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NCAA Wrestling Committee report reveals fan facts, athlete bad behavior

Bird's eye view of 2014 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships
Bird's eye view of 2014 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships
Photo courtesy of Tony Rotundo,, used with permission

Potential changes to how Big 12 wrestlers qualify for the national championships and revisions to proposals for determining team titles weren’t the only topics covered in the NCAA Division I Wrestling Committee report of its mid-April meeting.

In making a case for its “team component” proposal to add a dual-meet tournament to help determine final team standings, the NCAA report also provided some statistics about fans who attend the NCAA D1 Wrestling Championships. The report also revealed a trio of incidents of bad behavior on the part of some wrestlers at the 2014 NCAAs.

Facts about NCAA attendees

The portion of the Committee Report that provides stats on attendees at the Nationals opens with a positive statement: “The current championship is very successful and enjoys tremendous support as evident by five consecutive sellouts.” The report goes on to state that two-thirds of the attendees have been to at least one previous NCAA Division I wrestling championship. The average age of attendees is 42; more than a third of fans are age 50 or greater. The survey also revealed that most attendees participated in wrestling as a student-athlete or coach.

Approximately half of NCAA attendees are college graduates. Interestingly, a similar percentage (48%) travel 500 miles or more to attend the NCAA championships.

Statistics an argument for the NCAA’s “team component” proposal?

In its presentation of these statistics, one could think that the NCAA is making a case for its proposal to create a “team component” – also referred to as a “dual team competition component” – which would be a dual-meet tournament spanning three weekends in February, with teams earning points which would be a factor in determining team titlewinners at the NCAAs. (The proposal would have 70% of the team race be determined by the present method of points garnered by individual wrestlers at the NCAA championships, and 30% from this new dual-meet tournament.)

For example, the report states the importance of the NCAA championships being exposed to a “more diverse group of fans who may not have a history in the sport” by reaching out to casual sports fans especially near college campuses. In referencing the fact that just over 50% of attendees are college graduates, the NCAA report says that these fans have “a more personal connection to team sports because of the tangible connection to the institution that the team represents” going on to mention “all the pageantry that comes along with college sports (that) makes being a fan a thrilling experience.” In essence, the NCAA report seems to be saying that the Nationals should do more to “attract more of that fan affinity so deeply rooted in traditional team sports.”

In making a case for its “team component” proposal, the report closes its statistical presentation with the assertion that this concept will attract “younger fans that may not have the time or resources to attend the NCAA individual component championships… However, they can commit two hours to attend a dual match at a nearby school.”

The report also lists a number of projected outcomes, including more focus on team competition during the season, increase in fan affinity and attraction of more casual fans, additional media exposure and increased broadcast opportunities, and additional recognition opportunities for wrestling teams and institutions.

Matman misconduct

The NCAA Division I Wrestling Committee report from its April 15-17 meeting also provided a review of the 2014 NCAAs held at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City one month prior to the committee meeting, weighing in on fine points such as the size of the practice facility, media seating, and meal availability for coaches and NCAA officials in the hospitality room at the arena.

Within this section of the document was a presentation of three examples of misbehavior on the part of some of the wrestlers participating at the Nationals last March, under the header “Misconduct.”

In two incidents, letters of private reprimand were issued to each wrestler’s schools. One letter was issued to Ohio State, in the words of the committee report, “for unsportsmanlike behavior by one of its student-athletes during the championship. A fine was also imposed to repair a hallway in the competition venue that the student-athlete damaged.” The other recipient of a private reprimand was Oklahoma State, “for student-athlete misconduct and breach of law while at the championships. The committee also imposed remuneration for the student-athlete per diem as a penalty.”

In addition, Central Michigan University received a letter of notice, “confirming the flagrant misconduct of a student-athlete,” according to the committee report. “The letter of notice confirms the penalties imposed as part of the flagrant misconduct.”

Two points to consider in reading about these incidents. First, only three wrestlers earned a reprimand out of 330 who participated in the 2014 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships without reported incident. Second, for those wondering why names were not revealed: it is also very rare for individuals who have been accused of bad behavior to be publicly named by the NCAA. In the five years of College Wrestling Examiner, only two situations come to mind. About a month after Iowa’s Brent Metcalf was upset by North Carolina State’s Darrion Caldwell in the finals the 2009 NCAAs, the Hawkeye wrestler was publicly admonished by the NCAA Division I Wrestling Games Committee for what it called "inappropriate behavior." Last year, Binghamton University head wrestling coach Matt Dernlan was fined and publicly reprimanded for failing to participate in a mandatory coaches’ meeting before the start of the 2013 NCAAs, and for being arrested for public intoxication in Des Moines during the Nationals.

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