Wrestling Needs Another Division

The most important aspect of school is to learn how to problem solve. Those who do it best, succeed the most. If I developed one skill that helped me achieve what I did in wrestling, it’s being able to solve problems.

So let’s work on problem solving this. As we know, the NCAA is divided into 3 Divisions; D-I, D-II and D-III. However, that hasn’t always been the case.

When the NCAA began sponsoring athletic competitions in 1906, the organization was known as the Intercollegiate Athletic Association. Four years later they changed their name to the National Collegiate Athletic Association and until 1963, they sponsored championships in all sports, in just one division.

Over time they began to see noticeable inequalities of competition, based on finances. What they did to alleviate that was divide their membership into two groups; the College Division for smaller schools, and the University Division for the larger richer ones.

In 1973, with ever increasing numbers of institutions who offer athletic competition, each with vastly different funding capabilities, the NCAA ditched the College and University Divisions and moved to three Divisions; D-I, D-II, D-III.

Five years later, the NCAA added a fourth division for football and basketball. They realized they had to overcome the disparity in financial capabilities. They named that division I-AA and in doing so, established a precedent that’s important to remember here.

So my question is, why can’t we use that same model in wrestling, for the same reason? We certainly have dozens of schools who are competing at the D-I level without the resources to be competitive. Yet, for reasons beyond logic, coaches want to wrestle in D-I, and the NCAA is allowing it when these schools don’t have a snowballs chance in hell of competitiveness.

I won’t share why here, because the problem we face, and the solutions we need can only be reached through the support of those who haven’t succeeded in D-I.

And given today’s economic environment, with sky high inflation, $6.00 gas, NIL contracts, RTC’s, and out of control spending in basketball and football, wrestling must begin to demonstrate physical responsibility. We need to put ourselves in the shoes of our administrators and realize that not all programs are equal. Gone are the days of the Clarion’s, Central Michigan’s, Edinboro’s and Cal Poly’s. Shouldn’t we consider creating a fourth division for wrestling?

Not a division below NCAA D-I because the affected coaches would see this as a demotion, but instead, let’s problem solve here and add a division above D-I for the big boys.

Here’s my solution; NCAA, NCAA D-I, NCAA D-II, and NCAA D-III. The new division would be for those institutions that offer a full (9.9) complement of scholarships, and for schools who are delusional about thinking they can compete at that level with 2.3 scholarships.

To qualify now as a D-I institution, schools could have no more than 3 full scholarships. D-II and D-III would remain the same as they are.

Programs need to compete where they can afford to compete. Not seeing the logic of this puts every one of those programs who can’t, and haven’t competed well, at risk of being discontinued.

Don’t misunderstand what I’m trying to say here. This change isn’t being recommended to control spending, it’s necessary to help keep programs alive.

Maybe I’m delusional, but I can’t imagine having to go back to campus after the nationals and answer the question, “how’d you do coach” with a “we learned a lot.” Which is a nice way of saying, we got our butts kicked and finished outside of the Top 50.

Wouldn’t it be better to be able to say if there was a fourth division, “we had 3 All-Americans and finished 13th in the country?” Remember, with this change we add another Top 20 to the equation and  another 80 All-American certificates into the system.

I realize some of you might disagree. But if you want your thumb to stop hurting, shouldn’t you lay the hammer down?

I’m open to debating what the exact number of scholarships would be for this new division. But before we do that, shouldn’t we agree that a fourth division is better than what we have? It’s the only way I know of containing costs while being able to offer athletes from out-gunned programs access to 80 more All-American certificates.

For those of you who don’t like the idea, may I remind you that we used to have somewhere north of 700 schools with collegiate wrestling. Now we have less than 250. The difference being, 90% of those who are no longer with us over performed in the consumption of resources and under delivered competitively.

The sport has to come up with its own solutions to these challenges because those who administer athletic programming would like nothing more than to reduce their headaches, and non-revenue programs by fifty-percent.

Wrestling has to position itself so we’re not one of the red-ink programs that’s left crying. The creation of a fourth division doesn’t fix all of our problems, but it goes a long way to demonstrate to our administrators that we understand what they’re going through.

5 Comments

  • Derek Bekeny says:

    Wade,
    Good stuff. I like it. I have heard proposals of 3 scholarship rules at the Conference Level to address these concerns.
    May have some merit and could be a Proof of Concept.
    Your solutions are generally “All-in” solutions.
    Is anyone surprised?
    Pulling from the Top makes good sense. The opposite of the other approach which is also consistent with your “working backwards to forwards”.
    I would also like to resurrect the practice of having the Champions of the other Divisions get a seed at the Top Tier Division as you did with your teamate in 1972.
    It would seem that it might be a little easier doing this at the Conference level than the NCAA level but then that probably would just paint the solution in a corner and never be able to make it global.
    How do we get traction on this?
    Bek

    • Wade Schalles says:

      Bek . . . nice to hear from you. As always. My ideas, all be they sound, well, most of them anyway, are just teasers. The leadership of the sport, as with anyone, hates change. Unless they would win the lottery then I suspect they could gut it out. No to moving up lower divisions for a master event. Not fair to the D-I kids and more expenses for the lower division schools to pony up. If you want to be D-I, transfer and wrestle in D-I. With the rules they have now, being immediately eligible after transferring, it’s not hard to make the jump.

      • Derek Bekeny says:

        What I like about your approach, is that it is an outstanding attempt at leveling the playing field.
        Something that professional sports has implemented.
        It is not perfect but has helped ‘flatten the curve”. Wrestling is the most dynasty laden sport that I can think of with basically 3 teams maybe 4 dominating the top position since the inception of the NCAA or the beginning of collegiate wrestling.
        Sports are truly a zero sum game and excessive dominance can be a drain on the success of the sport.
        I say this even of a member of team with 102 straight Dual meet wins. Still a record in Ohio high school wrestling.

        Can’t wait for the next Jacob’s novel!!

      • Derek Bekeny says:

        What I like about your approach, is that it is an outstanding attempt at leveling the playing field.
        Something that professional sports has implemented.
        It is not perfect but has helped ‘flatten the curve”. Wrestling is the most dynasty laden sport that I can think of with basically 3 teams maybe 4 dominating the top position since the inception of the NCAA or the beginning of collegiate wrestling.
        Sports are truly a zero sum game and excessive dominance can be a drain on the success of the sport.
        I say this even of a member of team with 102 straight Dual meet wins. Still a record in Ohio high school wrestling.

        Can’t wait for the next Jacob’s novel!!

  • Rocky Reininger says:

    Extremely well written and thought out Wade. We need fans, sponsors and media. There are numerous conversations around our sport regarding those topics. Retention is also an issue that also merits evaluation! Keep at it!

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