Monday, June 22, 2009

Cosmic convergence or collision course

I had too much time on my hands last week and spent way too much time surfing the ‘net for wrestling-related stories and posts. It just got “curiouser and curiouser” as Alice said.

First, from the Iowa Preps wrestling message board: This post was titled, “Wrestling Scholarship Available in Macon, GA.”

“Dear Wrestler,

My name is Kevin Andres, and I coach the wrestling program at Mercer University. I would like to introduce you to our program and let you know about an exciting opportunity for you to continue your wrestling careers in college. Mercer's team just finished 9th in the Nation @ the National Dual Championships and tied for 23rd at the traditional National Championship Tournament.

My program is part of the National Collegiate Wrestling Association, which includes over 130 colleges of all sizes. The NCWA is entering its twelfth season and has grown in size and competition every year.

I would be happy to answer any questions you might have, so feel free to call (478-301-2404) or email (kandres@mercerwrestling.com).

Thank you,

PS: Mercer University offers many academic scholarships and is also offering wrestling scholarships in various amounts to select wrestlers who qualify. To be accepted you need a minimum 3.0 GPA, 550m/550r on the SAT/ 25 ACT

http://www.gomercer.com
http://www.mercerwrestling.com/rec

HIGH NEED FOR 125lbs, 285lbs wrestlers

Kevin Andres Wrestling Coach Mercer University, Macon, GA 31207478-301-2404”

Then I read a press release that the NAIA-affiliated Mid-South Conference is adding wrestling as a conference sport. Five of the conference’s 17 members already compete in wrestling and this will certainly add incentive for the other 12 to consider adding a team.

After reading the release I searched for more information on the Mid-South Conference and came across this discussion on the Georgia National Wrestling Alliance wrestling forum about which college in Georgia to target next for the addition of another wrestling program. As you read the discussion you’ll see that Coach Andres from the “Wrestling Scholarship…” post is a participant in the discussion. It appears that there is a very active group of supporters who are working hard for the growth of intercollegiate wrestling in Georgia.

This is all good news. Participation in high school wrestling is still growing. While the trend among NCAA member institutions to eliminate wrestling programs is continuing, NAIA and NCWA schools are stepping in to give young student-athletes the opportunity to wrestle as a part of their college educations. The NAIA member, Grand View University added wrestling this past season and Baker University will begin varsity competition in 2009/2010.

I couldn’t let go of the string – I had to keep searching. It was all so positive. I then found this blog from NAIA expert, Jason Dannelly. More good news.

Then the string broken. As one site led to another, I landed on this article from the New York Times. In the settlement of a Title IX lawsuit brought by three female students against the University of California-Davis athletic department, UC Davis agreed to bring the percentage of athletes who are female to within 1.5% of the total female student body percentage. In other words, in 10 years (the time line agreed to in the settlement), if 60% of all UC Davis students are women, 58.5% of all athletes will have to be women.

“Proportionality” is the first of the three “prongs” to determine Title IX compliance. This settlement appears to impact wrestling in a couple of ways. In previous Title IX lawsuit rulings a disparity of 5% was considered acceptable proportionality. That gap is now narrowed. It also seems to continue the trend of making prong one carry more weight than the other two (a pattern of participation growth opportunity for women and matching female participation level to interest level). As more administrations are forced to make budget cuts, the elimination of men’s sports teams will seem a far easier option than adding women’s opportunities. Wrestling will be the first to go at many schools.

So – what does this mean to those schools that are adding wrestling? Grand View’s student body is already well over 60% female – so is Baker’s. Doesn’t it seem as if the addition of wrestling would run counter to Title IX as reflected in this latest interpretation? Will the UC Davis settlement discourage NAIA and NCWA schools from further expansion of wrestling opportunities?

More importantly, will the UC Davis settlement result in unforeseen consequences to educational opportunity as a whole? What do I mean?

More women than men began attending college in the late 1980’s. Since then that trend has continued and the gap has widened. Recent years have seen enrollments drop at small private schools. For many of these institutions 70 –75% of the annual budget comes from tuitions. In those cases, enrollment growth – or at least stability – is an absolute necessity for long-term viability. A reduction in enrollment can be disastrous. Beloit (WI) College recently eliminated 40 staff positions because 36 fewer students than expected enrolled.

Thirty-six students! Grand View added 21 students the first year of offering wrestling and has commitments from at least an additional five for next year. Baker will add 30 or more new students primarily because of wrestling. Doesn’t it seem like the addition of a wrestling program could give one small private college an edge over its competitors in the battle for students? And wouldn’t a school with the foresight and guts to add women’s wrestling have an even greater edge? Doesn’t more schools, offering more activities, actually add up to more opportunity?

What will be the final resolution to these conflicts? Are we headed to a showdown between field hockey and wrestling and only one will survive? Are we willing to sacrifice a small college for the sake of an unbalanced interpretation of Title IX? Or – will we all take a step back and look at the complete picture?

3 comments:

Viratas said...

Jim,

I love your blog and your writing. We are launching a new national wrestling site that is different from what is out there. It is user driven and I would like to speak with you about it.

info@theopenmat.com

Thanks

Jim Brown said...

I'm open to anything that helps wrestling.

University said...

We have a few college students online from college of Mercer University and we love your blog postings, so well add your rss or news feed for them, Thanks and please post us and leave a comment back and well link to you. Thanks Jen , Blog Manager, Mercer University