Fresno State Answers Wrestling Questions
Aug. 9, 2006
The decision to discontinue wrestling at Fresno State was made with careful consideration and sound reasoning. It has never been stated, nor implied, that the sport of wrestling is not an activity that has the potential to have positive influence on the lives of young people. Like so many other athletics endeavors, the sport of wrestling has clearly touched the lives of many individuals.
However, this difficult action was taken to help ensure the long-term sustainability of the Department of Athletics and in the best interest of approximately 450 Fresno State student-athletes. It is important to note that these remaining student-athletes also realize positive benefits from participation in their respective sports.
Given today's economic environment at the NCAA I-A level as well as the local dynamics, Fresno State Athletics clearly needed to evaluate all its sports programming, significantly reduce the annual operating budget and restructure the program to achieve much-needed efficiency. What was required was a reduction in sports programming.
It is clear that those who are most directly affected by the elimination of wrestling are disappointed with the decision. Their frustration is understandable, as is their desire to engage the institution in ongoing discussion regarding the issue. Throughout the past several weeks we have made every effort to remain transparent, accurate and responsive to our constituency. To that end, included below are the most-asked questions and comments regarding the wrestling decision, along with the appropriate answers and/or responses.
We have heard and responded to numerous questions and assertions about this issue, but it is now time to move forward and direct all our energies to the welfare of all of our 450 student-athletes and the future of Fresno State Athletics. Including in our immediate actions is continued assistance for the wrestling student-athletes who have been affected by the programming decision.
Thank you for your consideration.
Q: It seems that this decision has been difficult for the student-athletes involved in the wrestling program. What has the institution done to assist them?
A: The continued well being of the affected student-athletes, and creating an easier transition, has been the department's primary focus since the announcement. To that end, the university will honor all scholarship commitments provided the student-athletes meet NCAA eligibility requirements as well as the Fresno State student-athletes conduct and drug testing standards. The student-athletes will continue to have access to the same services available to other varsity athletes including academic services, strength and conditioning and athletic training.
The institution also requested two waivers from the NCAA and each was approved with the following limitations:
1) The institution may reimburse incoming prospects who choose not to attend Fresno State University their application fee, non-refundable housing deposits (on-campus) and orientation fees.
2) The institution may pay scholarship awards to a second institution for the 2006-07 year. Thus, if a scholarship student-athlete elects to transfer, Fresno State may pay the promised scholarship dollars to the second institution for the 06-07 year only. Further, the second institution will not have to include the scholarship in the team limit unless the student-athlete competes for the second institution.
At least 4 returnees and 10 incoming students have found new institutions.
Q: It has been stated that wrestling is not a sponsored sport with the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) and is not a broad-based NCAA championship sport. How do you support that statement?
A: Given that wrestling is sponsored by only one other Western Athletic Conference school (Boise State) and roughly 25% of the NCAA Division I membership, it is hard to imagine it being identified as a sport with broad participation. Those facts do not mean the sport has no value; it is just experiencing considerably lower-than-average regional and national participation levels.
Q: It was stated in the original Athletic Department press release that "there will be a net annual financial savings to the program of between $350,000 and $400,000. However, these savings will not likely be fully realized until the 2007-08 academic year." The former head has been quoted as saying that the wrestling budget is actually $291,000. Why did the announcement include a figure of $350,000 to $400,000?
A: The lower figure that has been cited ($291,270 to be precise) was a reference to the information on page 49 of the 2005-06 Athletic Corporation budget. This total includes expenses related to salaries, benefits, scholarships, equipment, team travel, recruiting, sport supplies, athletic gear and contest operations.
Unfortunately, this figure represents only the budget, not actual expenditures. Secondly, this figure only includes the sport expenses that the wrestling coaching staff directly administers.
It is important to note that although annual budgets provide basic guidelines, they do not reflect actual expenditures. Considerably more accurate spending information can be found in the annual Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act (EADA) Report. This report is mandated by the United States Government and must be audited and certified. Fresno State's FY05 EADA report indicates that the expenses directly associated with the sport of wrestling for that year was $377,863.
With that, please recall that we are projecting expenditures forward to FY08. The application of a simple 3% increase per year (unfortunately a conservative estimate in today's environment) suggests that the $377,863 expenditures in FY05 would be equivalent to roughly $412,901 in FY08.
Secondly, it is important to note that there are numerous expenses that are housed outside the specific sport budget that would be required to support and maintain the wrestling program (or any other Division I sport program). These expenditures include insurance, medical supplies, drug testing, telephone, postage, facility maintenance, marketing, publications and the costs associated with the student-athlete support units of academic services, compliance, equipment and strength and conditioning. These very real support expenses tack on additional tens of thousands of dollars to the cost of operating the sport of wrestling.
Given the data above and fact that many wrestling expenses are absorbed outside the coach's purview, it is clear that the actual total savings greatly exceed the very conservative range of $350,000 to $400,000 that was specified in the initial release. It is likely that expenditures would have been closer to the range of $450,000 to $500,000 by FY08.
Q: Why doesn't Fresno State just cut some of the 85 scholarships from the football program (they don't need that many anyway) to create more gender equity and opportunity for male student-athletes?
A: The sport of football generates the majority of the Department of Athletics' income and is the cornerstone of the vast majority of the nation's NCAA Division I-A athletics programs. Therefore, it is critical that we keep the football program nationally competitive, healthy and in a position to drive revenue streams. It is not realistic to suggest that the Fresno State football program could continue to compete at the highest level - and continue to support a large component of the athletics program - with a significant reduction in scholarship levels.
Q: Critics have stated that high school wrestling participation is among the top six boys sports nationally, including over 23,000 and growing in California. Is this not important to Fresno State?
A: The figures that have been put forth are not in dispute. However, they should be reviewed within the proper context. Also, it should be noted that there are numerous other sports that can lay similar claims. For example, since it was brought to the attention of the public, it is interesting to note that of six sports currently ranked immediately below wrestling in California participants, five had higher percentage of increased participation in the previous two years.
So, what do we do with these facts and statistics? We know that it is impossible for our Department of Athletics to be all things to all people and still remain competitive across the board. This is a generally understood concept because, in the words of Bill Cosby, ""I don't know the secret of success, but the secret to failure is trying to please everybody."
Understanding this, it has been stated many times that to ensure the long-term sustainability of the Fresno State Department of Athletics, it is critical for us to achieve the greatest possible degree of program efficiency, as many other Division I programs have done over the past 10 to 15 years.
The charge of the Fresno State Athletics administration is to put the statistics in the proper context and evaluate how they may reflect upon the Fresno State line-up of sports and create the best, cost-effective opportunity for success. This exercise must include serious considerations such as NCAA and WAC participation, scholarship levels, budget and personnel conditions, operational efficiencies and facility availability.
There are three 2005-06 Fresno State-sponsored sports that rank below wrestling in high school participation. They are cross country, golf and tennis. What follows are two examples of cost efficiency.
1. Although California's high school cross country participation figures equal 98% of wrestling, Fresno State's costs associated with sponsorship of men's cross country (in conjunction with track & field) are nearly nonexistent.
2. Both tennis and golf are listed in the top 12 of both groups despite the fact that the format of their competitions generally dictates smaller rosters. For example, the boy's golf national participants ranking falls below that of wrestling, despite the fact that over 3,500 more high schools offer golf (13,152 golf programs to 9,562 wrestling programs). This explains the lower participation rankings despite similar or greater level of popularity and sponsorship.
We then interface these high school participation lists with the potential efficiency of golf, tennis and wrestling at the Division I level. We note that golf and tennis have an NCAA equivalency scholarship limit of 4.5, compared to 9.9 for wrestling. Subsequently, Fresno State can provide opportunity and fully scholarship two regionally and nationally popular male sports programs for less than the costs associated with just one other.
Therefore, the data below suggest that the intercollegiate sports that Fresno State sponsors are generally in line with the California and national boys high school participation rates according to the most recently posted surveys of the California Interscholastic Federation and National Federation of State High School Associations.
2004-05 High School Sports Participation Rates
Q: It has been stated that the wrestling program was discontinued due to the lack of a dedicated wrestling practice facility, locker room and cost-efficient and reasonable competitive venue. Why is that an issue?
A: Fresno State wrestling does not have dedicated practice space or locker room facilities. This is not consistent with typical Division I facilities or Fresno State Athletics' philosophy regarding sport sponsorship and the appropriate level of support in the future.
Q: What influence did Thomas Boeh's background in track & field have to do with this decision?
Q: It has been stated that the recent low level of academic achievement by the wrestling program's student athletes was part of the reasoning for dropping wrestling. Men's basketball and football are just as bad and those sports have not been dropped. Why is that?
A: Men's basketball clearly has challenges regarding the team's academics - and progress is being made. On the other hand, the football team's GPA and academic progress rate are among the highest in the nation.
However, please note that a direct comparison of football and basketball with most other sports is not applicable in most instances. Football and men's basketball are both high revenue-producing sports and designated core sports of the Western Athletic Conference (they are required along with women's basketball and volleyball). For those reasons, they cannot be discontinued.
Q: It has been said that the cross country program will only cost $25,000 per year. How can a school have a quality cross country program for such a small amount of money?
A: The expenses associated with men's cross country are so low because the coaching staff, scholarships, facilities and most all the infrastructure necessary to support the program already are in place.
The men's cross country program already is 100% funded within the men's track & field scholarship allocation, in accordance with NCAA regulations. 1. The coaching staff already is in place (with the women's program) and only an augmentation to salary is necessary. 2. Men's cross country does not require another dedicated facility. 3. Most intercollegiate cross country competitions are combined men's and women's events. Subsequently, much of the expenses associated with travel (often a bus) already are being absorbed within the women's program. The $25,000 that has been identified will be sufficient to travel the smaller men's contingent.
Q: Is it true that the athletics department is building a new scoreboard for football? How does that athletic department justify spending money on a scoreboard when a sport program has been discontinued?
A: It is accurate that there we are constructing new video wall structures on the north end of Bulldog Stadium as well as on the southwest corner of Cedar & Barstow. Please be advised that the resources that are being utilized to build the structures are derived directly from corporate partners through Bulldog Sports Properties (Learfield Communications). In essence, the sponsors have provided the cash resources for the specific purpose of procuring advertising opportunities on the structures. In short, if the video wall structures did not exist, neither would the advertisers and....if the advertisers did not exist, neither would the video walls structures.
In any event, the video walls project will neither procure nor expend significant cash. The project was advanced specifically to enhance our marketing efforts as well as the opportunity to further develop the "game day entertainment package" at Bulldog football games (a financial resource that we must protect in order to fund the entire department). However, the project does not, and cannot, affect the annual pool of resources necessary to support sports programming.
Q: How were the members of the wrestling team informed of the announcement?
A: We made our best effort to get the word to all of the student-athletes in a timely and sensitive manner. Knowing that the news would travel very quickly, we arranged for several senior staff members to personally contact student-athletes shortly before the public announcement. The head coach would then follow up later in the day. In the absence of an opportunity for a team meeting, the initial phone calls were made in an effort to lessen the possibility that a student-athlete would learn of the discontinuance of the wrestling program via the media. For example, from the time the first student-athlete was alerted of the decision, it took only 25 minutes for the news to scroll on a local television station.
In short, we basically adhered to the best practices within the industry to make a very difficult announcement. However, we are also well aware that given the nature of the decision it is most likely that for the members of the wrestling community any protocol to make this particular announcement would have been met with criticism.
Finally, please note that since mid-June there have been numerous meetings with student-athletes and coaches to answer questions and assist with the transition to another institution.
Q: Why not be a trend-setting program and add women's wrestling? California has a very large contingent of high school girls wrestling and more high school girls wrestle than ride horses.
A: At the present time, women's wrestling would not have any opportunity for intercollegiate competition, nor has it been identified as an emerging women's sport by the NCAA. However, we do think the promotion of girls and women's wrestling would certainly represent a sound strategic measure that could be adopted by the wrestling community in the interest of the stabilization and advancement of the sport.
Secondly, although it is inappropriate at this juncture to compare validity of one sport versus another, the writers may wish to check their sources regarding the number of girls and women participating in equine programs and activities here in California and the Central Valley.
Q: Why is wrestling not important to Fresno State? It is important to many in the Central Valley.
A. There are numerous sports that have an important place within the culture of the Valley - and Fresno State sponsors teams in many of them (above). This made the necessity to reduce sport programming, and the ultimate decision, especially difficult.
Q: It has been stated that wrestling does not have a comparative or like women's program. What about the sports at Fresno State that are not comparative?
A: It is important to note that comparative or like does not mean "identical."
Q: Why did Fresno State hire a new coach last year when the school was planning to drop the sport?
A: Although there had been numerous discussions for several years about the discontinuance of wrestling program, there was no hard evidence at that time to suggest that the decision was inevitable. However, following another unsuccessful financial closing of FY05 and the dynamics of the 2005-06 academic year, it became clear that a new strategy needed to be engaged to provide the athletics program long-term sustainability.
It is truly unfortunate that Coach Charles has been put in this situation. However, in recognition of the need for more transition time, his contract has been extended through June of 2007 and he will be assigned other duties as appropriate. This action was taken specifically to ensure that Coach Charles has a full year to take care of his personal responsibilities as well as to facilitate a transition within his professional career.
Q: Why was there no warning with this decision?
A: The decision was made as soon as possible following an assessment of the current and future budget challenges here at Fresno State. With that, as other institutions have learned over the years, until the decision to discontinue programming is finalized, it makes little sense to put the program at risk unnecessarily.
Q: In an email to a wrestling supporter, it was stated that the Big Ten's sixth-place finisher gets to the NCAA tournament over the MAC and WWC's third-place finisher. Is the administration aware that the Big 12 only has five wrestling programs?
A: Yes, the university is aware of the number of wrestling programs in the Big 12. It appears that we mixed up the two major Midwest wrestling leagues when we were writing the original email, and apologized for the mistake.
The intended reference was the Big Ten Conference where, in fact, 7th place (not just 6th) is good enough to advance to the NCAA Championship. In short, given the Big Ten has enjoyed 72 qualifiers for many years, an individual in the Big Ten has only to be among the top 65% of the wrestlers in the league to advance to the NCAA Championships.
The Big 12 is allowed 38 qualifiers each year. Subsequently, in that league an individual has only has to perform among the upper 76% at the conference championship in order to advance to the NCAA Championship meet.
This can be compared to the PAC 10 (roughly 40 qualifiers a year from 10 schools) and Western Regional (22 qualifiers this past year). In short, in those two qualifying championships, an individual must be among the top 40% and 28% respectively to advance. Also, it is also interesting to note that of the 22 qualifiers from the Western Regional this year, six came from Northern Iowa, a Midwest school.
Further, just four of the qualifying championships (of the 11 nationally) from the Midwest and East Coast (Big Ten, Big 12, Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association and Eastern Wrestling League) combine for 189 of the 330 total qualifiers, or 57% of all those that compete at the NCAA Championship.
This dynamic has taken its toll even here in the San Joaquin Valley and across California. Although there are many talented young wrestlers in California, it is unfortunate that a large number of the state's best high school wrestlers have chosen to compete (and become All-Americans) for Big Ten and Big 12 schools. You may wish to check the rosters at the nation's elite Division I programs to see this trend that is playing out today. As direct result, in recent years Arizona State has been the only school in the west to consistently maintain a position among the nation's top 25%.
To be sure, this sort of "regional inequity" is not unique to the sport of wrestling in the NCAA. However, when it is applied to a sport that has been identified as "at risk" for many years, it is clear that this dynamic has assisted in the unfortunate diminishment of wrestling programs nationally and in the Rocky Mountains and on the West Coast over the past 15 to 20 years (where there are now less than 20 Division I teams). Perhaps with the return of national parity, combined with financial reforms within Division I, the sport of wrestling can once again become a full-conference sport in the West and the trend of the last 20 years may be reversed.
Q: Why drop wrestling at Fresno State when it has produced an Olympian? What other sport has Fresno State produced an Olympian?
A: Records indicate that Fresno State has produced 28 Olympians in total. The specific breakdown follows.
* Track & Field: 14
Q: Isn't this all about Title IX?
A: Although some media outlets chose to report this issue in a different manner, it has been stated from the beginning that the decision to discontinue wrestling was not prompted nor driven by Title IX considerations.