A truly outstanding meet with the sport being the ultimate winner. Well, sort of, kind of, well, not really.
The very first thing I noticed when I turned to the Big Ten Network 15 minutes before airtime was a Penn State-Iowa basketball game that was taking place in the Bryce Jordan Center.
I said, “what, I thought tonight’s match was at home?” Then the announcer’s indicated I was right, but the match was scheduled for Rec Hall instead.
Immediately I was shaking my head and then uttering, “you’ve got to be kidding?”
The biggest dual meet of the year and maybe of the decade, with 8, count them, 8 national champions wrestling in the 10 weight classes, and a total of 18 of the 20 wrestlers ranked nationally . . . and the meet is being relegated to Rec Hall?
Don’t get me wrong, Rec Hall is a great building with a storied past, but it’s woefully inadequate for a Super Bowl like dual.
For those who are unaware, Bryce Jordan seats 16K and can accommodate upwards of 2k more with mat side seating and a lenient Fire Marshall. Rec Hall can’t handle 7K even if they allow rafter seating.
I get it, it’s wrestling versus basketball but half the seats in the BJC were without butts for that PSU-Iowa basketball game. And conversely, tickets for the dual meet were as scarce as wrestlers in Boise State’s wrestling room.
The administration at Penn State could have filled Bryce Jordan twice over for the Ohio State dual . . . and most likely doubled gate receipts. (To my point, yesterday the Iowa-Penn State dual was held in Bryce Jordan and it was a sell out, well over 16k fans were present. And the Hawkeyes don’t even have 1 NCAA Champion in their lineup although they are always a strong draw.)
So, who at Penn State didn’t think about the impact this decision would have on the sport as a whole and its bottom line?
Do you realize that wrestling has never been in the black anywhere in America? The sport at every institution loses money every year with PSU being the closest of all the universities to breaking even with a deficit of over 100K. Those numbers are the latest statistics I could find which I believe are two years old but the point is, the sport isn’t doing well. Actually, it’s on food stamps and welfare.
Tell me, what’s wrong with hosting the match in Bryce Jordan earlier in the day, or the next afternoon? Both time frames would have worked, both teams were free of any obligation then and neither were scheduled to go again until the following weekend.
Now I did read that the Lions preferred Rec Hall because it shut out Buckeye fans from acquiring tickets. I can understand that thinking even if it is nearsighted, but in the larger picture it’s a terrible business decision. And why the sport struggles so.
Yes, I realize there’s an added cost in going to the BJC given that PSU doesn’t own the building so charge an extra $5.00 per ticket and the negative goes away.
The point here is the sport desperately needs a program, any program, to show a profit. We need to demonstrate to athletic administrators across the country that we can be self-sufficient if given the opportunity.
Note to coaches, administrators don’t care about your All-Americans and winning record, they are only interested in the color of the ink your program is producing.
This is exactly why the President of Boise State said last Spring, “wrestling is a dying sport!” And if it’s not dying, the best that can be said is the sport’s in neutral when so many other ones are growing in participation numbers, media interest and revenue production. None of that bodes well for wrestling when you realize what our sport could be.
Today we have less than 50% of the collegiate programs we had in the 1970’s and half as many fans. I know that doesn’t look good for us but what makes it far worse is the growth of so many other sports that once were far below wrestling’s numbers. Put simply, we’re becoming less as others become more.
But congratulations just the same to Cael and all the Nittany Lion wrestlers and support personal for the huge win; it was an evening well served.
USAWrestling Had A Great Year
The organization won 32 World Medals this year and 14 of them were Gold! Plus, they brought home the 2017 Senior World Team Title!
Kudo’s to all, exceptional job! Congrats also to Bill Zadick for being named National Olympic Coach of the Year. Well deserved.
Whereas Russia Had A Miserable Year
For the first time since 1951, the Russians failed to have a senior level World Champion at any weight, in any style! I wonder if that had anything to do with the IOC jumping their bones regarding decades of epidemic level doping? It serves them right; but it’s also saddens me to think of all the other great wrestlers the world has produced who had to settle for less than Gold as a result of their indefensible, widespread and government sponsored cheating? A question to chew over: given their medically bionic power, were they ever great wrestlers or just very good wrestlers with great power? That cloud of doubt seems to have merit when you evaluate their recent drop in performance.
And Then Shame On The IOC
How could the International Olympic Committee allow any of the athletes from Russia to compete in the Winter Olympics? I thought we had rules with serious consequences for violators regarding the use of anabolic steroids? And worst of all, the violator this time was the country itself!
I could see from an outsider’s perspective, specifically those not in competition, how this is a feel-good story . . . we’re allowing those who chose not to violate the most sacred of rules to have a path to citizenship . . . I mean competition?
However, it seems the penalty that the IOC imposed on the Russian Federation was purposely written in disappearing ink. A wink-wink, nod-nod sort of agreement between leaderships. “We’ll start by acting indignant, then levy heavy penalties and then when you begin to offer us the right amount of inducements we’ll create work arounds proportional to the incentives.” Does anyone doubt that’s a possibility?
As for the use of performance enhancing drugs, there is no doubt in my mind that they were dirty even when I wrestled against them 40 years ago. I’d swear that everyone one of them was capable of doing push-ups under large cars and small trucks.
But in Rio they were finally, actually, completely and unquestionably caught cheating. Now two years later, and the very first Olympiad since then, the Russians are back.
So much for rules, regulations or their transgressions. They weren’t even forced to say 5 Hail Mary’s or 1 “I’m sorry.”
I get it, athletes shouldn’t be penalized for something their country did, especially if the ones competing are clean. But that’s crap; the only way rules are effective is when they bite everyone who’s in the organization. When a CEO makes a bad decision, everyone in the company pays. When a commander in the field screws up, soldiers die. When a quarterback throws a pick-6, his entire team suffers.
But here, it seems the Russians were playing roulette with the odds in their favor. They knew they were too big to be allowed to fail, because the IOC needs them more than they need to enforce their rules.
So, did anyone get hurt here? Well, actually yes. As soon as the scandal broke two of the three men who masterminded their doping program died under curious circumstances. The other one didn’t wait around to find out what happened, he fled the country.
Now the athletes are not only back but representing oh, wait for it, Team OAR (Olympic Athletes from Russia). Wow, how cunning of the IOC, no one will ever know who these athletes are representing or be able to compare metal counts. Oh look, here’s today’s medal count for the Top 9 countries.
Olympic Athletes from Russia
So, tell me again, I missed it, what was their penalty for cheating?
We’re Still A Class Group
Not a wrestler, a coach or a fan, at any time throughout the year, took a knee during the playing of our National Anthem. We may be many things, and certainly a very diverse bunch, but wrestling is America . . . it’s amber waves of grain, hard work, discipline and even with varied political views, we’ve always been united under one flag.
Jacob’s Cradle; Almost Done
I’m glad to report that I’m close to finishing the book I’ve been writing. That frees up enough time now to restart these blogs; at least on a limited basis until its published.
Regarding the book, this was my first attempt at a 300-page novel. I hope it’ll be received as graciously as you welcomed my blog.
As to the story line, the book is about Jacob Charles, a middle-aged man in his early 30’s who’s determined to retire from wrestling as an Olympic Champion. Before he can do that though, he has to overcome more than his share of hardships; from the death of his young wife and the twin boys she was carrying to avenging the loss of his father at the hands of an international assassin. But most of all, it’s the story of love found, love lost and love regained; all wrapped around the CIA, Interpol and the underbelly of international wrestling.