Over the years, individual collegiate sports have been classified as either revenue or non-revenue; with wrestling being the latter. It’s been that way for over 100 years, and we still can’t figure out how to make a profit. What an embarrassment.
And, if I were to guess, I’d say that at least 80% of all collegiate wrestling programs bring in less than 20% of what they spend annually.
At the heart of our problem is the fact that more and more athletic departments are following our lead and becoming non-revenue themselves.
The commercial bonanza that awaits any school who can break into the Top 20 in football and basketball is so appealing, so financially addictive, that administrators all across the country have entered the reach for the golden ring arms race.
The outcomes of which are, 110 of the 130 Division I football teams, and 330 of the 350 Division I basketball teams, aren’t going to make it. That leaves a lot of institutions with red ink on their books.
To survive this, athletic administrators are looking to non-revenue sports for help. The economics of it is simple, if you reduce the number of children that are sitting at your table, your grocery bill goes down.
What does all this mean? Well, if we’re to successfully dodge bullets, wrestling has to become at least revenue-neutral. We don’t have to make money; we just can’t continue to lose money.
It’s simple math; if there’s no meat on our bones for administrators to feed on, they’ll turn to other non-revenue sports for the sustenance they require.
All this leads us to the sixty-four-dollar question; how does wrestling become revenue-neutral?
There’s only one way. And it’s not by finding additional donors; it’s by remembering that wrestling is a business, it’s not a charity. We need to re-imagine what wrestling can be and develop what we do in a way that has people wanting to buy tickets.
Don’t misunderstand, donor money is wonderful. But it only postpones the inevitable because eventually, donors get tired of giving.
The bottom line; wrestling has to learn how to stand on its own two feet.
Here’s how this works; with ticket sales it demonstrates that we have a product that people are willing to support. Interest by fans translates into interest by the media. Interest by the media means access to a far greater revenue source, which in turn attracts more fans, who buy more tickets.
So far, our leadership doesn’t seem to understand that, or more likely, doesn’t want to be bothered.
This is the only way wrestling wins is by making tonight’s dual meet more desirous to attend than whatever other entertainment options are available.
That’s why I’m wholeheartedly behind A Point Earned is a Point Scored. I’d institute the rule change tomorrow if I were granted the power.
To date, it’s our sports endemic lack of excitement, and the exhilaration of the unknown that’s to blame for our lack of fans.
We’d have fans, we’d have success, if we just gave the public a reason to attend matches. Instead, we institute penalties instead of incentives, and that only impedes action. Have you ever wondered why insurance companies give customers good driver discounts, because they know it reduces accidents, and as a result, capital outlay?
Wrestling needs rules that incentivize, not penalize.
As to A Point Earned is a Point Scored, here we go.
Over the years I’ve thought about a lot of rule changes. But so few of them have made their way through my validation gauntlet of criteria, but A Point Earned is a Point Scored certainly did.
1. Will the rule increase scoring?
2. Will it escalate action; which is often different from scoring?
3. Does it make the sport easier to understand, and officiate?
4. Will it attract fans?
5. Does the change create any safety concerns?
6. Will the change have a positive, or negative impact on revenue?
A Point Earned is a Point Scored isn’t difficult to understand. What an athlete scores, his team receives at the end of the bout. When a match ends 7-2, the winning wrestler’s team receives 7 points and the defeated wrestler’s team receives 2 team points. No confusion there.
Yes, I’m scrapping the 3, 4, 5, and 6-point match outcomes. That’s so counterproductive it’s laughable.
As to forfeits, they’re worth 15 team points, plus, the team that forfeits a weight class, also forfeits the meet. If both teams have a forfeit or multiple forfeits, both teams lose the dual and end up with losses on their records.
Now I realize this rule will bring about a lot of conversations but we simple can’t allow forfeits to take place. We can’t afford to continue to cheat our fans out of matches promised, and matches paid for, and expect them to be happy about it. Fans are the life blood of all sports, and without them, especially in today’s world of out of control spending, cutbacks are going to happen. And, on too many occasions, that means wrestling’s loss.
A disqualification is worth 15 team points and here’s how they’re added to a bout score. If wrestler A is winning 5-2 at the time of wrestler B being disqualified, wrestler A’s team receives 20 points (15 + 5) and wrestler B’s team receives 2 team points because all points scored, by either athlete, are team points received.
What about injury default: 15 team points are added to the winner’s bout score. If wrestler A is winning 5-2 at the time of wrestler B being injured and subsequently defaults, wrestler A’s team receives 20 points (15 + 5) and wrestler B’s team receives 2 team points, once again, all points scored, are team points received.
Regarding a pin: 15 team points are added to the winner’s bout score. If wrestler A is winning 5-2 at the time of wrestler B being pinned, wrestler A’s team receives 20 points (15 + 5) and wrestler B’s team receives 2 team points.
Tech falls are just like they are now; any 15 or greater point separation ends the match. If wrestler A wins by the score of 18-3, his team receives 18 team points and wrestler B’s team receives 3 team points.
Over all, this system of a point scored is a point received:
1. Immensely encourages scoring, just the opposite of the current system.
2. Allows every wrestler to contribute to the team score even in a losing effort. Can anyone name a sport that eliminates an athlete’s contributions in a losing effort? Just wrestling, how dumb are we?
3. Pushes both athletes to score points right up to the end of a match regardless of who’s ahead, who’s behind, or by how much.
4. Logically increases the number of pins by virtue of higher scoring.
5. Severely discourages stalling because even in a losing effort a last second escape could actually mean a lot to a team’s total.
6. The rule allows a team that’s losing rather badly to come back and win the dual. Come from behind wins are the sweetest events in spectators lives and keeps fans in their seats cheering, and the coaches nervous, right up to the very end.
7. Makes the sport easy to understand for those who are new to wrestling.
8. It seriously discourages forfeits which has to be an extremely positive outcome, especially given the number of times we see forfeits that cheat spectators out of that which was promised, and expected – 10 matches for the price of admission.
9. With larger team scores, the chance of two teams tying is nearly impossible as is having to explain to spectators our complicated system of tie-breaking.
As to the basis for the change, wrestling strategies have slowly eroded scoring to the point that winning is all about who can make the least amount of mistakes and take the least amount of shots. Consequently, low scoring matches with one or two points separating the combatants has become the norm. It’s this defensive posturing that has quietly ground down spectator interest in wrestling to the point of near extinction.
In the NCAA finals during the 1950’s, there were a total of 14 pins. In the 1960’s there were 13 pins. In the 1970’s there were 7. In the 1980’s there were 6. In the 1990’s there were 4. In the 2000’s there were 3. Notice a trend? And our spectator numbers have eroded almost proportionally.
Granted the sport has more than a few issues, but the most important one we must address before all others is a lack of individual scoring which, directly effects attendance numbers.
This change is huge for wrestling, something that will obviously create a great deal of controversy, all of it coming from the coaches. The source of their objections will center on their repulsion of being forced to change a long held tradition that the slow-down approach to wrestling wins’ matches.
But I will also tell you, as soon as the first whistle blows after this rule is implemented, coaches will forget every issue they had with the change and start coaching to the new rule. They’re competitors and if there’s one thing you can count on; they’ll compete.
It shouldn’t be a shock to anyone that coaches who win the most, teach the slowdown approach to wrestling. Get a lead, play the edge, control the tie-up, down block on shots and follow up with half shots of your own. The goal is to keep the referee at bay while the athlete waits for the match to end.
And don’t be fooled, the few spectators that do come, see this, and knowingly, or unknowingly, wonder why they came.
A vast majority of athletes don’t care what the score is when the final buzzer sounds, as long as they get their hand raised. So I don’t blame the competitors for low scoring and uninspired performances. It’s the rules they’re playing to and if we really want action, we need to change the rules they’re playing to.
But be forewarned, coaches will shake their heads, and be very vocal about their opposition to this rule. But everything they’re thinking about has to do with the fear of possibly losing matches to teams that previously were walk-overs.
But is that a bad thing for the sport?
Not the loss’s, but the fear? Isn’t fear the greatest motivator? If we scare the coaches, they in turn will see to it that their athletes feel the same amount of anxiety they’re feeling and everything will change.
In every other sport a point earned is a point scored. So why not wrestling? Can you imagine basketball waiting to the end of a game to tally the team scores? How crazy would it be to give a player 5 team points if he scores between 10 and 15 baskets and 10 team points if he scores between 15 to 30 baskets? That’s what wrestling does? How about a quarterback who throws for 3 touchdowns and the scoreboard only gives him credit for 1? Serve 3 aces in tennis and look up to see the score is only 15-Love. Hit a bases loaded home run and your team only gets credit for your run, not the other three. Or winning in Rugby 27-23 and your team receives 10 team points for scoring 27 and your opponent loses all 23 of their points. Sound crazy, yep, and that is exactly what we do in wrestling.
The basic concept is every point scored by either wrestler is a point earned when the match ends, period. That’s so easy for everyone to understand from the sports veterans to our first time viewers.
With A Point Earned is a Point Scored, there’s now a strong impetus for athletes to fight to get off the bottom with 15 seconds left in a match, even if they’re losing 9-3. And conversely, there are tremendous incentives for the dominant wrestler to keep scoring up until the end of the match. If the athlete doesn’t get this concept, I’m sure his coach will remind him of the importance of scoring and scoring often, probably with a red face and a very loud voice.
Regarding the pin, this was the most difficult aspect to get a handle on relative to scoring. As simple as it is to say a point earned is a team point scored, throwing in how to handle the pin was nothing short of maddening. Trust me; I went through dozens of mental contortions to reach the following conclusion.
We have to reward all wrestlers, in every situation, who put points on the board. Points mean action, action means spectators and spectators means institutional revenue. Baseball doesn’t negate the two runs a batter drives in after he is thrown out trying to reach third. Once points are earned, they’re earned.
Look at it this way, the pin is nothing more than a scoring technique that’s a level above a near fall, which ends the match and determines the winner.
I know that may sound crazy but the whole premise behind this system is to reward effort. We must incentivize wrestlers to score more and score often while forcing coaches out of their “protect the lead” approach to wrestling. Once everyone understands the game has changed, they’ll change with it; they’re too competitive not to.
If you think this rule will scare the bejesus out of coaches, you’re probably right. But we have to force each of them to alter the way they handle their athletes. Scoring, and action, must be our top priority, not their insecurities.
Wrestlers must be forced, or sufficiently motivated, to engage their opponents as often as boxers throw punches or basketball players take shots.
If we’re to make significant changes to wrestling relative to scoring and fan attendance, athletes need to know that each point earned makes a difference. They also need to feel that the sport respects them enough and the chances they take to make this change.
So let’s say for the sake of argument that a team wins a dual meet by the score of 126 to 122. And one of the winning team’s wrestlers lost his individual bout 10-5. How valuable do you think he feels knowing that his 5 points made the difference in the outcome of the match? How vocal do you think his teammates, and the fans, were when he wrestled knowing that every point he scored could make the difference? Peer pressure is a wonderful thing.
Currently, when an athlete is losing 10-4 in the third period with 45 seconds left, the match is basically over and the atmosphere in the arena is anemic. The person with 4 points has given up and the one with 10 is just riding out the period. As for the spectators, they’re talking among themselves about what they’re going to do after the match. But when every point counts, coaches are screaming, fans are cheering and the athletes are scrambling as a result of the pressure to produce.
None of this can be a bad thing.
Tournaments should be scored in the same way, and why not? Why do we have to have, yet again, a different scoring system for our customers to try and understand? KISS folks.
Granted, there could be a few occasional upsets early on with this rule but over time the pecking order of teams will remain the same. Successful coaches know how they became successful and will continue being that way regardless of the rules.
Now if anyone is concerned about those college teams that have 2 offensive machines and 8 average wrestlers defeating a team with 10 good wrestlers; they should be.
But think about this; how is this scoring system any different than other sports?
One 6’ 11” basketball star in high school surrounded by 4 average players has a legitimate shot at winning a state championship.
According to what wrestling does today, that’s not fair.
A great running back or quarterback can carry a so-so football team through the playoffs.
According to what wrestling does today, that’s not fair.
An outstanding tennis player will compete in both singles and doubles and account for 30 percent of a team’s score. In college wrestling, that’s not fair.
One good pitcher in baseball surrounded by 8 average players will defeat 8 great players with an average pitcher.
According to what wrestling does today, that’s not fair.
Just because this is different from what we’ve grown accustomed to, which is the reason why the slowdown approach to scoring is so familiar to us, doesn’t mean that what we’ve been doing is right, or mean the change shouldn’t be made.
As for the fans, what’s not to like about more scoring? This rule alteration completely eliminates the challenge we currently have trying to explain what regular decisions, majors and technical falls are to the sports newcomers.
As to the referee’s; which one wouldn’t embrace any rule change that increased scoring and significantly reduced the number of stalling calls they had to make?
And just think how a rule like this would jazz up the World Cup competitions in freestyle? But that’s a conversation for another day.