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A look at pros and cons of proposed NCAA change

T.R. Foley

8/31/2012
T.R. Foley, InterMat Senior Writer
foley@intermatwrestle.com, Twitter: @trfoley

By now the word is out that starting in 2013 massive changes are possible for the NCAA wrestling season. The process has received plenty of attention over the past two weeks from the wrestling media and coaches who are active on Twitter (mostly opinions and conjecture). But where does the issue stand as of today? What do NCAA coaches really think? And what could this all mean for the future of Division I wrestling?

There are large differences in opinions, but where coaches and fans agree is in recognizing that the sport of collegiate wrestling could use a boost in revenue and positive media attention. The sport needs cash to survive and since that is tied directly to television appearances, there is a need to create a new event. Where the camps split is whether two events will actually help all programs, or only a few select teams with resources. The NWCA and coaches who outwardly support the change of schedule are encouraged by the idea that ESPN will cover two major events. The big picture will to them be richer and full of opportunity. The other group of coaches (I've been told about one in three college wrestling coaches oppose the proposal) think that there is too much risk in creating another championship, and that the bloodletting of college programs is nearing its reational endpoint.

Mike Moyer (left), executive director of the NWCA, is a strong proponent of the National Duals becoming NCAA-sanctioned (Photo/Austin Bernard, Tech-Fall.com)
Deciding whether or not to endorse the new plan is essentially a question about the risk and reward. Should college wrestling risk it's premier event in March (and the possibility it becomes slightly watered down) for the potential revenue of a dual meet format? Will the fans, viewers and advertising dollars follow wrestling to both a dual meet and individual tournament?

Many of the coaches I contacted believe that if they all agree on which direction they'd like to head, they could weigh heavily in one direction and influence the NCAA. Here are some of the pros and cons as told to me by several coaches and pronounced by the NWCA across several media platforms.

First, new details about the proposal that we now know:

How will individuals be chosen?

Same, but "the results of the team portion of the championships would not count toward the selection criteria for individual qualification." The idea is to prevent those in the top sixteen from having an added RPI advantage heading into wild card selection.

How will teams be selected?

Overall win/loss percentage (must wrestle at least 12 dual meets)
Strength of schedule
Team RPI
Results versus common opponents
Head-to-head competition
Significant wins/losses
Coaches' rank

Some questions and concerns

Won't this proposal eliminate 30-plus teams from ever competing in the NCAA Championships as they can't meet the funding of the top programs, and won't that disincentive athletic directors

Will the NCAA actually sanction two events? According to some coaches, they believe the NCAA tends to look at issues in terms of social equality (Title IX) and adding another NCAA championship, even if it's divided, could push for elimination of the individual tourney -- wrestling's proudest tradition.

Will ESPN choose to cover the Dual Team Championships? Is there a market? Will ESPN be contractually obligated to cover both events? If the dual team tourney is darkened by ESPN, will another outlet be allowed to cover it?

Will the NCAA cover all the travel expenses for teams to travel to regional sites on short notice, and to the main event? (The first round teams are expected to cover their own expenses, and the NCAA will cover the main event.)

What happens to the teams outside of the top sixteen teams? Where will they wrestle? Does they eliminate dual meets that have traditionally warmed teams up for the conference tourney?

Will fans be able to show up to the events with only two weeks notice?

The sum total of ten starting wrestlers determines the eight wild cards. What if my team lineup isn't set?

How will this affect medical redshirts?

Potential upside

Another event will provide more attention for the sport by providing a second national event. More attention means more money and profit sharing will be discussed as a viable option, potentially helping lower income schools.

Individuals understand team competition and would better be able to follow who makes it to the next round of wrestling and why.

The dual team format will allow for also-rans to have a chance in any given weekend, to win a national championship. (Virginia Tech made it to the finals of the NWCA/Cliff Keen National Duals last season, but placed 11th at the NCAA tournament.) Parity would create interest at the local level and pull in local media, local sponsorship and fan support.

Dual meets matter during the season. This would create higher interest in the outcome of matches and thus drive more interest and create a "spectator base."

Individual tournaments and championships don't create income for local programs and don't have a lot of interest, but the dual meet format is going to feed back into the program during the regular season by creating captivating and meaningful events. Growing the base is essential to maintaining long term viability.

Another NCAA tournament means two opportunities for performance evaluation by athletic directors. Some years your favorite college will have a good team, and other times they might only have a few good individuals. This format allows for exemplary performances to athletic directors.

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The NCAA Championships cabinet will take another look at the proposal on Sept. 10. The NWCA has sent a clarification document, which should provide more insight and answers. Once that becomes available, InterMat will be sure to post and provide context.

Comments

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uvagrappler33 (1) about 1 and a half years ago
I don't understand why there can't be a dual meet champ and a tourney champ. They have indoor and outdoor track champs.
jasonbryant (1) about 1 and a half years ago
Indoor Track and Outdoor Track are counted as different sports. There are different events, different distances, etc.
hawken0921 (1) about 1 and a half years ago
Actually, at face value, the proposal seems very similar to gymnastics.
techfall (2) about 1 and a half years ago
Do I really want to go watch a dual tournament if my team is not in it? No. The highlights of the individual tourn. are showing up to root for your 1, 2 or 3 wrestlers that qualified. Seeing top wrestlers from all over the country, even the ones that aren't on a top 8 team. The selection process will be wide open to debate and contreversy. Bad idea. The event has not been a hot ticket in the past. Adding the "national championship" title to it does not make it more enticing. Same 8-12 teams competing every year......can't be good for the sport in terms of keeping the lesser/smaller prgrams. Ask the wrestlers which means more and I bet they will tell you the individual tournament.
techfall (1) about 1 and a half years ago
Wrestling is an individual sport from the youth level all the way up to the international level. It has always been that way and it will always stay that way. That is what is great about it. The team part of it is secondary.
tk149 (1) about 1 and a half years ago
I agree with the many who say the dual meet format is a bad idea to decide the national champion. The NCAA tournament, which decides the team and individual champions, is the hottest ticket in town. Let's keep it that way!
spencerszewczyk (1) about 1 and a half years ago
last year's dual meet championships proves that this is a good idea and will generate new revenue. oh wait, that's right, no one was there last year (even though it was at oklahoma state). slapping ncaa onto it isn't going to change the attendance. no one is going to spend thousands of dollars to attend the individual tournament and thousands more to attend the dual meet tournament. same 5 or 6 teams will compete every year, leaving all the outsiders to wither on the vine and eventually drop the program. this is just a horrible idea.
techfall (1) about 1 and a half years ago
Can Intermat use some of their web savvy and put a poll out there to see what the fans think?

My 2 questions: Do you like it? Would you go?
rocky167 (1) about 1 and a half years ago
Last year I attended one of the nat dual regionals and followed the others. I understood that at all five events totaled about 15,000. Rutgers and Cornell had snow storms. That said, the NCAA Individual tourney brings between 15-20,000. Same people at each session, six sessions. My point is the duals provide an opportunity to give more fans to the sports big events. The TV exposures are a plus as well.
Coachbiskits (1) about 1 and a half years ago
We have been using this format here in Massachusetts for the last several years. The state does not recognize the highest scoring team at the individual state tourney as state champion, only the winners of the dual meet state tournaments. As mentioned already, many see the sport as an individual endeavor at its highest levels. As a result, some coaches would choose not to go to a dual meet tournament that they cannot win. Instead they give their best wrestlers time off before continuing on in individual tournaments. Location is also a challenge and we are talking within a relatively small state as opposed to the whole country. People won't travel if they are not fully invested. So now we are reverting back to individual tournaments only. We will see how things go from here.