Sunday, September 17, 2017

We Are Not The Only Sport In The Fight:

Ask yourself this question: Are you a college sports fan? 

Obviously you are or you wouldn't be reading this blog.  Yet what does that term mean, "College sports fan?"  For most Americans it means that you watch and follow Football and Men's basketball. In this particular case, it most likely also means you are a wrestling fan. 

What other sports? 

You may have added a few sports to the list and if you did, may I commend you for that. If you didn't, don't feel bad. If you count up all of the sports that the NCAA offers to men, women and coed the number comes out to 37. The majority of Americans only follow two of them.  Only 5% of the available sports to spectate, and people consider themselves diehard and passionate "sports fans."  And before you call hypocrisy, I'll be the first to admit that I'm no better.  37 sports, and the only two I pay attention to are wrestling and baseball.  Trust me, I speak to myself as much as I speak to anyone. 

What is my point? Why am I bringing this up? 

We as a wrestling community strive. We strive for attention. We strive for recognition. We strive for survival. For over forty years we have fought those who have misused and perverted Title IX. We have fought greedy and selfish administrations, athletic directors and University/College presidents. We've struggled against budget cuts. We have continuously worked to grow our sport and popularize it. 

Truth is, we're not alone. There are so many other sports besides wrestling that are going through the same trials and tribulations that we are.  Why all of these sports choose to fight this battle alone makes no sense. 

Maybe you don't care about other sports.  Maybe what has happened and continues to happen to Men's gymnastics, Men's Swimming and Diving, Baseball, Men's Tennis and many other sports is of no concern to you.  

They should be. 

We want people to care about wrestling. We want people to be as upset as we are when a wrestling program is cut from a school's athletics program.  Yet how can we expect someone else to give a hoot about wrestlers and wrestling teams, if we don't give a hoot about them in return? 

This isn't a didactic speech, preaching that you should suddenly start attending the Gymnastics events at the  closest college near you or that you should suddenly bookmark the NCAA's official fencing website. 

What it means is that you should have enough of an understanding that other sports, their athletes, their coaches and their fans are going through the same things that we are. 

I imagine that some of you that are reading this probably know Penn State football fans who do not follow wrestling. Would it bother you if these fans didn't have the slightest clue of Penn State's wrestling success? I would hope that it would.  Yet, as a Penn State wrestling fan yourself, are you aware that the Nittany Lions won three Men's Gymnastics titles in the last 17 years? 

And speaking of Men's Gymnastics, did you know that eight of the teams that have won the NCAA Division I team title since the first championships were held in 1932, have since dropped their Men's Gymnastics team?   This includes Chicago, Temple, Florida State, USC, SIU-Carbondale, UCLA, Arizona State and three time champs Iowa State. 

Have you seen Mike Houston's post about how the numbers are down for high school wrestling participation?  In 1977 3,655 high schools in the United States had boy's gymnastics teams, with 84,943 participants. By 2001, 1,629 high schools and 21,620 participants. 

In 1982, there were 79 NCAA Men's Gymnastics teams.  By 2001, that number had dwindled to 21. 

We are not the only sport in the fight. 

Bruce Baumgartner, and we can certainly name more. Great World and Olympic wrestlers that achieved great success, that come from schools that no longer offer wrestling programs.  Steve McCain, gymnast at the 2000 Olympic Games, competed for UCLA during his college days, which no longer has a men's Gymnastics team. 

We are not the only sport in the fight. 

Mike Moyer and the NWCA work relentlessly to grow collegiate wrestling, looking for every opportunity they can get, as they recognize the issues of Title IX.  Talk to Ron Gailmore Senior Program Director at USA Gymnastics, you'll find out that they are doing the same with their sport. 

We are not the only sport in the fight. 

We all know someone that went to a school to wrestle and had to deal with the news of the wrestling program being cut. We all know a coach who poured his heart and soul into his team, only to be told that the program is getting cut. We know how disheartening and depressing that is. 

"It's a dagger through the heart" - Rutger's Team Captain Bobby Daplyn when asked how he felt about the Scarlet Knights decision to eliminate Men's Swimming and Diving.

We are not the only sport in the fight. 

Are you irritated with reading that line over and over again yet?  I hope not as irritated as you are with Boise State's decision to discontinue wrestling. 

Darton State, Radford, Daytona State and the University of North Dakota who all had Men's Swimming and Diving programs last year, will not be participating in the sport this year.  

We are not the only sport in the fight. 

Did it tick you off when administrators at Boston University said that one of the reasons that Terrier wrestling was cut was because the program could not sustain itself?  It ticked off Maryland when they were told that there Men's Swimming and Diving was cut in 2012 for the same reason. 

We are not the only sport in the fight. 

Iowa State dropped Men's Swimming and Diving, Men's Gymnastics and Baseball in 2001. According to 141 lbs wrestler Benji Winegarden, head Coach Bobby Douglas told the team to recognize that at many other schools making cuts, wrestling would have been on the chopping block. That it was important to recognize that someone else's dreams, hopes and opportunities had been stripped for them. To be empathetic and supportive of these individuals and what had been taken away from them.

Below is where we currently see ourselves. By ourselves, fighting the battles, going through the war alone. This is where the other sports that fit the same descriptions that we do seem themselves too. This isn't how it should be. 

Image result for NCAA Sports Symbols wrestling

This is how it should be.....

All of us non-revenue, most of us Olympic sports, coming together, working together to hold on to and build the programs we already have.  To help one another out in the face of danger, whatever that may be from budget cuts to foolish decisions to the perverters of Title IX.  To help one another get new programs at schools and to help one another grow and popularize the athletics that we love.

Because in case you didn't read it the first six times....

We are not the only sport in the fight.

1 comment:

  1. Great blog Stephen. I have often said it would be great to get a few of our struggling college and high school sports to put on a combined event.
    How about a wrestling dual with a gymnastics meet and maybe even have each of the teams bands supplying a great listening experience.
    My point is the same as yours Stephen. Bringing attention to and combining the efforts of non revenue sports to help build their fan base for each sport.
    With so many large fieldhouses at schools indoor track, tennis, and many other sports could be incorporated into this type of promotional and supportive event set up.