me with juicy tips up to the very moment of this writing.
Certainly, if I was waiting for the day that UNM Athletics would be a totally wise and ethical enterprise, undeserving of Fishbowl-esque scrutiny, my death or severe carpal tunnel would be the only limiting factors.
The many problems that have been revealed in recent years are features, not bugs, and one cannot run out of money or story ideas betting against the righteousness or coherence of Division I college sports, wherever they are ventured. UNM just happens to give obscenely good odds.
I take heart, however, in recognizing that the Lobo audience has gotten much wiser to the bullshit, and that this website may have had something to do with that. It seems far fewer people, including state officials, are today willing to give Lobo officials their accustomed carte blanche to lie or hide.
In any event, this website was always intended to be a discrete project. And now just feels like the appropriate time for me to graduate from this school I never attended, but from which I’ve received a very instructive kind of education.
So, here’s what’s next: The Intercollegiate.
At start, The Intercollegiate will be anchored by an explanatory podcast that seeks to critically examine what is wrong with major college sports (thus, its perlustrating bulldog logo). I have been assembling a long list of interesting guests — including reporters, politicians, academics, lawyers, economists, athletes and advocates — that I’m in the process of trying to line up. Look for the podcast to launch late summer. Additionally, if eventually, I plan to visit my particular brand of records-driven, college sports investigative reporting upon other worthy targets across the country. For future updates, including its official launch date, I encourage you to subscribe to The Intercollegiate’s website and follow it on Twitter and Facebook.
As for NMFishbowl.com?
The last time I tried to bid adieu, I left the door open for occasional dabbling in Loboland, when time permitted and opportunities presented. Well, we see how that went. This time, for the sake of real progression, I think it’s necessary that we bring things to a resolute finale. And so, dear readers (and disheartened Aggie fans), you can consider this the endgame of NMFishbowl.com. (For real, this time.) The site will now carry forth purely in an archival capacity.
I do remain committed to pursuing my four UNM-related Inspection of Public Records Act lawsuits, and seeing each of them through to the bitter end. As every UNM official has learned to say, if not always sincerely: transparency matters. I encourage those New Mexico media outlets that cover UNM and Lobo sports to re-commit to their journalistic efforts in doing so, not only in the spirit of public service, but as a point of local pride.
Finally, I would like to again thank all of you who have listened to, written to, read, interviewed, hosted, or otherwise engaged me over the last couple years. It’s made for an often stimulating, if at times irritating, experience. I can only hope the same might be said in return.
Hasta la vista.