10. If something is important, we need to make it important. How many of you would work on a road crew digging ditches for $1.00 an hour? Would it change your mind if you were paid $150.00 an hour? How about $400.00 an hour? Isn’t there a point where everyone would pick up a shovel?
If going 25mph over the speed limit is a 35 cent fine and no points, who wouldn’t drive at whatever speed they want? But if going 5mph over the speed limit was a $1,000.00 fine, the loss of your license for a year and 30 days in jail I bet most of us would be driving 5mph under the limit for fear that our speedometers might be wrong.
The point I’m making is behavior can, does and will change with the right stimulus.
So why not provide the type of stimulus in our sport that will make the accumulation of points a priority? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could triple the number of points that were scored in matches, reduce stalling calls by 75% and cut the length of a dual meet by 15 minutes? We can you know; and it’s exactly what I’ve been attempting to do here with my rules changes.
But it’s going to take 1) a willingness of leadership to change and then 2) leadership actually making the changes. My writings give you the how and why, your collective voices will provide the when. But understand, you are the sports only hope. No one can do it by themselves, only when the masses let their opinions known will leadership take notice.
I think, or at least I hope that many of you like the direction I’m heading with the sport. Others may not. But regardless your position, what I’m trying to do is provide wrestling with a direction and a philosophy and by no means a series of absolutes because no one person has all the answers.
But what I’m attempting to accomplish is to make people aware of what’s possible while pointing out in great clarity how insignificant our sport has become.
To start, wrestling has to see a sharp upturn in ticket sales, and quickly, or we are going to disappear as surely as the football program did at the University of Alabama Birmingham this week. Wow, how’d that happen? Could it be that their need to win outweighed the amount of money they had in the bank? And to my amazement, they’re even Bowl eligible again this year and located in one of the best states in the country for football? Their losing the program is the equivalent of Lehigh University dropping wrestling.
So what does that mean to the sport; well, if financial waves are starting to wash over the decks of football’s hull, and they’re the size of a battleship, how safe is wrestling bobbing around in their Hobie Cats? Everything comes down to revenue and as of now we’re a red ink liability to athletic departments and exactly why the media views us as being inconsequential.
So how to we get to sustainability? Well first of all wrestling must return to being a Dual Meet Centric sport. Because spectators will only select to engage in activities that on average requires 2 or less hours to complete. That’s today’s lifestyle with two parents each working 50+ hour weeks when you figure in commute times and a family of 2.5 children who each have their own various activities the parents have to equally support.
So why does wrestling believe so religiously that Tri’s, Quad’s and Tournaments are the way to showcase the sport? That’s an easy answer; it’s the coaches again, they want their athletes to accumulate as many matches as they can. They know that the more times they walk on the mat, the more experienced everyone becomes regardless of what it costs their programs in terms of injuries, grades or spectator appeal; it’s the way you win championships in the current system.
Granted, newcomers to wrestling may sit longer the first time they attend a match out of courtesy, but all that does is give each of them more time to realize they have no interest in returning. You can’t win the hearts of spectators when you break the 2-hour rule.
Now before you condemn the idea of wrestling becoming a dual meet centric sport answer this question. How many spectators would an NFL game, a Billy Joel concert or a Steven Spielberg movie attract if they started at 9am and ended at 10pm? So why anyone would think that wrestling marathons are good ideas if the most critical aspect of our sport is spectators?
Now I’ll relinquish the fact that Tri’s and Quad’s aren’t quite as bad as tournaments but to ask people to carve out 6 hours of their day for something that isn’t fun or employment based is ludicrous.
If we’re to become relevant as a sport and revenue producing, wrestling has to, it must become a dual meet sport. Athletes won’t die if they only have 30 match seasons but the sport will if coaches continue to insist on 50 match seasons.
Maybe this will help some of you. Last year the University of Pittsburgh hosted three major wrestling events. The Keystone Classic, a nine team all day event and two separate dual meets, one against Oklahoma State and the other the University of Virginia. The Keystone Classic drew 300 spectators and the other two events were just short of sell outs. Are those numbers any different than what you experience when you go to tournaments? Spectators just won’t sit for anything that’s longer than 2 hours.
While we’re at it, the time has come to accept the serious nature of implementing an official NCAA National Dual Meet Championship. Because the spectators we don’t have demand it. Yes that’s right, the ones we don’t have because we’re not going to survive doing what we’ve always done with the ones we do have.
As soon as the NCAA Dual Meet Championships is no longer a wish but a reality, we need to flip-flop the dates of that event with our individual tournament to make things work for the sport.
You read that right too; move our current national championship. But read on, you can convict me of heresy later.
In the last several years Mike Moyer, the Executive Director of the NWCA has been getting beat up by influential coaches over his support of a National Dual Meet Championship. Bruised and battered he’s still at the plate trying to work with Division I coaches and some television networks to see what might be possible.
But the coaches are right to oppose it the way it’s being proposed.
I believe almost everyone agrees a Dual Meet Championship is a good thing but somehow the NWCA can’t make it work because they’re trying to fit it within the confines of the present seasonal structure.
The largest objection and the one that counts is the number of high intensity matches that athletes from the top programs will have to wrestle going through a national dual meet championship before tackling their very vigorous regular schedule leading up to exceptionally tough conference tournaments and then of course the individual nationals. That’s completely suicidal for their athletes and why coaches reject this proposal.
Teams like Penn State, Iowa, Ohio State, Minnesota and Oklahoma State shouldn’t be asked to go through such a meat grinder when the other 80% of the DI programs sit back and watch the carnage. The toughest teams shouldn’t be penalized in the middle of the season because they’re so good at what they do.
Having a Dual Meet Championship in January is a bad idea. But it’s a great idea if it’s held at the end of the season.
Wrestling shouldn’t get caught up on what we use to do but instead look to what we must do.
If the sports survival was my prime directive, here’s how I would handle it. I’d start by delaying the start of the season by one month.
Season Begins – First week of December
Conference and Qualifying Tournaments – Middle of January
NCAA Individual Tournament – First week of February
National Dual Meet Championships – Early April
Now don’t get caught up on the exact dates and lose sight of the premise. If you want to move the time frames up some or backwards a bit, okay, that’s fine. But let’s work together on the big picture of having two championships.
To start, who among us can’t see the genius and absolute must of a) having two championships and b) moving each of them away from basketball’s March Madness? Just answer those two questions please. If you don’t think having two championships is a good idea, skip down and page and move to the next topic.
But if you feel two championships makes sense and we need to do that, the only decisions we have left is deciding on time frames and the order of the events. Anything other than having the National Duals going at the end of the season is as unreasonable to ask of the participants as it is impossible to get passed.
So the only alternative is to get the national dual meet tournament accepted and then flip-flop the timing of it with the individual tournament. That way everyone gets their cake and gets to eat it too. Athletes are fresh for the individual tournament which is a dream for every coach and the sport gets the much needed, and media favored dual meet tournament.
This is a huge marketing windfall for wrestling; the sport ends up with 10 NCAA Champions and 70 All-Americans still in uniform for the remaining 2 months of the season. Just think of the potential match-ups we’d see once the pressure is off and the athletes go prowling for additional stardom? How about the crowds we could attract to watch a current All-American take on this year’s national champion or better yet, one national champion moving up a weight to wrestle another NCAA champion? Can you imagine the media excitement a David Taylor/Mark Perry or Ed Ruth/J’Den Cox would have generated! This is how you make legends in our sport and give our younger wrestler’s hero’s to look up to.
The way it’s done now, the season ends the moment all our best athletes receive their All-American plaques; half of which will graduate two months later so the sport never gets a chance to market these young men’s achievements.
As to the National Dual Meet Championships, remember, there would only be 16 out of 77 DI teams wrestling in the Sweet Sixteen round, followed by the Elite Eight weekend and then the Final Four Championships 7 days later.
This way most teams would finish their season by the end of March. I would imagine the NCAA would quickly support this because it actually shortens the season for 80% of the DI programs by 2 weeks. Only the best of the best programs would go for another week and then half of them would be eliminated. That leaves only 8 teams going in week two of April.
As a HUGE plus, this change removes the primary excuse that sports writers and broadcasters have as to why they don’t cover wrestling given all that’s happening in March with men’s and women’s basketball.
I can’t begin to tell you how confused I’ve been for over 50 years trying to make sense of the logic behind wrestling’s beliefs that they can fight basketball for media coverage in March and win? Once we lost the first skirmish and then continued to get our butts kicked for decades, what can I write here? We are obviously those low information voters that Jonathon Grubber referred to recently. March is basketball’s month, period; end of discussion.
Moving our National Duals to April could also open up the possibility of adding a National Invitational Tournament (NIT) to the mix as well for those teams who weren’t part of the Sweet 16. But let’s slow down some and walk before we run. The NIT can wait for a while until we iron out the wrinkles we’re creating now but this is yet another plus that comes from change.
Once again this hasn’t lengthened the season, it’s shortened it! We go into April but we eliminated November. Season begins immediately following the Thanksgiving holiday break and after midterms that freshman in particular screw up when they’re busy losing weight. Isn’t it time we make accommodations for our wrestlers to be with their families during that holiday season to enjoy the bounty of Mom’s cooking?
This also gives football players time to end their season before thinking about wrestling. How many upper weights do we lose from football each year who figure it’s probably not worth coming out for a sport that’s already in their third month of conditioning and starting their second month of competition?
I realize all this isn’t an easy sell but the rewards far exceeds any fears that leadership might have regarding change. And remember, our current number of spectators, coaches and athletes is about 5% of what it’s going to take to become relevant as a sport. We don’t have the other 95% yet and these proposals are a way to make them appear.
Unfortunately it’s that same 5% who are still calling the shots for the 95%. And I have to ask, “How has that worked out for us given we’ve lost over 60% of our programs and over 75% of our athletes in the last 40 years.”
Getting off topic for a moment . . . what is a revenue sport? Doesn’t the nature of the term indicate that the sport is income producing? So when a sport is classified that way, it’s indicating that it makes money. Collegiately, the two sports that we think of when someone says they’re revenue sports are football and basketball.
It’s true that wrestling has never been mistaken for a revenue sport; instead we fall into a category that 40 years ago was referred to as a “minor sport” with football and basketball being “major sports.”
Then those terms disappeared in the 80’s as a result of sensitivity training. Instead major sports became “revenue sports” and minor sports became “non-revenue sports.” Then in the 90’s the term “non-revenue sport” was changed to “Olympic sport” to uplift those who weren’t self-sustaining.
Initially that sounded like a good thing but currently I’m not so sure. What happens if the Olympics remove wrestling from their programming? Won’t administrators think if not outwardly say, “Why are we offering wrestling as one of our Olympic sports when they’re not an Olympic sport?” Sounds like another bullet the sport’s going to have to dodge.
Classifications are how the NCAA determines which sports receive special versus routine attention. It’s also how they fool the public into thinking the two “revenue sports” always pay not only for themselves but the other sports as well. And then based on status, it what determines who receives steak and who eats hamburger, who flies and who drives, which athletes gets their knees taped and who gets to hear, “Suck it up, you’re fine.”
All those terms are misleading, maybe even crossing a fine line into what might be referred to as deceptive. As I wrote earlier about wrestling using terms that don’t match their definitions, it appears the NCAA is guilty of that as well because a great many football and basketball programs lose money on an annual basis.
Now given that the term revenue is defined as; the total amount of income produced by a given source, doesn’t every sport bring in some revenue? Isn’t everyone revenue producing? Now way too many of them don’t cover their expenses but aren’t they’re still revenue generating?
My point is I just wanted to remind people that there are a lot of collegiate institutions that lose serious amounts of money with their so-called revenue sports. So why classify anyone? Isn’t everyone a member of their schools family of sports? I’m just tired of hearing that football and basketball can do no wrong because they carry the water for the rest of us when many of them are doing nothing more than emptying the well.
Chapter 11 next Sunday.