Monday, May 3, 2010

California Dreamin'

“… and the sky is gray.” That is the last half of the opening line of the Mamas and Papas hit California Dreamin’. Every state in the union faces a budget crisis but they all pale in comparison to the situation in California. The proposed 2010-2011 budget calls for massive cuts including almost $900 million from school funding. Virtually every service in the state will be reduced in some way. Is it any wonder that intercollegiate wrestling in California is on life support?

Publicly funded institutions in the University of California and California State systems must find millions of dollars to pare from their respective budgets. Dropping wrestling and other minor sports seems to be the easy answer. Just two weeks ago UC Davis announced the elimination of wrestling and three other sports – a move that the university claims will lead to $5 million in savings over the next five years.

In the face of all of this potential financial disaster, how can we fans justify our insistence that these financially strapped institutions keep wrestling on their varsity sport rosters? Well – first, there’s a need. Perhaps I’m naïve, but I’ve always felt that tax-funded universities ought to serve their constituencies. California high schools rank second in the United States in total athletic participation, but are the runaway leaders in wrestling participation. Over 10% (27,500) of all high school wrestlers in America compete at California high schools. Illinois is in second place with 16,000+.

Do we truly believe that athletics can be a stepping stone to higher education? Do we really value the concept of educating the whole person? Are business and government leaders who have learned “Toughness 101” on the mat crucial to the future of California?

My answer is obviously, “Yes!” But, the reality is that California tax payers can’t save wrestling at their colleges. So who will? Once again it’s up to us – those who love the sport - to do what we can.

Cal State Fullerton just announced that they met the May 1st (May Day – how ironic) fund raising goal to save wrestling and women’s gymnastics for at least one more season. I’m guessing that they started working to fund the 2011-2012 season yesterday. If you want to help them off to a great start you can do so online at www.fullerton.edu/tac or by sending a check to

Titan Athletics
Cal State Fullerton Philanthropic Foundation
2600 E Nutwood Ave Ste 850
Fullerton CA 92831-5455.

Cal State Bakersfield faces a tougher challenge. The university gave supporters until May 21, 2010 to raise $1.4 million in order to stave off the elimination of wrestling and three other sports. To date they’ve raised about $407,000. Yep, they have just under three weeks to come up with almost a million bucks.

New England Patriots offensive lineman and former NCAA and World heavyweight champion (and CSUB alumnus), Stephen Neal, and NCAA Champion Jake Varner are among those leading the fund raising. They announced an event on May 15th at the Jam Events Center on Norris Rd in Bakersfield. A dinner will be served and several unique items and packages – including airfare, hotel expenses and two tickets for a Patriots game – will be offered at live and silent auctions. For more information, see Mark Palmer’s full article here.

You can also donate directly to Save Bakersfield Wrestling here.

Cal Poly is being proactive and will host a Mixed Martial Arts event called “Fight for Wrestling” on May 22nd at the Mott Gym to raise money for the program.

I know that some of you reading this will choose to donate to one or more of these schools – and I can almost guess who. There’s a very select segment of the wrestling community that inevitably answers the call. Thank you.

However – the sport needs more high profile support – especially in California. Movie stars like Tom Cruise and Ashton Kutcher like to talk about their wrestling backgrounds – but I don’t see them out in front trying to grow the sport. Perhaps they’re quietly active behind the scenes and if they are I thank them. But, come on, if the sport has really meant something to you – let the world