I think we need to pay closer attention to what is happening. With the loss of EMU, a year after Boise State, which followed on the heels of, well, you get the idea. Every time we have an NCAA Championship, it seems we receive more bad news about some institution or institutions deciding to discontinue wrestling.
This is as predictable as old faithful with the issue being a combination of anemic revenue production (the coaches fault), non-existent political clout (absolutely the coaches fault), and coaches (once again) who haven’t elevated the sport in the eyes of their administration.
We really need to stop taking the easy road by blaming administrators, their institutions, Title IX, Congress, Mrs. O’Leary’s cow, or the alignment of the stars.
This is all about a sport which has 1) minimal entertainment value relative to the masses, 2) an NCAA Rules Committee who won’t tackle anything more challenging than locked hands, and 3) coaches who continually fail to elevate the sport in the eyes of their institutions.
I’ve written about the entertainment issue and the Rules Committee in several previous blogs so I’ll refrain from tackling that topic again other than to say . . . if we increase the sports “fun” quotient our fan base will grow, and the first stop on our way to stability will be revenue neutrality. If you haven’t thought about it before, there hasn’t been a school, anywhere in the country, that dropped a program, any program, that was making money. Even if the program has some bad actors in it, or not so nice social issues going on, things always have a way of being smoothed over when a positive cash flow is involved.
So, what am I left with but to zero in on the coaches. They’re the individuals who have been dictating the direction the sport’s been traveling for over a century. They are also directly responsible for the way athletic administrations view the sport of wrestling. This viewpoint may not always be fair, but the buck has to stop at their desks. And sadly, most of them don’t even realize that’s a responsibility they have, or even how to go about making changes. But they’re going to have to figure it out, and soon.
Let’s look at this as being a complex mixture of Competitiveness, Ignorance, Unawareness and Uncomfortableness.
Competitiveness, because most coaches aren’t really concerned if programs go, as long as theirs isn’t one of them. Less programs mean they’ll have an easier time recruiting and in the instance of EMU, there are quite a few coaches in the Mid-American Conference that just moved up one spot in the rankings. So, I hope this makes sense, why would any coach want to reverse this when it directly benefits him?
Now I know all of us would like to think this isn’t the case, but as well all know, competitiveness, which wrestling coaches have in capital letters, dictates how a they think and act.
And I would also be willing to bet that every athlete on the EMU team, a day after the announcement was made, was contacted by at least 3 competing institutions regarding transferring to their program. And it’s also a fair assumption that of all those coaches who made calls, not one thought enough to contact the administration at EMU to ask what they might do to help reverse their decision.
Now understand, I don’t blame the coaches for taking this route, this is what competitors do-they compete. It is not in their DNA to help other programs win. This conflict of interest and competitive urges are simply too great to trust any coach with wrestling’s health and welfare.
Ignorance, because again, too many coaches don’t have a clue what a danger sign looks like relative to their program. They never realize their program is in trouble until the announcement is made and then it’s always too late to do anything about it. Once the AD puts the decision out in the public, the concrete has already dried.
Name one school, okay, Binghamton and Princeton, that reversed their decision to drop wrestling once it was made? And in those two instances, it was the efforts of two men, one at each institution who stepped up and had the clout that was necessary to turn the decisions around. But the odds of that taking place again is so remote that Vegas doesn’t even have a line on it. So, unhappily, say goodbye to Eastern Michigan.
Basically, if coaches don’t identify the problems they have before the announcement, the decision is not only painful, but permanent as well.
Unawareness, because there are too many coaches who think they can do the jobs of 3 men which is simply absurd; maybe 2½, but not 3. And where the unawareness (or silliness) comes into play is they are all hell bent on focusing on growing wrestlers, not programs.
The most important job of a coach, besides teaching technique, is a game called politics and politicians. It’s something that way too many of them find both foreign and repulsive. Instead of broadening their reach within the athletic department, they prefer to double down and concentrate on the sports W’s and L’s. It’s certainly a feel-good way to go, until you don’t have a team to feel-good about. Being a head coach, especially at the collegiate level, is all about bolstering the sports standing within the department while your assistants fulfill the duties you’ve given them relative to the wrestling room.
Now, let me ask this question, when was the last time you read that the number of wins or loses a program had was the reason administrators gave for discontinuing it? Having an All-American, like EMU had at this year’s NCAA’s, means nothing to administrators other than it might weaken their case for dropping the program, by just a hair, and only within the wrestling community.
The real problem, as I see it, is over the last fifty years the Rules Committee (aka coaches) have deliberately increased coaches workloads by expanding the number of hours each week the teams spend traveling and competing. Long gone are the 10 date seasons and dual meets, they’ve been replaced by Quads, 8-team duals and multi-day events. The result of all this has been, assuming everyone wants to be competitive, is the slow extermination of the sport.
Wrestling would be far better off if it had half the number of competition dates and terminated all-day events.
The why for this is simple.
Spectator numbers would go up, no one wants to give up a full day of their lives to sit on hard bleachers, even the die-hards at Penn State and Iowa refuse to do that. The frequency of injuries and skin infections would decrease, which happens to be one of the many reasons why the sport receives a bad rap. Grades would go up because athletes would be trading sitting in a van for sitting in a classroom. Budgetary expenses would go down proportionally to the reduction in competition dates. And maybe the most important thing of all is coaches would now have the time to focus on the other half of their jobs . . . politics and politicians.
My point is none of this can be considered poor time management on the parts of the coaches, it’s more a case of not having any time left to manage. Coaches these days have become so busy that they literally have to put bathroom stops on their calendar.
Uncomfortableness, it hurts the sport that our coaches are uncomfortable doing anything that isn’t training based. As an example, most wrestling coaches refuse to wear white shirts and ties and are terribly ill at ease around those who do. It’s funny in a way, coaches would never think twice about taking on a grizzly bear but to speak with any administrator on a peer to peer basis, well, that thought alone scares them to death. Shirts and ties to wrestling coaches have a way of being the same as what garlic is to a vampire.
Besides something as simple as professional attire, it would be a rare case indeed if someone saw a wrestling coach playing golf with his boss, or challenging him to a game of racquetball, or heaven forbid, taking him to lunch. These things are so far removed from their thought processes that it rarely, if ever, happens.
That alone can be considered as one of the main reasons why wrestling programs are dropped. Administrators can’t relate to their wrestling coach because they don’t know their wrestling coach. It’s not an administrator’s responsibility to get to know their coaches, it’s the coaches responsibility to reach out to their administrators.
It’s well documented, when wrestling coaches don’t reach out, and tough decisions have to be made, they’re the ones who end up dusting off their resumes. It’s always easier to drop a program whose coach administrators don’t know than the one who’s part of their inner-circle and weekly poker game.
If anyone thinks all this is silly, then they’re one of the unknowing. Because the competition wrestlers face on the weekends isn’t near as important, or deadly, as the interpersonal relationships coaches face during the week in the administrative offices.
Once again, it’s the coaches, they’re the ones in charge of their programs, both in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. So, right or wrong, like it or hate it, they are the sports CEO’s, the ones who are responsible, and accountable, when a program drops.
Look at it this way; Eastern Michigan had 9 male sports as of a week ago, now they have 7. Think of this as a tournament with 8-teams, each one having a line on the bracket. I know, EMU has 9 sports but for the sake of argument here, pretend there are 8 and the school has to cut 4 sports.
In this scenario, all wrestling coaches have to do is win the first round of the tournament. We’re not asking them to win the semis or the finals, just the quarters. But all too often wrestling can’t even do that, but why not? Why can’t our coaches demonstrate that wrestling has more to offer the school than its quarter finals opponent?
It’s just competition, and it’s widely known, when an athletic department gets into financial trouble programs disappear. You can’t blame the athletic directors for having to make tough decisions, you just have to show them that the track coach whose office is across the hall from yours is the one who needs to go. This is all competition and a numbers game.
So, the question wrestling coaches should be asking is how do I win the quarters? What criteria will my athletic administrators use to decide who gets the boot and who moves into the semis?
It’s usually pretty simple. The sport that goes is the one that means the least to the institution and the Athletic Director, it’s the program that administrators can drop and catch the least amount of political hell over. All too often that’s wrestling because our coaches don’t have booster clubs to speak of and if they do, it’s typically a good old boy network that doesn’t have the ear of the Athletic Director or any political clout worth mentioning.
In this competition, the programs that have the largest number of problem children, are the most non-political or have the weakest image outside of their sport are the ones who end up in the consolation bracket.
Remember what the President of Boise State said, which was picked up by every news outlet in the country, “wrestling is a dying sport.” Now I can’t say for certain, but I would be willing to bet that the administrators at Eastern Michigan were influenced by his opinion. And the President was right, wrestling is dying and going to continue to as long as our coaches focus on W’s and L’s, while believing that politics and politicians are a game played by the weak.
Can you believe it, once again, wrestling is taking the same solidarity tack we have always taken; they’re asking the wrestling community to sign petitions in response to Eastern Michigan dropping their program.
Petitions are as silly as they are non-productive, and a really, really, really bad idea. To begin, petitions have never, ever, not once, not ever, reversed a decision to drop wrestling. All they do is make those who sign them feel warm and cuddly that they became involved and took a stand by taking the time to sign their names.
But what actually happens when administrators receive a 103-page petition with 127,826 signatures on it is they now have free kindling for their fire places next winter.
The downside of this involvement is far more serious. Since well-intentioned and caring individuals took part in a gesture that was meaningless, it’s very tough for the sport to go back and ask them to do more. That’s how decision makers win, it’s how they do what they want because they were the ones who created the idea of petitions in the first place. All so the masses would feel that their opinions mattered, when in actuality, they don’t.
Wade – as usual, your comments on the status of Wrestling are insightful and on or very close to the mark. Those of us associated with the American Sports Council believe that title IX is part of the problem that must be resolved in order for wrestling to have a viable long term future. Additionally, alumni support groups are essential to the long-term viability of lesser priority sports like wrestling. Coaches should be encouraged to foster alumni support groups and to work with alumni on developing a leadership plan and a strategic plan for the future of the sport at their schools.
Clay . . . and you as well, are on the money and one of then best advocates the sport has too.
I differ slightly on your Title IX assessment. I believe that the sport has been saying the words Title IX for so long and the administrators who have dropped their wrestling programs have blamed Title IX for so long that we have that excuse stuck in our brains.
I also believe that administrators said to themselves, how do I drop wrestling or other non-revenue sports and not take the political hit from it? Their answer was to blame women and possibly, in the backs of their minds, knew that those who lost their programs would take the time to attack/fight the ladies “because it was their fault”. When it wasn’t the case. But the strategy has worked and here we are blaming Title IX.
Yes, Title IX is a dangerous bullet but it’s not the assassin. The AD’s are the ones who fire the bullet and they are the ones who point the gun in the direction of some non-revenue sport(s). But this to me is like blaming Winchester or Savage for a murder that a human committed. We should be focusing on the shooter, not the gun manufacturer.
Granted, Title IX has hurt the men but the women deserve and should have equality in sports. I see the problem, and issues.
I feel we should be educating the coaches how to, as I said in this blog, and you covered above, how to remain alive while other sports take the hit because they are the weaker of the non-revenues, in the eyes of the administrators.
I don’t like saying that we should help administrations get rid of Track or Swimming etc. but this is a dog eats dog scenario, one we can’t change or ignore, at least immediately. Until that happens, gore their ox so ours doesn’t get gored. It’s competition, politics and politicians.
The picture you paint is very sad, Wade.
I wish I saw an answer, but I don’t.
Is it time for wrestling to cease wanting to be a varsity sport, and accept the status of club sport?
What would one lose if one weren’t a varsity sport?
Money? From some of the comments, it sounds like wrestling is expected to subsist on a shoe-string budget anyway.
Popularity? From some of the comments, it sounds like wrestling has enough difficulty filling the gyms. Does being a varsity sport really help filling the stands? Would the NCAA miss wrestling?
It’s easy to blame the coaches or blame the fans or blame the parents or blame the administrators or blame Title IX. Blaming people does nothing to solve the problem. People become defensive and dig in. Does anything good ever get done blaming people?
It’s easy to fight, what sounds increasingly like a rear-guard, losing ground, battle. This sounds like a tactical strategy. The tactical strategy doesn’t seem to be working.
What is the strategic strategy?
Sadly, is it time to regroup, form a good solid line that can be defended?
Would accepting wrestling needs to be a club sport be a good solid line that can be defended?
Would moving wrestling from it’s dog-eat-dog, competitive posture to one where wrestling became a life-long, way to stay healthy, way to defend oneself, martial art-like mentality be a good move?
Would people object if wrestling were viewed as a way of life where people happened to compete if they wanted to, from being viewed as a competitive sport that happened to improve one’s life?
Rick . . . only after one points fingers and expose those who like the sport as it is and are doing less than what they could to help, will we, the sport, be willing to come together to make changes.
I’ve suggested many changes to the sport in previous blogs, so I didn’t start out finger pointing or blaming anyone. To your points above . . .
If we digress and move to a club sport that doesn’t fix our ills.
Wrestling is NOT on a shoe string budget. The Big 10 averages over 1 million dollars a year in wrestling related expenses. In HS’s, tight budgets might be the case but no more so then a majority of the other sports.
No, we’re not having a difficult time filling gyms, we aren’t filling them at all with the only exception (as best as I can tell) being Penn State. And if you were to average the percentages of seats filled at wrestling events at all high schools and colleges in America I would bet it wouldn’t be 15%. That is unless some school wrestles in a gym without bleachers. It’s not only disconcerting, the numbers are pathetic.
Only after the masses become concerned and show their frustrations with leaders will things change. On television, when things are said that are very controversial by a host and the viewers boycott the advertisers does anything happen. So far, the fans may not be happy, but they’re far from being dissatisfied. Until they say enough is enough, it’s business as usual which we all know how that is playing out.
You made some great points and have some great ideas but until we fix the engine, we’re not going anywhere.
We need rules that encourage action and if points come along with that action, then great. You don’t need points to be a desired sport, a reference to soccer here. They don’t score a lot but there is a hell of a lot of action. Fans love that sport because . . . action sells.
Today’s wrestling rules punish action or at the very least doesn’t reward the risk taker enough to justify anything but the bare minimum. And I’m tired of people pointing out the top 20 scoring machines in the NCAA as a means of pointing out where I’m wrong. What about the other 10,000 collegian wrestlers who work hard at putting the fans to sleep during their matches? I blame the coaches, not because they are coaching to the rules, but because they are the ones who created the scoring system (rules) that kills action.
Next, we have to reduce production. In the market place, when you’re not selling enough widgets, you stop producing widgets. Being overstocked is a great way of going out of business. But in wrestling, as our attendance decreases, wrestling is ramping up production and with it, tremendous debt. Economics wasn’t my best subject but I get the principle, winning, making money, gaining in popularity is achieved by producing one less widget than you can sell. That creates scarcity and urgency and demand skyrockets. This is what coaches fail to understand, or they do and just don’t care.
Really appreciate you writing . . . thank you.
Thank you for your reply, Wade. I needed a shot of realism..
I have a few comments to your comments, which I will make in another comment. I had another thought I wanted to express in this comment first.
I still feel down. Please forgive me my next thought.
I realize this thought is pedantic and a downer.
If universities keep losing programs, this means conferences are losing conference members who sponsor wrestling.
Wasn’t there something in 2015 about the Big 12 Conference and the Western Wrestling Conference where schools in the Western Wrestling Conference became affiliate members of the Big 12 Conference helping the Big 12 Conference meet the minimum number of schools sponsoring wrestling to meet an NCAA requirement?
Isn’t there now a question what the Pac-12 Conference will do now that Boise State dropped wrestling?
Is there a minimum number of conferences that need to sponsor wrestling as a conference sport to insure the NCAA recognizes wrestling as a Division 1 sport?
Rick . . . don’t take this as gospel but I believe I’ve heard that the NCAA doesn’t put a number on the amount of conferences that houses a sport, but rather the number of teams competing. I believe the number is 24 or 28 teams for the NCAA to recognize the sport and allow it to have an NCAA sponsored national championship. We’re well above that, for now!
If a conference, which I believe each one has their own rules as to what number is acceptable, just like the NCAA, for them to sanction as an example a PAC 12 Championship. Once a sport drops below X number of teams, the conference discontinues hosting a conference championship. It doesn’t hurt Oregon State as an example, if the PAC 12 doesn’t allow a conference tournament to take place, but it does make the AD at OSU wonder “why am I spending money on a sport that doesn’t count toward my being a member of the PAC 12?
All conferences require that each member institution maintain X number of male and female sports, or they are asked to leave. It’s a little complicated but you get the gist here.
Thank you to your reply to my comment. I felt down at the time when posting my comment.
I was trying to see how the sport could be saved to fight another day.
I did not see a tactical way of winning as long as more teams are cut than added. I realize you are right. If wrestling became a club sport, the problems would remain.
I keep wondering why football and basketball are very popular in the United States and soccer (football to those people in Europe!) is so popular in the rest of the world.
Isn’t football and basketball encouraged in the United States?
Parents buy their children footballs and basketballs for Christmas and their children “play” out in the yard. Can’t the same be said of soccer in Europe and the rest of the world? If I watch travel programs on television long enough, I will eventually see children in other countries kicking a soccer ball around, not even playing soccer on the field, but just kicking a soccer ball around, “playing”.
When was the last time parents encouraged their children to go out into the yard and “play” wrestle?
I suspect, and hope I’m wrong, instead mothers come racing out and yell at them, stop your fighting when children are “play” wrestling. If parents don’t mistake wrestling for fighting, they may still stop the play because they don’t want anyone getting hurt. I hope I’m wrong, but if I’m right, how do you change this view of wrestling?
This is one of the reasons I keep suggesting wrestling needs to be a lifetime activity, not a sport, practiced by the young and old alike, as a way to keep fit. It doesn’t have to be competitive unless the participants wish it to be competitive. It can be kata. I encourage kata. If the mother participated in wrestling kata, she might not think to come racing out and yelling, stop your fighting.
Regarding “play” wrestling in the yard, has “play” wrestling morphed over the years, from a style more similar to what you would call a pin style of wrestling to a style you would call a submission style of wrestling? I ask this question because I suspect amateur wrestling doesn’t garner the same respect submission style martial arts has among children. I could be wrong. I’m curious.
Your comment referring to no fans in the stands, and earlier comment about no athletes on the mat (I’m paraphrasing because of all the forfeits), leads to the question, who will be around to become concerned and show their frustrations with leaders causing things to change. This is a chicken and egg problem.
You’ve made good points about athlete retention being the problem. You have to stop losing athletes after one or two years.
The only fans you have,and please tell me I’m wrong, are parents of wrestlers, brothers of wrestlers, and former wrestlers. Even these fans are temporary. How long do parents of wrestlers pay attention to wrestling after their wrestler graduates? This is another reason I keep suggesting wrestling needs to be a lifetime activity, like practicing a martial art, for life.
It takes advertising money to attract fans from the outside; money you haven’t got.
Some may argue, in the age of the Internet, you don’t need money to advertise. Just put your advertising up on the Internet. If you put wrestling matches on the Internet, for free, how many eyes do you get? Not many, I suspect. There’s too many other things for people to watch. Why should they want to watch amateur wrestling?
To add insult to injury, if you can’t give watching wrestling matches away for free on the Internet, how are you going to charge for it?
In case you haven’t guessed, I’m trying to make a case for changing wrestling so it is seen as a lifetime activity, kata based as necessary, practiced like a martial art, for life.
Would a submission style wrestling be easier to sell as a lifetime, martial art-like, activity, for life, than a pin style wrestling?
I should have added, because it’s not clear, the reason I ask about submission style wrestling vs pin style wrestling, I’m concerned children are more likely to get hurt when they do submission style moves rather than pin style moves.
This doesn’t change the question, which is more popular among children.
This may affect whether a mother comes racing out and yells, stop your fighting. A mother may panic more if she sees a submission style wrestling. Then again, she may react the same.
Rick . . . all these are good questions and I believe I have the answers, at least more than anyone else in the sport that I’ve heard from.
I’m no genius but what made me rather good as an athlete was my ability to assess positions, problems and solutions. The last two are exactly where the sport is.
All the things you mentioned are secondary, if you do any or all of them it doesn’t help. My analogy is again, you need the engine to run if the car is going to move. You’re suggestions and thoughts are ways of making the seats more comfortable, the paint sleeker and the stereo louder etc. etc. None of these things means a hill of beans if the car doesn’t run.
EXCITEMENT is the key.
We need all our matches to be better than the ten best matches at this years NCAA tournament. That’s a problem of our rules. Currently, they don’t force the athletes to scramble for points or the coaches to insist that they do.
The UFC is wildly popular because every 2.5 seconds someone is either kicking the throwing a punch. In wrestling every 2.5 minutes someone is taking a shot. I know those numbers are off but you certainly should get the idea.
The team sports, at least the popular ones, something is always happening somewhere on the court or field. Spectators love action, why do you think auto racing is so popular, You have 43 cars all going over 150 miles per hours weaving in and out with the anticipation of seeing a spectacular crash. Action sells, wrestling bores.
Popularity fixes most if not all the ills you mentioned above. Most, if not all of those challenges go away if we fill the stands.
As to fans, we have so very few of them. I’m defining them as individuals who are attracted to wrestling because they find it interesting, exciting and fun. Anyone who was a coach, competitor or relative of someone who wrestled are not fans. They’re members of the wrestling community. True they buy tickets but those numbers are so small, given what we need to become relevant, that 1) they are actually irrelevant to the size of the problems we’re facing and 2) have way too much say as to what we should be doing. They don’t know because they are so far in among the trees that no matter where they look they can’t see the forest. Basically they want to keep doing the same things, because that’s the way we’ve always done them, and yet expect to see different outcomes.
You’re right. Everything I say is secondary.
Action and excitement is the engine.
When I think of the excitement of soccer, it is the running down the field, it is shots on the net, it is remembering that famous announcer, Andres Cantor, yelling “G-O-A-L”. You can hear the fans in the background. You can feel the excitement.
The same is true for football. There is a sense of anticipation, and a feeling of exhilaration as a long pass leads to a touch down. There is a sense of anticipation, and a feeling of exhilaration as a team gets close to the opposing teams end-zone, and tries to carry the ball into the end-zone.
Somehow, I get excited when the announcer yells, take down, if the match is close, and it’s near the end of the match, and the take down decides the match. The same take down, early in a match, while a little exciting, feels like a preparatory step. I hope it leads to near fall points, or better still, a pin, if it’s the team I’m rooting for, or an escape/reversal, if it’s not.
Somehow, I get excited when a pin is imminent, and the fans and I are waiting in anticipation for the pin.
This take down, let them up, style is boring. Where is the excitement, or the challenge, if one wrestler is so much better than the other, he can take his opponent down fifteen times? If one wrestler is that good, why doesn’t he go for the pin?
In Olympic style, they have that ankle lace and roll. Where’s the excitement in turning an opponent over and over, and then having the match just end. If you can turn an opponent like that, why can’t you pin him?
Where is the excitement when a wrestler gets ahead by a few points, and then becomes defensive. I actually hope the one behind gets a take down and converts it into a near fall situation to punish the wrestler who became defensive.
I guess I’m saying, for the action to be exciting, there needs to be a sense of anticipation, but there also needs to be a significant accomplishment, waiting at the end.
Some action works for me, and is exciting. Other action does not work for me, and is boring. The same action that is exciting late in a match, because it will decide the match, is not nearly as exciting early in a match. A take down generates a different level of excitement depending when it happens and if it will decide the match.
Is my feeling for action and excitement unique to me, or is it the norm?
If my feeling for action and excitement is unique to me, what is the norm?
If my feeling is the norm, how can you structure the rules such that I will feel action and excitement?
I will never watch Olympic wrestling on television. I was turned off decades ago. American television showed the announcers talking, and didn’t show any live action. When they showed “highlights”, the highlights were boring.
I will never watch the NCAA tournament on television. I don’t even know if it’s available on television. Too many matches were boring. I don’t want to waste my time waiting for the one or two matches I would actually find exciting. I wouldn’t watch it over the Internet if you paid me.
Why do I even post or care?
My nephew was excited about the sport, until he reached a certain age, and then he just quit. He quit when he entered middle school when he was thrown into tournaments and kept getting pinned all the time, even by girls. His teammates teased him.
I felt, at the time, wrestling would have been great for him. He needed to learn self discipline. He needed to learn to set goals and struggle to reach those goals.
Wrestling, in my opinion, failed him. Maybe he wasn’t wrestling material.
Can this be true? Isn’t everyone wrestling material?
I should add, regarding my nephew, and his love of wrestling at an early age, followed by his just giving up on wrestling when he entered middle school, after he was thrown into tournaments, getting pinned, over and over, even by girls, and his teammates teasing him, he has another uncle.
That uncle loved wrestling and wrestled in high school and was also encouraging my nephew.
Neither of us could keep him in wrestling. We both tried.
This is one of the reasons I’m very big on not throwing a child into tournaments very quickly until they can handle losing.
My nephew lost and lost. Then, he quit. He was done.
Great points Wade, as someone who has had feet in both the business and sports world, networking is more important than ever. I learned in the business world that when a CEO or owner of a business had to make a decision, (and all other things being equal) he/she went with the option that he/she felt most comfortable with, ie. someone with whom he/she had a positive relationship.
Dale . . . hope you’re well. You just condensed my entire article into one paragraph. I always knew there was a reason why I cheated off of you in class.
You didn’t have to cheat to get through Clarion….I hope!
Only in economics my freshman year. It might have had something to do with the class being at 8am.
SUNY Buffalo, effective 2017. dropped men’s baseball, men’s soccer, men’s swimming and diving, and women’s rowing. This brought UB’s total sports teams from 20 to 16 teams. They did not drop wrestling. This year they hosted Cornell in a dual meet in their Center for the Arts – which is ordinarily the home to musical and theater productions and graduations. This was instead of the much larger Alumni Arena, home to the MAC champion basketball team. The mat was on the elevated stage, seating was theaters style with comfortable cushioned seats, there was a big screen behind the mat, there was music and upbeat introductions of the wrestlers. It was a terrific experience and people were gladly paying $15 per seat to see it in a packed house. Maybe more like this approach is what other schools should adopt to make it a more appealing event for the non die-hards.
Dr. John . . . obviously wrestling is doing things right in Buffalo. So glad to hear it and thanks for writing. We did the same thing at Clemson in the 70’s, I moved some of our dual meets to a 500 seat theater venue and handled them very much in the way you described here. The students really enjoyed the atmosphere and we always sold out.
The only downside was out-of-bounds on the side facing the audience was a 4 foot drop. We had many out of bound calls but none on that side. I wonder how that happened?
Hmm, maybe if we had a moat just outside the out of bounds line for all of the sports matches and placed a few alligators in them we could eliminate having to worry about out of bounds calls. Just a thought.
Wade wants to be right so bad. Will make up things as facts. He is such a blow hard it’s comical. Wade, you’re comepletely out of touch with reality. You are an enemy that needs to go away. You’re like John McCain. Be gone already!
Frank . . . sorry you feel that way. I have never attacked anyone personally. But I have tried to make a difference. If you don’t like my opinions, stop reading.
Or you can be part of the solution. Your choice.
But in my defense, if I’m allowed one, if you look at the counter on the right, you might see that you are definitely in the minority.
Frank . . . thank you for taking the time to write, but not the interest to read all the other 2000 comments listed here. Or you would have noticed you are severely in the minority. I’m not perfect, or right most of the time. But I do have a few good ideas and ALWAYS make people think, that is why I write. And in the process put myself out there to catch hell from those who don’t have the guts, or insight, to try an make a difference themselves. Have a nice day.
Having lived through it..it’s not that simple. I actually believe the lack of duals for television programming is a huge issue.. AND that’s money..wrestling people need to show up for these duals. We killed it (attendance) after the announcement of being dropped. But as you said it was already done. Donor dollars flooded in..after the announcement. But as you said…so, you can blame coaches..OR we can as a community step up and show up. In attendance and with our check books.. before OUR local programs get dropped.
Chuck . . . loved watching you wrestle by the way. Chicken or the egg, which comes first here. We definitely have to go back to being a dual meet centric sport and outlaw tri’s, quad’s and all day events. Those events are good for the wrestlers to sharpen their metal but it kills spectator appeal.
And if I must choose, I don’t care about the wrestlers being a little better, a little more competitive if I have to lose the sport to do it.
The wrestling community will NEVER show up and support the sport if they have to give up an entire day to do it. No one would do it for the NBA, NFL or Major League Baseball if the games lasted for 10 hours. So who’s the idiot that thinks wrestling is that exciting?
Wade, your insight is great. But yet I have seen more and more interest in girls wrestling at the high school level. I believe getting state high school athletic associations to sanction girls wrestling will start a movement. A movement that will ultimately get to the college level. Title IX proponents will certainly want to be a part of the movement. I can envision having a dual between Oklahoma State and Iowa where the men’s team compete against each other as do the women’s teams. Somehow set it up where team points of the men and women’s teams are combined against each University. The alumni, school administration, teams, and Title IX proponents would love each other. But it has to start at the high school level. It’s all about promotion and marketing.
Bob . . . that sounds nice, it would be great seeing the women grow and grow. And they are doing a wonderful job both domestically with growth and internationally competitively.
But you might want to look further into what you think will be the outcome of women’s growth in the sport. You can’t assume it will help the men. I hear the Title IX thing, but a question, would the universities be better off dropping the men’s program and giving the new women’s program the wrestling room and men’s budget? That’s a yes or no question?
Dropping the men would really help the school’s Title IX numbers especially when you add the same number of ladies to the rolls.
However, none of this has addressed the issues administrators have with the men’s program.
The sooner coaches figure out what the actual challenges are that we face, and the sport develops a marketing plan to debunk the negative and myths, the sooner we can begin becoming significant again.
I think part of the reason for the women’s wrestling growth, is exactly what you talk about with excitement and action. The rules for freestyle encourage more action. Thanks for your insight on this issue.
ASU, CSU, and Brown all announced programs being dropped and decisions were reversed.
EMU has/had a fantastic coach that was doing things right (highest APR on campus, high GPA, community services and has reached out personally/professionally to admin — but didn’t matter to a President who has bad history with keeping wrestling programs.
Many college wrestling coaches are being set-up to fail. Given very low budgets – and then needing them to be CEO’s while actually being a wrestling coach – is next to impossible. This is something that isn’t being demanded on any other sport not named gymnastics.
Brady . . . all reasonable points. If you knew the background decisions on the programs you mentioned that came back, you might feel differently. It had everything to do with one or two men, with amazing resources, stepping to the plate. Wrestling wasn’t reinstated because of any social issue, societal want or civic need.
And a question, because administrators are quickly learning that if they drop the sport, wrestling will come to it’s rescue, doesn’t that put a bulls eye on our chests?
In the case of EMU, it’s apparent that the coach didn’t have his finger on the pulse of the athletic department. Or they wouldn’t be where they are. Sure academics and civic involvement are amazing things to achieve and be involved in but there are obviously other forces at play that weren’t identified. Or addressed.
We can always blame everyone else, that’s the easiest and the most politically correct way to proceed. But we need real answers, not feel good let’s not blame any of our own family members.
Wade, I’m sure in many cases there is tremendous blame to go around for coaching staffs, but just because it was true in some cases doesnt mean its true in this one. Sometimes you can do everything right, and still be “wronged” by admin.
And yes, Wrestling ngs respnse to being cut can make us targets, but as wrestling supporters, what do you expect them to do, nothing?
Yes, I know people stepped up in those cases (though CSU was different), but to say once a program is annunced cut its all over isnt necessary true either.
Brady . . . nothing is all or nothing. You’re right, BUT, the only thing we can control is from within, and obviously not what administrators think. But it seems that we tend on a large scale to blame others outside of the sport while forgetting there were two in this dance. I’m trying to put the spotlight on those things we can do to make a bad situation better. I guess I’m saying I’m tired, as you are, of seeing programs dropped and at least in my case, that we’re always pointing fingers elsewhere. Appreciate your passion, can I clone for 2 million times?
What did they do RIGHT in Little Rock? If the sport is dying, why does it sometimes surge in new areas? When it comes to these college and international programs, the wrestling community just isn’t very business minded or politically minded, in my opinion, or just hasn’t had enough representatives in the right place at the right time to protect themselves. It’s a blue collar sport, and blue collar kids frequently don’t make it on to the boards of regents where they make these decisions. The reality is that you have to have your people in place (including on the boards of private companies) to protect your interests from those types of decisions. Take those donor dollars and put them toward starting a new program like they did at UALR.
Aaron . . . some good points. But you can’t point to one program here or there and use them as examples of success or failure. Like diving in the Olympics, they drop the high and low scores for a specific reason.
The Little Rock program is not the University of Arkansas for those who might not know but they are scheduled to be D-I. And they started the program because of one donor who gave them well over a million dollars for it to happen. They didn’t start the program because they were enamored with wrestling.
I’m not so sure we’re blue collar, I think that’s been more of a myth that no one has challenged. Well, I’d like to. Think of all the wrestling rooms in the country and the athletes you’ve coached. Sure, their are wrestling programs in inner-cites but far, far, far more are located in the suburbs.
The problem we have is the sport has a blue collar mentality, not blue collar kids necessary. Once those who will achieve in life graduate, they distance themselves from the sport because of the mind sets of others who believe it to be made up of mouth breathers and knuckle draggers.
Wrestling has oodles of CEO’s as graduates, achievers, innovators and winners in life. We’re just not finding a way to get that message out or them back involved.
To your last point, that IS the coaches responsibility of school they graduated from. I’ve spent hours rewching out to alum at the high schools I coach, not shockingly, and vast majority want to be involved, want to help, but do so because they are being contacted and made to feel a part of the program, not contacted just for $.
Brady . . . you’re right, it’s networking with as many people as we can to become involved. And the administrator of this effort has to be the coach, at least until he finds someone with the passion to grab the baton and run with it. We’re saying the same things. Just a little differently. Thanks for writing!
Wrestling popularity starts at the Youth Level. Wrestling is a dying sport starting at the youth level. It is the most disorganized and mismanaged youth sport I have been involved with. Soccer runs circles around wrestling. Soccer teams practice year round. In the winter teams and parents spend $1000’s to play inside. Wrestling only runs for 3 months and it’s over until next year. Wrestling rooms sit ideal for 9 months. If high schools dropped soccer from their athletics it would not effect soccer one bit. If high schools dropped wrestling…wrestling would quickly die or leadership would have to gear up to start an organized HS youth competition. Wrestling training in so many areas is kept a secret. Too many trainers and few coaches that stick with an athlete for many years.
Brown University saved their program…check their recipe
Tom . . . good thought, but is it always a good idea to see how others saved their program? Why don’t we help coaches figure out and fix the problems before the fact. It’s always easier to put new tires on your car than pay the 8k it’s going to cost to fix the dents the accident caused because you never thought to replace tires that had 56k miles on them.
I’m afraid you’re focusing on being reactive. Sure, that might help here and there but coaches have to become responsible and accountable for their inaction’s in these cases. Only when we hold their feet to the fire as a group will we begin reversing the trend.
You may be right Wade in some respect ,however the Football program is so much more of an albatross on the school. We have got to figure out how to proceed with a discrimination lawsuit because there is plenty to find. It’s a direct attack on a sport and it’s been going on for years. The fact that Administrators wield the axe it is their fault. I don’t see where other programs/sports are held to the same standard. Is it fair to have one set of rules for one sport and not all the others? Over 90%, and I’m sure it’s more, programs don’t make money when it comes to the big 2. The Big 12/8 , PAC 12, ACC, and the SEC have no excuses for not supporting a Wrestling program. Many of them did. I’m just not buying the “blame the coach” theory for everything. Title IX has been used in a way to discriminate. It was a necessary law but it’s intention wasn’t what it has become.
Ray, although you may be right, what I do know is this is not a numbers game as much as it is a popularity contest. Football is popular regardless of it’s profit and loss statement. AD’s would get fired for even suggesting that they drop football. Forget them even getting to the trying part. That’s an unpleasant fact, and maybe that’s wrong but it’s the way it is. We have to act on the way things are, not what we’d like the world to be.
In bad times when expenses are up and revenues aren’t keeping pace, AD’s are given a bullet that they must use to kill one of their sports. They don’t have a choice except to determine which way they point the gun. If they had to shoot one of their 10 children as an example, which one would they choose? The answer is the least favorite. When wrestling goes at an institution, it’s because it was the least favorite.
Now, what the AD used as criteria varies from school to school. Wrestling coaches, when their program gets the ax, obviously didn’t ask the right questions or find the answer to what their AD will use to determine who stays and who goes. Sadly, they didn’t find a way to push the track or gymnastics coach in the path of the bullet.
Correct Answer would be 127,826 Donors x $100 = $ 12,782,600
that would save a college program.
All though that is a significant number and would go a long way to doing good, do we really want to head in that direction? It’s extortion. That would be the almost immediate death of the sport. Once every other administrator in the country, including high school AD’s, saw and then realized they could fund their wrestling programs on the backs of the sports fans and alumni just by dropping the sport, how do you think that would play out?
Then the question becomes, since we have approximately 10,000 high school and collegiate programs, would those generous individuals you just mentioned above be willing to pony up 10K times $100.00, all in the name of “helping wrestling?” I think not.
Good idea, but the unintended consequences would be catastrophic.
But coaches don’t know 10,000 let alone 5,000 fans in their circle of influence that will donate $50.00. Or to have enough time to call all of them.