For this year’s wrestling season, it’s sad to say, Iowa isn’t going to win a dual meet and Clarion is going to go undefeated. No, that’s not a Golden Eagle fan wishing for the best. It’s just that there isn’t going to be a wrestling season so both of my predictions are correct.
And, by the start of the 2021 wrestling season, the sport will be short another 30 collegiate programs.
Let’s see if we can wade through what I just wrote?
To begin, college football won’t be played this year either. Regardless of anyone’s individual beliefs regarding the severity of the pandemic, there isn’t one college or university who will risk the fallout should any of their players become hospitalized, or far worse, succumb to the virus.
How can any institution justify playing a full contact, get in your face sport when the general student body, if they have classes, are being forced, by the same leadership, to wear protective masks and adhere to social distancing policies?
It’s really tough listening to athletic administrators saying they remain focused on the health and safety of their student-athletes, and then talk about the possibility of a season. If they actually believed what they were saying, they would have punted on that idea a few months ago.
Let’s say for the sake of arguing, that I’m right. Or, if I’m wrong, that each team will only play against other conference schools. Either way, I believe the word decimated comes to mind with regards to non-revenue sports.
It’s been estimated that every Top 20 football program in America will lose roughly 60 million dollars if there isn’t a season. Half that much if it’s conference play only. Either way, that would make athletic budgets tighter than a Spencer Lee headlock.
That’s why the University of Iowa won’t win a match in the Big 10’s this year and it’s how Clarion will go undefeated. That’s what happens when seasons are canceled.
However, if football is lucky enough to have at least an abbreviated season, what do you think the odds are that basketball will follow suit? It’s probably a good bet. Even if they don’t, given that our athletes are unable to wear protective facemasks, and by the nature of the sport, are the largest offenders of social distancing, does anyone really think that wrestling is going to have a season?
Before we go further, let’s look at a chart that was recently published by the Business Insider. They listed the Top 15 collegiate sports by their average annual revenue.
1 Football 31,900,000
2 Men’s Basketball 8,190,000
3 Men’s Ice Hockey 2,860,000
4 Women’s Basketball 1,800,000
5 Baseball 1,400,000
6 Track and Field 1,300,000
7 Lacrosse 1,000,000
8 Equestrian 970,000
9 Women’s Ice Hockey 960,000
10 Rowing 930,000
11 Swimming and Diving 860,000
12 Women’s Volleyball 800,000
13 Women’s Soccer 780,000
14 Women’s Lacrosse 710,000
15 Softball 700,000
Notice the absence of any particular sport?
Revenue production for wrestling is in the toilet, and that’s exactly what the leaders in our sport should be focusing on. Leave the winning to the assistant coaches.
And for the rest of us, we need to stop crowing about wrestling being man’s oldest sport or having the greatest number of first generation students attending college. That all sounds nice, but if you can’t buy a plane ticket or a nights lodging with it, what’s the point?
A coach asked me years ago how he could tell if his program was in jeopardy? I asked him, “do you have a concession stand that’s open for your dual meets?” He asked, “why?” My response was, “if you don’t, it has to be that your spectator numbers are so low that it will cost you more to pay an employee for 3 hours of work than what you’d make through sales.”
Now, add to the pandemic the fact that wrestling programs have lost all their summer camp money and well, you see where all this is going. For most schools, camps are the life blood of programming. It doesn’t take a high school degree to realize where this is taking us, even without accounting for the current medical challenges.
Were you aware, that 74 non-revenue sports have been eliminated in just the last two months? And that took place before any decisions were made regarding this Falls sports schedules. Can you imagine what’s going to happen to non-revenue sports if football isn’t going to be played?
Adding to our challenges is something that shouldn’t be a secret, AD’s don’t enjoy having to manage non-revenue sports. They may say otherwise, but having to handle triple the number of athletes they have with the two major sports, and double the amount of paperwork that crosses their desks each day because of us, well, it all takes a toll. Then there’s always those pesky athlete indiscretions that they have to answer to the media about; and their superiors.
In one way, AD’s hate what they’re having to go through, but in another way, they’re excited about the opportunity they have to be able to dump a bunch of their non-revenue sports without getting hit over the head politically.
Now, before anyone gets upset at our administrators over any of this; is it really their fault? Probably not. In wrestling’s case, it’s our leadership’s fault, past and present. They have failed us on so many fronts, none of which has to do with mentoring athletes. They’ve been so busy protecting their jobs that they forgot to do their jobs.
Even with a complete change of attitude from our Rules Committees, which is impossible to believe that something like that might happen, it would take us at least 5 years for wrestling to see a noticeable difference in income production. That would be way too late.
No one cares, outside of wrestling fans, that more Presidents of the United States wrestled that participated in any other sport or that Chief Justice Roberts or John Irving wrestled. None of that matters, or adds to our bottom line. We’re just not a fan friendly sport, but we should be! Again, that’s the main issue I have with leadership.
A sports popularity is what develops revenue and political clout. Popularity is what we’ve been ignoring for decades. The pride we have in wrestling regarding it building character is certainly notable, but again, you can’t buy a hamburger with it, or a plane ticket to the Midlands.
Survival means becoming popular. Not with the 500,000 fans we do have, but with the 20 million fans we don’t have.
For those who disagree; if we have so many great men who wrestled doing exceptional things in life; from the founder of Chick-fil-A and Blockbuster, to hundreds of NFL players and several Nobel Prize winners, how come you never see them at meets? But they do go out at least one night a week for any number of entertainment options.
My point is . . . in the UFC someone is throwing a punch every 2.4 seconds. In wrestling, our athletes have to be prodded into taking a shot every 2.4 minutes. That’s the fault of our rules, and as a result, the Rules Committees and the sports leadership.
So everyone understands who I consider to be leadership, it’s everyone with a position of power, or influence in the sport. From people who own businesses who reap a benefit from the sport, to organizational leaders, to those D-I coaches who everyone listens to when they speak, to specifically, the NCAA Rules Committee.
And even if I’m half right in what I’m writing, and the 2020-2021 sports seasons becomes conference play only, what does that mean?
Well, in the Pac 12, with only Oregon State and Arizona State having a wrestling program, wow, they get to have two dual meets this year. One home and one away, assuming their administrators will allow the extra expenditure of two sets of flights?
The Big 12 is also in trouble with only Iowa State, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma having the sport. And I doubt if the AD’s will allow their schools to travel to say South Dakota State for a match because in the past, they allowed the Jack Rabbits to be part of their conference tournament. The CPBW (cost per bout wrestled) is something they can’t afford.
The Big 10 is golden though, given every one of their institutions have wrestling, and the conference actually has 14 teams. But in the Southeastern Conference; oh, I forgot, we don’t have any teams in the SEC. It wouldn’t be that way if we were popular.
The Pennsylvania Conference and Ivy league won’t be doing much wrestling either given the number of schools they don’t have that wrestle. Forget the Midlands, Navy Classic, Wilkes, Southern Scuffle, and the Cliff Keen Invitational. No one will be allowed to attend those because they’re not conference events and they’re just another coronavirus exposure opportunity.
As to the NCAA Championships, what might they look like? Probably a paired down, one-day version of what we’re used to seeing. Maybe just the various conference champions attending in each weight class. Wouldn’t that have people howling.
A better solution would be to take the Top 8 wrestlers in each weight based on WIN’s, or InterMat’s season ending rankings. Can you imagine how that would change the dynamics of recruiting?
If there are wild cards in all this, it’s the arrival time of a functioning vaccine, or moving every sport to the Spring. Regarding the medical community, they’re getting close; but even if they have several viable candidates, the trial periods for those could easily take us well into the new year. Springtime makes sense but athletic facilities are going to be really, really busy if this is the way America goes.
With or without a pandemic, our problems started a long time ago with leadership. I get it, they may be masters at preparing athletes for competition, and attending meetings, but developing autonomous independence, not so much. It’s easier to live off of the generosity of others than it is to make directional changes and risk upsetting those who’s opinions really don’t matter, or have a clue about building a brand.