Monday, September 13, 2010

Who pays Tom Brands?

Who pays Tom Brands salary? No, that’s not a trick question. We all know that he is paid by the University of Iowa.

What is he paid to do? Nope – I’m still not trying to fool you. He is paid to teach young men, make them better wrestlers and win championships for the Hawkeyes. So far he’s been pretty successful at those tasks.

I’ve not seen his contract, but I’m reasonably certain that there is no clause in there that says anything like, “You must always do what’s best for the future of wrestling.” In fact, I’m willing to bet that his boss, Iowa athletic director, Gary Barta, mandates that Brands put his athletes’ best interests first.

Never one to care much about anyone else’s reactions, Coach Brands brought an avalanche of criticism down on himself last week when it was released that the Iowa Hawkeyes will not be competing in this season’s National Dual Championships. As was his wrestling style, he has faced the controversy head on.

You and I may not like his decision – AND I DON’T – but it is his prerogative to decline an invitation to the National Duals. But – make no mistake – this decision has the potential to seriously damage one of the sport’s top events AND this year’s host, the University of Northern Iowa.

The National Duals have evolved into the most unique format in all of wrestling. In one venue you can watch the best teams and athletes from all 3 NCAA divisions, the NAIA, the NJCAA and from women’s intercollegiate wrestling. Hardcore wrestling fans, like me, wander around the UNI Dome and enjoy a variety of competition that you just can’t experience anywhere else.

With all of that diversity, it’s still undeniable that the NCAA Division I teams are the star attractions and that no one brings more fans than the Hawkeyes. The NWCA reports that over 16,000 tickets have been sold for National Duals each of the last two years. It’s hard to know just how many of them are dressed in black and gold – but it’s a major chunk. Tom Brands’ decision throws a daunting challenge out there for Mike Moyer, Pat Tocci and Tammy Tedesco of the NWCA and Troy Dannen, the UNI athletic director.

The wrestling community is already stepping up to help meet the challenge. Last week fans from Coe, Cornell College, Luther and Iowa State all made Tickets for Kids pledges specifically for the National Duals. A Waterloo business man with wrestling ties is working to involve the Cedar Valley business community. Scott Casber from Takedown TV has already done several interviews (including me) about the issue. The National Wrestling Hall of Fame Dan Gable Museum is also getting involved.

You, too, can lend your support in a couple of different ways. You can help fill the UNI Dome with youngsters by donating to Tickets for Kids. Either email your pledge to me at or send your check to

Tickets for Kids
c/o Jim Brown
130 24th St NE
Cedar Rapids, IA 52402-4936.

If you want your contribution to be specific to the National Duals, please make note of that fact.

And, hey you Hawkeye fans – the Hawks are idle those two days (January 8 & 9,2011) after wrestling SIU-Edwardsville on Friday night. Come on up to Cedar Falls and root for your favorite Division III team.

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