What Are We Missing?

By | October 24, 2023
I was floored when I saw WIN’s pre-season collegiate rankings. You could double the number of points the pollsters gave the second-best team in America and they’d still be in second place. I never imagined that would ever be possible.
Penn State is now so dominant that conceivably, the Nittany Lion’s second string could finish in the Top 10 and in dual meets thump at least 50% of all the other D-I programs.
As for my Pennsylvania roots, as much as I’m proud of what Cael, his assistants, and the alumni have accomplished, I’m afraid I have to break out NASCAR’s yellow flag on this disparity.
All sports must be competitive if attracting spectators is the goal. Without competition, what’s the purpose of fighting traffic to watch the Pittsburgh Steelers play Clarion University in football? Sure, a few parents will show up, and maybe a few ambulances, but that’s about it.
Parity is critical. Without it, interest wains, revenue drops, teams struggle to find opponents to schedule, and Athletic Directors wonder why they’re continuing to invest in anything that’s not competitive?
Basically, without parity, the bottom drops out of the piggy bank, followed closely by the program.
Maybe this isn’t the place to mention it, but I’ve heard from two different creditable sources, relative to institutional finances, that somewhere in the neighborhood of 400 colleges will shutter their doors within the next 5 years. All due to a shortage of students, and as a result, revenue.
Whether that’s an accurate number or not, the point is colleges in general, and athletic departments specifically, are in serious trouble. Unless you’re a Power 5 Conference school, which use to mean you were safe.
These conference schools (ACC, Big10, Big12, SEC, Pac 12) are not suffering from the enrollment crisis like most other institutions. But even there, you’ll find a growing disparity between the various Power 5 conference schools in media rights and revenue distribution.
If you’re wondering, sometimes in the twenty-to-forty-million-dollar range annually.
In the past, Olympic sports were safe, but not so much anymore.
Everywhere you turn, programs are looking for additional revenue streams. Not to bolster their coffers, but to cover existing and longstanding deficits.
Now, add the NIL (name, image and likeness) and something’s got to give.
What does that mean for the rest of us?
When non-revenue sports become a consistent drain on revenue, Athletic Directors will begin making tough decisions about underperforming programs.
And I’m not talking about robbing Peter to pay Paul; but killing Peter to save Paul.
Is the NIL a good thing? For the athletes, absolutely. And for the Top 20 teams in football slash basketball . . . yes, but only as long as everyone has enough chips to stay in the game.
What about wrestling?
There are a few schools, maybe a half dozen or so who are benefiting from the NIL, but even they are doing so at widely varying degrees.
If you’re curious about the NIL as it pertains to wresting, what I’m hearing is our best athletes are being enticed to transfer with contracts in the neighborhood of 250K.
Now with the likes of the Cal Poly’s, Northern Illinois’ and several other non-contenders losing their marquee wrestlers to the over producers, how will that affect their attendance numbers and revenue production going forward? It has to put them closer to extinction as the gap between capital creation and capital expenditures widens.
Do I have any answers for this . . . I don’t have one.
But I do have two, neither of which are utopian, or am I optimistic about happening.
First, I’d suggest that the NCAA change the name of the wrestling Rules Committee, to the Marketing, Rules, and Promotions Committee. Something that significantly broadens their current responsibilities.
Just think, had something like this been in effect a year ago, the 3-point takedown rule would have been blown out of the air quicker than a clay pigeon at a shotgun range.
But here’s the problem. The Rules Committee is almost exclusively made up of wrestling coaches. And, to them, marketing is a place they go to buy stock, or groceries. And promotions are what helps them find the best deals.
So, a change in responsibilities would have to mean a change in the committee’s makeup. Many of the current members would have to be replaced by more expansive thinkers. I guess you can already see how high that would fly.
As to my second suggestion, the NCAA has to reinstate the almost forgotten rule; that to transfer, an athlete must sit a full year before becoming eligible. I didn’t like writing that, but it’s the only way to slow down the poaching and the widening gap between haves and have nots.
As to my absolute believe in our need for parity, if I were wrong, why do you think the NFL allows the worse team in the league to have the first-round draft choice? Something that I can assure you the coaches didn’t vote for, but the Commissioner did! And the NBA does something similar, for the same reason.
Additionally, all the major leagues require salary caps and on top of that, a luxury tax to prevent anyone from getting too far ahead of anyone else. Just the thought of a team being able to buy a championship, sends chills down the backs of every Commissioner.
Look at all the upsets on any given Sunday in the NFL. How does that happen? Parity.
Most of those games are decided by 10 or less points. How does that happen? Parity.
Tickets are hard to come by in the NFL. How’s that happen? Parity.
Just this month in professional baseball, three of the MLB divisional champions were upset in the first round of the playoffs. How does that happen? Parity.
The sports who are the richest and the most successful, are the ones who have the most unpredictable outcomes. That’s Parity.
If we’re not working toward that goal, as wrestling’s leadership is clearly not; that’s the same as willingly stepping on the third rail.

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