Monday, July 27, 2009

How I'd start a college wresting program

Eighteen years ago I started my own company. I took ten years’ experience working for others, found an underserved niche and took the plunge. In those 18 years I have developed and managed direct marketing campaigns that launched department stores, pizzerias, groceries and banks.

As an outsider looking in – how would I start a new college wrestling program?

Step 1 – Call the National Wrestling Coaches Association.

Mike Moyer and his staff have developed invaluable materials to help anyone that wants intercollegiate wrestling to grow. They work behind the scenes with organizations that are trying to expand the sport at all levels. Their website is a wealth of ammunition for those that want to take up the battle for wrestling. Almost all of the data in this blog is taken directly from

Step 2 – Build a constituency.

Few college administrators are looking to add a wrestling team (either men’s or women’s). Someone has to start the ball rolling. High school coaches can be great catalysts for action. Recently retired after 20 years of coaching at Amarillo (TX) Tascosa High School, Johnny Cobb heads up a group working to establish wrestling at West Texas A & M. One of Johnny’s partners in his effort is another prime example of someone who can spearhead a startup – Olympic champion, Brandon Slay. Which prominent athletes, business people, politicians, etc. can you enlist to join you?

Parents of wrestlers can provide a major impetus. Alan Leet, father of Iowa Hawkeye wrestler, T. H. Leet, is one of the leaders of a coalition that was instrumental in bringing Georgia’s only intercollegiate varsity wrestling team to Darton College. Theirs is an excellent model for how to attack the challenge: start with a grass roots group that loves wrestling, enlist the aid of the NWCA and then get Dan Gable to help with your fund raising.

Step 3 – Make your case.

Wrestling ranks sixth nationally in high school athletic participation. Of the ten sports that rank highest in high school participation, wrestling ranks last in opportunities to participate at the intercollegiate level. Only 2.3% of high school wrestlers can go on to compete in college.

There are two areas of the country that are distinctly underserved. The Western and Rocky Mountain States have one-fifth of America’s high school wrestlers and less than 30 college teams. The situation in the Deep South is even worse, with no college varsity teams in states like Texas, Florida, Alabama and Louisiana.

The numbers make sense – especially for a tuition-driven school. A wrestling team would attract 25 – 30 new students (a women’s team an additional 15 – 20). Beloit College recently laid off 40 employees because 35 fewer students enrolled than expected. Startup costs could be as low $20,000 (the cost of 2 mats for a school that already has a weight room and space for the mats), but would more realistically be in the $75,000 - $100,000 range. Annual operating costs (including coaches salaries) will range from $125,000 (according to Baker University) to $250,000. Average 4-year private college tuition is $25,000. Let’s assume that scholarships and other financial aid discount that by 50%. Wrestling not only pays for itself – it has the opportunity to generate positive revenue for any school that is smart enough to add it.

Don’t forget the long term implications. Every additional enrollee is a potential future alumni donor.

Step 4 – Prime the pump.

Yes, the numbers make sense, but every college administrator will be more open to investing in wrestling if you bring financial commitment to the table. Aim high. Get creative. Believe in the value of wrestling. If you had to – could you convince John Jones, the president of Acme Widget Company to write you a $10,000 check – especially if he had no wrestling background?

Here’s the most important factor – someone has to want to. Someone has to take the first step. Is it you?

1 comment:

University said...

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