How will the COVID-19 Crisis affect Non-Revenue bearing Sports? Women’s Wrestling; The Key To Our Survival
With the entire world under this COVID-19 crisis, it seems that sports are really insignificant, especially to people who have been ill and/or loss loved ones. However, at some point we will have to get back to living our lives and like after 9/11 I feel sports will be a focal point to bringing people and communities together.
It is known fact that the Big Two – NCAA Football and Basketball are the revenue that allows schools to fund so many different sports. Example; CBS and Turner Broadcasting pay the NCAA $ 771 million dollars for the rights to broadcast the NCAA Division I Basketball tournament. (Per: Gio Insignares). You add the Women’s NCAA Tourney and the college football playoffs and you are talking in the billions of funds to be partially distributed to schools in support of all sports. (This procedure of distribution of funds is an article in itself. In laymen’s terms without it, non-revenue bearing sports are in jeopardy.)
The money loss in this year’s tournaments, along with football with empty stadiums and television revenue lost from the College Softball and Baseball Championships will put a legitimate strain on “ALL” college athletic budgets.
Old Dominion Drops Men’s Wrestling
We only have to look back a little over a month to see how fragile our sport is on the college level. Old Dominion University dropped wrestling, they had 4 NCAA qualifiers, a consistent coaching staff led by Steve Martin for the last 16 years and relatively good numbers. Even with their tradition they were considering dropping wrestling before the COVID-19 outbreak due to a financial strain, then with the fear of this crisis it sealed the deal. ODU will have 16 sports which is the minimum allowed by the FBS level. Old Dominion will be adding Women’s Volleyball in 2020-2021 to meet that minimum and this will give them nine women’s sports and seven men’s teams. They were the only Conference USA school with wrestling, so their wrestling team competed in the MAC.
Anonymous Donor Saves ASU Wrestling
Hopefully, ODU will take the same root that Arizona State did back in 2008. On March 23, 2008 ASU Athletic Director Lisa Love made the announcement that they will be dropping three men’s sports; Tennis, Swimming and Wrestling. However, within 10 days the wrestling program was reinstated due to private donations. An anonymous donor guaranteed an $8 million dollar endowment and the school allowed the program to continue. The result – this past season ASU was ranked in the top 10. (Note: Tennis and Swimming also received private endowments.)
Title IX Leveling The Playing Field
Also, we can learn from history. On June 23,1972, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 was enacted into law by congress, then signed by President Richard Nixon. Before Title IX there were grave differences and discrimination in women’s activities compared to men. Title IX was introduced by Birch Bayh (Senate) and Edith Green (H of R) to equal the playing field. The law did not address equal money spent, however was designed to correct imbalances and enforce equal access and quality. So, any school that receives federal money all the way from elementary schools to the University level must provide a fair and equal treatment of the sexes in all areas, including athletics.
This law was vital to equal rights to women and the results have been phenomenal. However, it did have negative effect on non-revenue bearing men’s sports. Wrestling and Men’s Gymnastics were badly hurt in direct result of this law, because the schools had to find ways to make their programs compliant. They did not have enough revenue to add so they had to eliminate. Though this was not intentional, it virtually eliminated men’s gymnastics from both High School and College. Wrestling seem to have a stronger hold even though many programs were dropped there was enough of a core of strong programs and a tight American fellowship to bear down and move forward.
Another non intentional factor was the sport of football. (Note: I am a huge football fan). Football in its nature needs a lot more scholarships, so any school with football had to come up with equal access for women. Now keep in mind the law did not say dollars had to equal, but opportunities did.
What can the wrestling community do and learn from history? First, every time a school drops wrestling, write a letter to that school telling them of your disappointment and letting them know how important the sport was to you. If you were considering ODU other schools that drop wrestling for further education, tell them the deciding factor for choosing another school was their lack of support for wrestling. One hundred letters would really wake them up. Second, support your local wrestling programs, in Vermont Castleton and Norwich University have great programs, but will need financial support. I know it is difficult to get to their home meets because of the High School schedule, but we need more wrestling “fans” in Vermont also. If the schools see packed stands, they know High Schoolers are on their campus and those High School Athletes might consider their school.
Developing Women’s Wrestling
However, our greatest ability to help our sport is continue to develop women’s wrestling. We as a state we should make it a goal that within the next three years, that we have a designated Women’s State Wrestling Tournament. We could start with six weight classes and if you averaged six competitors in each weight then we would only need 36-40 female competitors. I really believe it is doable and would really help not only our state but young girls could utilize the scholarships and financial support offered on the college level.
With the history that we know, we need to be proactive and not reactive. Get to those summer wrestling Camps, show your support to USA Wrestling by being a USA Wrestling Club. Hire College coaches to do local clinics and the best way for our graduating athletes to contribute is competing on the next level. I would travel miles to see Vermonters compete.
So, as we try to bring back our normal daily routines, we can reflect on those opportunities given to us and the values they lead us to.
How Will The COVID-19 Crises Affect Non-Revenue Bearing Sports? Women’s Wrestling; The Key To Our Survival
Vermont Wrestler April 2020