Monday, March 30, 2009

Tom Brands in the Twilight Zone

University of Iowa athletic director, Gary Barta, called head wrestling coach Tom Brands into his office last Friday. The View from Section GG has just learned the details of that meeting.

AD Barta

“Tom, congratulations on your team winning another NCAA Championship. We at the University are all proud of you.”

Coach Brands

“Thank you. We’ve got a bunch of guys coming back that all want to work to win individual championships. Nothing’s going to be handed to us, but if we work toward those individual championships, team title number 23 will take care of itself.”

AD Barta

“Well, Tom, that’s why I called you in – there isn’t going to be a 23rd championship. Effective July 1 the University of Iowa will discontinue wrestling as a varsity sport.”

Coach Brands

“You can’t do that – not at Iowa! The fans won’t let you. The alumni won’t let you. Heck – Gable won’t let you!!!”

AD Barta

“Tom, there is really nothing I can do. As you know, Governor Culver has mandated 6% budget cuts across all state agencies and institutions. University President Mason has said that these cuts must extend to the athletic department.”

Coach Brands

“But, we’re by far the most successful athletic program this school has ever had. Why not cut back on the Carver Hawkeye Arena renovation plans. We only cost you about a million dollars a year. You should be able to cut enough out of that $47 million project to save us.”

AD Barta

“Actually, we need those renovations more than ever. Our biggest donors have decided that if they’re going to be forced to watch mediocre basketball, they at least should be able to do it in luxury seating.”

Coach Brands

“Why us – why not women’s rowing?”

AD Barta

“You know we can’t even discuss that, Tom. I’m sorry, my decision’s final. That is – unless you can raise $5 million by July 1…”

Of course this meeting never actually happened and almost any college wrestling fan in America would say that it never could happen. Therein lies the problem. College wrestling fans take too much for granted.

Lost in the excitement of the past month’s qualification tournaments and NCAA championships was the news that two more Division I programs were eliminated. It’s true that the handwriting had been on the wall for both for a while. Wagner College in Staten Island was the smallest DI program in the country and had not been competitive for a while. Portland (OR) State University had been battling Academic Progress Rate (APR) issues that threatened the well-being of the school’s other teams.

Does anyone really care? The reaction on internet wrestling fan sites has been – frankly – “Oh, well.” Where’s the outrage? Why no “Save (insert name here) Wrestling” websites or t-shirts? Why no letter writing or email campaigns? Are we just giving up? No – I suspect that many of us now recognize the truth – that those things don’t work. They just simply make us – the fans – feel like we’re participating in the battle.

Well – we’re not. Heck – most of us so-called wrestling fans never even attend meets.

Let’s mount a “Save College Wrestling” movement. Let’s be proactive with meaningful actions – not just with the goal of stopping the elimination of programs – let’s add more wrestling teams.

If you feel that the interpretation of Title IX is the culprit – do more than sign online petitions. Fight for more opportunities for girls and women to wrestle. Contribute to legal funds. Learn all of the facts about Title IX – don’t just spew reactionary hate.

Join your local college’s wrestling booster club. If it doesn’t have one – start one. Build support for the team. Commit your time and your checkbook. Work to get corporate donors/sponsors. Learn to sell the value of college wrestling to anyone that will lend you an ear for thirty seconds.

Unfortunately we choose to talk more about the schools that are dropping teams and not enough about institutions like Cal Baptist, Newberry, Limestone, Grand View and Jamestown that have recently added varsity wrestling. Baker University in Kansas is adding wrestling next season. Johnny Cobb, Brandon Slay and their group are continuing to work hard to bring intercollegiate wrestling to Texas. Is their a college in your community that should have a wrestling team? Why not spearhead the group that accomplishes that?

Jason Bryant and Kyle Klingman from Wrestling 411 like to talk about “a little from a lot” when trying to raise financial support for their efforts to bring a wrestling highlight show to television. I’ve been helping charitable organizations raise money for over twenty years and the “80-20” rule generally applies to fund raising just as it does in business. That is - 80% of the money comes from 20% of the donors. Eighty per cent of the work to expand college wrestling will come from 20% of the wrestling community. Won’t you be one of the elite that really makes a difference?


Albemarle Window Cleaning said...
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Jim Harshaw said...

Excellent stuff. Well said. We wrestling people love our sport and we need to do more than talk about it. We need to attend matches at the very least. If it is to go much further than that it seems people need for it to be spoon fed to them. We're all busy people but that's not good enough if we want to survive.

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