In the past few weeks, the college wrestling world has been abuzz about head coaching changes at major programs such Iowa State, Penn State, Arizona State and University of Illinois… to the point where many wrestlers, coaches and fans may not realize that at least three college wrestling programs have been axed in April alone.
Earlier last month, Carson-Newman and MIT reported that they were cutting their intercollegiate wrestling programs. Just this week, Delaware State announced it was eliminating wrestling, reducing its roster of intercollegiate sports from 18 down to 17.
“Dropping the wrestling program was a very difficult decision influenced by several factors,” said acting DSU President Claibourne D. Smith. “Like a number of programs around the nation being discontinued in these economic times, it is with regret that the University can no longer field a wrestling program adequate to University and NCAA expectations.”
During the 2008-2009 season, other college wrestling programs getting the ax have included Lawrence College, Norwich University, Portland State, Rose-Hulman, and Wagner College.
In light of these cuts, the National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA) has announced an action plan, working directly with these programs and affiliated groups to see what might be done at each individual school… with an ultimate goal of reinstating programs.
Among the steps that the NWCA is taking is to educate college boards of trustees on the important role that wrestling can serve in helping smaller, private schools with concerns about maintaining enrollment levels that wrestling is a way to maintain and grow overall enrollments, even in today’s challenging economic environment. As the NWCA points out, there are more than 260,000 high school wrestlers in the U.S., but only 260 wrestling programs at four-year colleges… so there is tremendous opportunity for colleges that establish or reinstate a wrestling program to attract students from this sizeable pool.
The NWCA also notes that a number of discontinued programs can be traced back to poor retention and graduation rates among athletes. To address this challenge, the NWCA has retained the consulting services of Mark Gumble, a member of the National Association of Athletic Academic Advisors, a group that is funded by the NCAA to oversee APR improvement strategies.
As a group that serves wrestling coaches, the NWCA is providing direct assistance to coaches in a number of ways, including collaborating directly with the head coach and alumni groups at each of the eight schools that are eliminating wrestling… the establishment of a College Coaching Academy to help coaches enhance their leadership and business skills to protect their programs… and offering mentors to coaches of existing programs that the NWCA has identified as being in danger of elimination.