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Foley: Update on NCAA Championship Proposal

T.R. Foley

9/5/2012
T.R. Foley, InterMat Senior Writer
foley@intermatwrestle.com, Twitter: @trfoley

Related Content: Pros and Cons

College wrestling coaches and fans are still weeding through the calculus of what an additional championship event might mean for the sport of wrestling at the Division I level. That discussion has allowed for several key pieces of information about the sport's current financial circumstances to be released. Below is a compilation of new and previously unreleased information.

  • The NCAA earns between $200k-$500k each season from the Division I wrestling tournament. However those earnings have been stagnant for almost a decade, with only a small uptick in profit last season due to lower-than-normal travel costs. The concern of the NCAA and NWCA is that the rising cost of travel (estimated at more than ten percent per year) will eliminate that profit within the next five years and potentially run at a deficit in seven.

  • According to one coach Big Ten coach the current vote in the conference stands at 4-7-1 (For-Against-Undecided). Several other coaches have said they believe the nationwide numbers to be split evenly between For and Against. These numbers are difficult to validate, but they seem to be anecdotally valid, for every Cael Sanderson there's a John Smith (below).

  • Three Division I head coaches submitted letters to the NWCA in endorsement of the proposed change. Oklahoma State head wrestling coach John Smith, Missouri head wrestling coach Brian Smith, and Cornell head wrestling coach Rob Koll sent letters to all 77 head coaches and various administrators. Below are excerpts from their letters.

    John Smith coaching at this year's NCAAs in St. Louis (Photo/Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
    John Smith (Oklahoma State) on what Oklahoma State is risking in a dual meet championship format:

    "Oklahoma State wrestling is risking a lot considering the success we have had under the current format. But, after weighing the positives and the negatives, I have concluded that the creation of the National Dual Meet Championship is the greatest way to expand the future of our sport. We will have two major events: the Individual National Championship and the National Dual Meet Tournament. We will gain exposure for the sport of wrestling as well as generate increased income to help other NCAA sports. We will also increase the relevancy of the dual meets on campuses."

    Brian Smith (Missouri) on answering to the business of college sports:

    "Good or bad, college athletics is a business. Having two revenue-making tournaments run by the NCAA only helps us in the eyes of the decision makers.

    "Yes, there are many details to work out, but I don't believe we can remain the same. We have to take a risk to improve our sport and get it out to the mainstream. If we choose not to do this, I promise you another sport will fill these weekend slots. I would rather take a risk and fail than to sit back and watch programs continue to decline."

    Rob Koll (left) believes wrestling has "absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain" with new championship proposal (Photo/Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
    Rob Koll (Cornell) in spirited defense of the proposal, progress, and answering the naysayers:

    "It pains me to hear coaches at these schools speak as if the present will always be the future. If it were true (that when nothing changes, nothing changes), we would not have only 77 DI programs remaining. We must be willing to embrace change or we are guaranteed to continue down our current road of failure.

    "Our wrestling community thinks too small; the fact that it is hard for many within our ranks to believe we cannot host two major events is frightening. If history has taught us anything, we should appreciate that protectionism is a failed concept. We have absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain by going down this road. If it fails, we can always go back to our current system. But if it succeeds, we have the opportunity to expose millions of new fans to our great sport."

  • One Big Ten coach sent out a plan that called for a more expansive regional system that would include nine regional sites. Below is the outline.

    "The nine regional winners plus seven runner-up teams (at-large bids) would comprise the 16 final NCAA schools that would compete for a National Duals title. The at-large bids would be based on strict RPI/strength of schedule determinations. Teams would be seeded based on their current year RPI/strength of schedule at the regionals/nationals."

    NCAA yearly schedule would look similar to this:

    Nov. 7-Dec. 31
    Open tournaments/various non-conference duals. Each school would be required to have four non-conference (Division I) duals before Dec. 31 of each season.

    Jan 1-Feb. 15
    Conference duals. If you have a large conference, eight duals will take place within your conference. Small conferences would incorporate four or five duals and you would be required to find appropriate non-conference duals to reach eight total duals in this time frame.

    Feb. 23/24 or March 1/2
    Individual conference championships. Team score will be kept to determine conference champions.

    March 7-9
    Individual NCAA tournament. Team score will be kept to determine official NCAA champion.

    March 15 or 16
    Regionals. +2 pounds per weight class.

    March 22/23
    National Dual championship. Top 16 teams. +2 pounds per weight class.

    Several more Division I coaches have sent emails that stated concerns that varied from their discomfort with the "lack of information" and "short time frame" of the proposal to coaches who clarified that this has been on the NWCA agenda for more than five years.

    The coaches and fans are engaging in a very spirited debate, but it doesn't seem to matter. The Championships Cabinet is considering this on Sept. 10 and unless the coaches were to settle firmly behind a vote to not change the current system and then draft a letter, the committee is going to vote without any further information.

    Editor's note: It has come to our attention that the letters written by the coaches were edited by a third party to include mention of ESPN's potential involvement. InterMat chose to run the coaches quotes without the ESPN quotes due to the possible misrepresentation of the coaches' opinions.
  • Comments

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    spencerszewczyk (1) about 1 and a half years ago
    i like how they continuously try to feed us a line that this new ncaa national duals will generate all this new interest and revenue, yet when you look at the facts, the attendance for the nationals duals has always been unimpressive to say the least. no one (and i mean no one) is going to travel several hundred (if not thousands) of miles and spend a thousand dollars to watch boise state take on edinboro, or some other meaningless dual meet. plus, the big 10 usually finishes with at least 8 teams in the top 15 in the country. so is the ncaa only going to give the big 10 a few qualifiers into the ncaa 16 team dual meet tournament, and say a team like michigan, that may be ranked #10 in the nation, doesn't even get to attend the national duals?
    cms432 (1) about 1 and a half years ago
    If rising travel costs will cause the individual tournament to run at a deficit in seven years, won't adding an additional event (which will certainly incur additional travel costs) only add to this deficit? This might not even be comparing apples to apples, because if the national dual championship draws as few fans as the current NWCA National Duals, revenue for this event will be substantially less than the individual tournament, which can pack a 20,000 seat arena. We all know that money is king, and everybody is citing money as a reason for change, but the information provided here just doesn't support that argument.