Franklin & Marshall recently received a $5 million endowment for the wrestling program. David Lehman a 1968 alum made the donation to the school and program. He wrestled at F&M in the late ‘60’s. F&M has been off the wrestling radar for a while but Richard Durso recent grad and All American gave the school an increased level of visibility. Any wrestling fan could see Durso wrestle from great seats at any home match. One of the things that make F&M unique is that it’s one of the only liberal art colleges with a D1 program in the country. Wrestling can be at its very best when combined with rigorous academics. F&M has invested in coaching staff numbers but will this lead to better recruiting? The financial stability that the Lehman donation provides it gives hope to other small D1 programs.
Read F&M story here.
Numerous wrestling programs have stayed off termination or scrutiny with endowments for coaching, scholarships, capital improvements and general program budgets. It’s also been done at the high school level. Even in a strong wrestling state like Pennsylvania I’ve seen school boards cut relatively healthy wrestling programs. One case I’m very familiar with in Dist. 3 a program was cut while generating enough money with ticket sales to cover 55% of its budget only be saved by an anonymous benefactor. The net budget cost of this program was less than football, basketball, baseball, track and filed and tennis, yet it was singled out.
Why you ask? I keep coming back to wrestling being out of sync with today’s society. The culture makers in government education generally don’t like strong boys. The out of step values of personal responsibility, hard work and physical behavior make wrestling diametrically opposed to the victim culture that we are bathed in on a daily basis.
Is an endowment fool proof? Nope. Boston University had close to a million dollar endowment for wrestling scholarships and the school disappeared the program. Likely because they stood to get more money from New Balance to help bring in field hockey and improve the lacrosse field. I’m sure that they thought they could convince the donor, Orin Smiley ‘s family to change the donation to general athletics. The program raised another half million trying to stave off termination but it didn’t work. Endowment, plus active alumni and fan base seem to be the ingredients needed in this day and age. Rob Koll at Cornell has done this on all 3 fronts at Cornell.
Good news is that Fresno State seems to be very committed to building their reconstituted program. I didn’t understand their hiring process and no one asked me for my opinion.
Bad News: Boise State just dropped their program. Everyone in the wrestling community is upset about the program being dropped and the way it was done. I know that I’m in the minority on this front but I think all sports should not be the direct responsibility of the school but should stand on their own. That said I hate seeing an isolated D1 program nearly 500 miles from it’s closest competition be dropped.
No one answer will satisfy inquiring minds. Reason and evidence are in short supply on American college campuses. We can expect numerous contradictory statements from the school. Its clearly not a financial decision. Baseball teams cost more than wrestling teams in terms of operations and capital expenses. It’s the whim of the administration up against the false equalization of educational opportunities law that is title 9. More girls go to BSU and American colleges than boys. Shouldn’t boys have a title 9 of their own? I digress.
University’s do underhanded, behind closed doors and nontransparent things every day. Fans of the sport shouldn’t take this personally. It’s just one of the things that happens when people in power experience very little accountability.
To be a safe program you need a coach that can be at least moderately successful on the mat with victories and some attendance but just as importantly is successful off the mat with an active alumni organization that drives fund raising, competitive facilities and endows elements of the program if not the entire thing. Head coach is a misnomer. CEO and program leader are more appropriate. At well funded schools coaching roles are spread out, scheduling, techniques, strength and conditioning, one on ones with the boys can ease the load on the Head Coach.
Even big schools have holes that seem obvious: Lehigh’s fan base is glaringly small, Maryland’s lack of success on the mat is remarkable, Pitt’s overall lack of success on and off the mat is noteworthy.
Finding a competent leader for a program isn’t easy either. Competent people tend to hire competence. If you see a poor head coach you’ve got to look at the AD. From there look at the school prez and board. How many people do you know who are truly competent? I think that less than 10% of people, my wife is more optimistic at 15%, are extremely competent at a given thing.
I’ve been around a long time and have participated in and coached more than a dozen sports. In my opinion what is very clear through the lenses of history and the world is that wrestling is the most valuable sport to a boy and society ever devised.
I swear it upon Zeus an outstanding runner cannot be the equal of an average wrestler. ~Socrates