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| | C.B. Dollaway on the death of ASU wrestling
C.B. Dollaway on the death of ASU wrestling |
by C.B. Dollaway on May 16, 2008 at 10:06 am ET
Imagine devoting your life to a particular sport because you loved the sport. You know going into it that the Olympics is the highest level you can achieve. There are no million-dollar endorsement deals, no droves of fans seeking your autograph, and no chance for some multi-million-dollar signing bonus.
What would you say if I told you that the sport requires a year-round commitment, and the training is usually five to six days a week for technique and another 20-30 hours of cardio? Your uniforms aren't cool; in fact, in some schools the men wear tights. The cheerleaders are not the same cheerleaders you see at the football games, and the stands are often filled with moms and dads rather then fans.
The sport is wrestling, and it's a sport that dates back to our earliest of times. The earliest Olympians competed in this great sport, and that is why so many boys and girls across the globe still compete today. Not for the glitz or glamour of things to come -- but for the love of the sport. The "love of the sport" is something that used to fill Little League fields with kids with dreams of meeting their biggest hero. It is this love that brings hundreds of thousands of kids across America out to wrestle.
For me wrestling was a choice I made. I started wrestling around the same time I started going to school. For me it has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. When I got to high school, I was a pretty good wrestler and earned a state championship title. From high school I was able to get a small scholarship to Colby Junior College. At Colby I was able to garner the attention of the Arizona State University wrestling team and earn a scholarship to one of the best Pac-10 colleges and a top-level D-1 powerhouse.
This week I was given some unfortunate news: the Arizona State wrestling team was being cut by ASU Athletic Director Lisa Love. While this may not rile many people up, I wanted to share with you why this will likely impact you and the youth of today and tomorrow.
The ASU wrestling team has created some Olympic medalists, Pan American Games champions and national team members, and it is almost always in contention for a national title. In recent years it has also started to push out some of the hottest young prospects in MMA. Just out of my class, I know five MMA fighters who are currently undefeated (20-0) in MMA, and three of them are in someway affiliated with the biggest promotion in the world, the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
Aside from the great up-and-coming talent that was created from the halls of the ASU wrestling program, you have MMA legends such as Dan Henderson and Dan Severn that were a part of making the program the training destination for Olympians and world champions alike. These two world-class athletes have reached the highest levels of wrestling's amateur level and transcended that into international notoriety in MMA.
It is actually the UFC's and MMA's growth that has helped bring the long overdue credit to amateur wrestlers. In a recent poll on MMAjunkie.com and HDNet's "Inside MMA" program, wrestling was picked as the most important discipline in all of MMA. As a professional fighter who has three roommates and lives in Phoenix with no air conditioning in my car, I can assure you I do not do this sport for the money, but rather for the love of it.
Why should the cutting of the ASU wrestling team and with two other sports matter to you? Because this is the beginning of things to come and not a creation of our current economic situation.
ASU allowed wrestling boosters to financially support and build one of the most dominant athletic programs in all of ASU history. The team was able to recruit some of the best athletes in the country and build a state-of-the-art wrestling facility in recent years -- all from the support of our booster groups such as The Sun Angles. These people give time and money to help support all of the sports at ASU. Wrestling is given about $200,000 a year from the university for scholarships, travel, supplies and the like. The rest comes from outside supporters -- supporters that continually support ASU athletics for the passion and the love of the school and sports, not the return on investment.
This decision will send a message to all of the other universities that it is OK to cut off programs that are supported by loyal and supportive boosters. You can "take" these proceeds and direct them to your other programs without notice or discussion and increase your bottom-line performance while doing it. No need to care about the kids, their parents or the investment made by the support staff. Pull the plug after school is out, and make sure your customer (the students) are not around to protest the greed.
Here are things that a lot of people do not know about ASU: it is one of the largest institutions in the country. It is usually the "test" school for new concepts. It was the first in the country with a Starbucks on campus, and the school shares in the coffee revenues. It was the first university with a UPS Mail store on campus; they charged us students $1 for each package that would not fit in our mailboxes (they have more than 60,000 students). And the list goes on all the way down to a Cold Stone Creamery on campus.
So why would a university that has continually raised its tuition -- one that has found unique ways to earn additional income from its student body -- need to cut an annual expense of $200,000? The answer is simple: They want a return on investment, and they want the university to be profitable, and for that, they will cut programs that won't make them rich. They will recruit you and entice you to choose them so you can spend money at all of their fine retail locations, but they wont guarantee you that they will keep what they used to get you there.
The thing is this will start happening across the country. More and more universities will begin cutting sports based on economic factors. That will trickle down to high schools and amateur programs being cut. This won't stop with the wrestling programs, and pretty soon, the only sports that will be offered at places like ASU are football and men's basketball, and the only music program will be "American Idol," as it seems the university system is saying it only wants what is mainstream and profitable.
The problem is eventually these universities will become large corporations worried more about the profits it can generate by increasing its bottom line than they are about the education for the students that are paying the bills. They'll focus on the profits rather than the student athletes that are there for the passion and love of the sport.
To save programs such as wrestling, music, swimming and the many other quality activities, we will need a grassroots effort. Those that have been the boosters at the collegiate level need to look further into community-level support at the younger ages. Don't think these cuts are not coming to a town near you.
Without the boosters from ASU, my wrestling coaches, teammates and family support, I would not be on national TV living my dream. I want to personally thank them and offer my continued support of the great history of the ASU wrestling program.
Great Read. It's a shame they would cut such a program
HW: Andrei Arlovski, Cain Velazquez
LHW: Tito Ortiz, Forrest Griffin, Rampage, Ryan Bader
MW: Rich Franklin, Gegard Mousasi, Jorge Santiago
WW: GSP, Carlos Condit
LW: Kenny Florian, Sean Sherk, Nate Diaz