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No. 4 Story of 2013: Boston University to kill wrestling program after 2013-14

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On April 1, Boston University announced it would be eliminating its wrestling program at the end of the 2013-14 season. Sadly for wrestlers, coaches, supporters and the college wrestling community, it was not a cruel April Fools’ Day joke, but a decision that at worst was based on administrators’ misrepresentations of the program and the sport, as well as an attempted redirection of an endowment for the program.

In announcing the elimination of the program not long after the 2013 NCAAs, rather than kill it outright (as other schools such as University of Nebraska-Omaha and University of North Carolina-Greensboro had done in the past), BU administrators said the program would continue one more season, to allow junior class members – who make up about half of the roster – to be able to finish at Boston University. In addition, all student-athletes currently receiving wrestling scholarships will have those scholarships honored for the remainder of their undergraduate careers at BU. Wrestlers seeking to continue their athletic careers at other schools will be eligible to transfer immediately under NCAA guidelines.

In addition to these pronouncements made back in April, Boston University administrators offered statements that attempted to explain their decision-making process to the wrestling program… and to the public.

"This obviously been a very difficult decision to make," said BU’s Director of Athletics Mike Lynch. "I understand the impact this will have on our staff and students. However, we have to strategically use our resources in the most efficient and effective manner, and the decision to move forward without wrestling, though difficult, is the right one for Boston University."

Senior Vice President Todd Klipp added that, "Like all University academic and administrative units, the Department of Athletics is constantly assessing its strategic priorities. That process can necessitate making difficult decisions like this one."

However, in subsequent months, other more sordid aspects of the decision have been revealed… most notably, in an Amateur Wrestling News’ late 2013 expose by editor Jason Bryant titled “Sifting through the bull at Boston U.”

Arguably the most damning was the revelation that the school apparently tried to raid a sizable endowment – currently valued at $800,000 -- established by Orin Smiley, Boston University wrestling coach prior to Carl Adams (who has coached the mat Terriers for 32 years), with the idea of sustaining the wrestling program in perpetuity. However, AWN quotes David Leonardo, a former BU wrestler from the early 1990s who says the school had planned to convince Smiley’s widow to allow her late husband’s gift to be used for other athletic programs at the school. She was alerted to the plan and refused to grant the school its wish. According to Leonardo, fellow alumni have tried to work with BU administrators to try to build on Smiley’s endowment, but without any success.

Boston University administrators also misrepresented the state of college wrestling today, basically painting the sport as dying (a false statement, as over 100 new programs have been launched since 2001). What’s more, they had labeled the wrestling program “mediocre” – and, therefore, presumably, not worthy of the school’s support. Yet, by various measures, the Terrier wrestling program had outperformed a number of other BU sports programs that continue to be supported by the school.

As head coach Carl Adams – a two-time NCAA champ for Iowa State in the early 1970s – and his wrestlers make clear to Amateur Wrestling News, wrestling received minimal support from the school. Not just in terms of skimpy budgets, either; in just one example of lack of what could be called moral support, the AWN article points out that the school did not want to charge admission for BU’s dual meet with top-ranked Penn State, the first wrestling event to sell out Case Center.

Amateur Wrestling News paints a portrait of Boston University’s administrators that offered bare minimum support to the wrestling program, forcing it to “make do” with a microscopic recruiting budget and a dungeon-like wrestling room that led two recruits – Jesse Delgado, and Kendric Maple -- to go elsewhere for college. (Both won titles at the 2013 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships – Delgado for the University of Illinois, Maple for University of Oklahoma.)

The elimination of any college wrestling program is justifiably upsetting to the sport’s participants and fans. When it’s revealed that there’s dirty dealing, the upset becomes justifiable outrage.

Want to know more?

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