Boise State: The Aftermath

When the news came down on Tuesday evening that Boise State would be discontinuing its wrestling team in lieu of a baseball team, most people in the wrestling community had the same reaction: shock and awe. We've lost programs before, but this fact doesn't dull the sting of finding out that another program has been axed on grounds that seem avoidable if we only had the foresight to look at the tell-tale signs. 

If it's a deep dive into the numbers related to the Broncos' demise that you are looking for, I have no doubt that Nomad and Spey will take care of you. But think of the following as both an overview of what happened and a cautionary lesson to those programs that we might be taking for granted right now. 


Beware Of Coaching Changes




When Mike Mendoza picked up and moved from his alma mater, Cal State Bakersfield, a little over a year ago we thought that this type of change was good for a struggling program such as Boise State. The previous coach, Greg Randall, headed the Broncs from 2002 to 2016. Randall had some incredible assistant coaches during his tenure, namely Chris Owens. When recruiting duties were stripped from the longtime assistant, the talent pool in Boise dried up quickly, and Randall was relieved of his coaching duties after the 2015-16 season. 

The problem is sometimes new coaches are brought in by an athletic director to prove that a team cannot meet standards. In most cases when a school is in a coaching transition, it will look to upgrade the program, take for example Iowa State. When it was announced that Kevin Jackson would no longer be at the helm of the Cyclones, the names that were thrown around the rumor mill were all coaches that had a lot of success at big, well-funded, high-profile institutions.

But when a coach from a school of similar ilk takes a small pay bump to go to what he thinks is a better situation, that may be a red flag. In other words, we have to ask ourselves was Mendoza brought in by BSU athletic director Curt Aspey to fail? 


Duals Matter




When statements were released by the Boise State administration about the falling success of the program, they made no mention of the Broncos' NCAA appearances or Pac-12 finishes. They only talked about BSU's dual record. Duals are just easier to digest, only total wrestling nerds like me (and probably you) are going to sit down and watch an entire wrestling tournament.

There must be a standard for dual meets at the Division I level. As a coach, if you are not automatically identifying your school's biggest rival and putting together a game plan to not only to beat them but also get as many eyes on that match as possible, you are doing yourself, your team, your institution, and the sport a serious disservice. When you judge the vitality of a program the amount of money generated from dual meets must be taken into account.

South Dakota State signed a deal with FloWrestling to broadcast their home duals live. Why is that important? First, because the rights to those duals are not free, which is an influx of cash into a smaller institution such as SDSU. But the real importance lies in the fact that with that money comes a certain level of expectation. If you have a top 10 team coming to your gym and it is going to broadcasted live, you definitely want to see a packed house. Putting your program out there for everyone to see ensures that the coaching staff, marketing department, and the student body will do anything that they can to make sure that the rest of the country sees how much they support their team. 


Facilities


Most kids want a state-of-the-art training facility. They just do. There is quite obviously a push by programs to get the biggest and best wrestling facility; we at Flo have even referred to it as "The Arms Race." If your school's administration isn't committed to putting together funds for a new facility, you had better get on the phone with alumni.


Is The Fight To Save The Program Worth The Effort?


Be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it. If we, as a community, rally around the Boise State program and somehow get it reinstated, would the program simply go back to habits that put it on the chopping block to begin with? Would our energy be better managed trying to start new programs in schools that have administrations that see the value of the sport and will support it? 

These questions have to be examined on a case-by-case basis. For example, when Arizona State's wrestling team was resuscitated, it was obvious that a clear plan of action was put in place to prevent the program going down the same road. Less than a decade later, the Sun Devils are a top 20 team and had the top recruiting class of 2015. Without a similar plan and the cooperation of the administration, our efforts might be better directed to starting a new program.
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