Monday, March 9, 2009

Outstanding coverage

What a weekend! Arguably, it was the biggest weekend of the year for college wrestling. It was qualifying weekend for NCAA Division I schools and the NCAA Division III and the NAIA held their national championships. Thousands of college wrestlers were on the mat vying for a trip to St Louis for the Division I Championships or competing for All-American status.

Media coverage of the week was exceptional. I am a minor contributor to the fledgling College Wrestling Network, a consortium of wrestling media that coordinated much of the week’s coverage and then hosted links to all the appropriate media sites. USA Wrestling covered the EIWA and Western Regional Tournaments and the NAIA Championships, intermat covered the EWL and Eastern Regional Tournaments, revwrestling was at the Big Ten Championships, Takedown Radio at Big Twelves and wrestling 411 provided excellent coverage of the Division III Championships. (Writer’s note – I highly recommend that you read Jason Bryant's current blog about his impressions of DIII’s).

Other outlets not associated with the College Wrestling Network also contributed. Andy Vogel’s Twittered from the US Cellular Center, the fan site HawkeyeNation gave Hawkeye fans outstanding coverage and, of course, the Big Ten Network broadcast the Big 10 finals live.

The weekend was not without its disappointments. The NCAA had promised fans a live webcast of the Division III finals and then dropped the ball. It frequently appears to fans that the NCAA really doesn’t care about wrestling. This is just another example of their dismissive attitude. Ironically, the Division I Wrestling Championship is one of the very few events that are profitable for the NCAA.

Here’s my question: Does this increase in coverage – most of which is on the web – have any negative side effects? The Iowa Conference has yet to release attendance figures for the Division III Championships, but by my “eyeball” count I suspect that numbers are down slightly this year. For the first two sessions of the Big Ten Championships the announced attendance was a little over 4,000 per session – not an impressive figure. By having an increased number of online outlets are we making it easier for fans to stay home?

The objective of all wrestling media, whether its Iowa Public Television, the College Wrestling Network, Wrestling 411, Takedown Radio, intermat or the magazines like WIN and Amateur Wrestling News, is to build interest in the sport. In the end we all hope that translates into more kids wrestling and more butts in seats at college wrestling events. Are we meeting that objective? I guess time will tell.


Litehouse said...


This is a very timely article. As proprietor and webmaster of, there have been suggestions that our live broadcasts of high school events are responsible for a reduction in gate receipts. However, those who level those accusations have little facts to back up their assertions except for perception. They haven't analyzed the data nor have they considered other factors that may be playing a role in any real decline in gate receipts.

One of our broadcasts was of a qualifying tournament for the NY State championships. It was held on the evening of Valentines day. A number of people told me they did not attend because they had plans for the holiday, yet the holiday was never offered up as an explanation.

Again, on perception, it was also suggested that our small, grainy, and unreliable webcast was responsible for the lower turnout for the finals of the NYS championships. However, there can be other very more plausible and likely explanations for the lower turnout -- if indeed, there was one. Our country is experiencing the deepest and broadest economic downturn since the Great Depression. Couldn't simple economics also explain the lower turnout as many would need to travel and stay overnight to attend the event?

During the season, we broadcast a number of dual meets, and one of them had the largest turnout that I've witnessed in many years. BTW, we were also finally unsuccessful with that broadcast as a consequence of network issues. Is it possible our promotion of the event had something to do with the large turnout? I don't know, but I'm sure it didn't hurt.

It's my opinion that media connects the fans to the athletes, the coaches, and the programs. The more intimately the fans are connected with the wrestling programs, the more likely the fans will turn out for events. Isn't that the way it works in pro sports?

Thanks for giving me the platform to share my opinion.


Bill Miller

Jim Brown said...


Thanks for the feedback. In real life I am a marketing consultant and gathering consumer behavior data is part of what I do. It's really too early to measure the impact of the rapid growth of online wrestling coverage. What I have learned over the years is that promotion campaigns can often have unexpected side effects.

At my gut level I'm in your camp. That being side, I still want more butts in seats at wrestling events. But I also want more kids participating.

The potential for media integration is one of the things I like about the College Wrestling Network. For example - you can watch or listen to coverage of an event on the web and then have the opportunity to read in-depth analysis in WIN or AWN.

Bottom line - more coverage is better.

Curt and Amy said...

Agreed that it was a big weekend for college wrestling. Could you say that it is a bigger weekend than the ncaa finals?

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Curt and Amy said...

Will you be at the big show this weekend?

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Litehouse said...


I understand this year's NCAA tournament broke attendance records.

What's your thinking on this? Is it possible all this publicity contributed to the record breaking attendance?

At a minimum, it doesn't support the position that all this coverage hurts attendance.

We even had more live video than ever before uninterrupted by commericials. It was outstanding.