“We are saddened to have to make this decision, but it’s one that was made with the long-term best interest of the athletics program in mind,” said director of athletics Dr. Camden Wood Selig. “No one wants to reduce opportunities for young men to compete and represent Old Dominion, but we are required to be responsible with departmental resources. Our decision became even more clear during this coronavirus crisis, which we know will have significant impact on future athletics budgets. This decision will better allow the remaining sports to compete at a national level.”
The above quotation explains why Old Dominion University cut its wrestling program. The decision was made in part after a six-month study of the athletics program was made by an outside consultant. According to ODU the report reviewed the situation in the national college sports scene, it identified current and future financial challenges, and it evaluated Title IX compliances. Thus ODU decided to cut a varsity sport and wrestling was chosen. It is estimated that the move, when fully implemented, will save about $1 million.
As a wrestling coach, old wrestler, and fan of the sport, I am angry by this move. Dr. Selig, the AD, states that the million saved “will better allow the remaining sports to compete at a national level.” When I read his words, I found the 2020 football schedule and saw that it mentioned, rather proudly, of the Monarchs hosting Wake Forest in its opening game and a bit later playing UVA at home, also. Wow! Right in there with some of the Big 5, which I think this move is about. It seems to me that too many schools dream of having programs such as LSU or Clemson. The lure of fame and money cloud the vision of alumni and coaches and administrators. Honestly, does Dr. Selig think that by cutting wrestling the field hockey team or golf teams will become national contenders. Or the football team. I doubt it.
For years I have heard the phrase “non-revenue sport” to describe any team that does not fill a stadium or arena, producing a profit. Yet I offer that any sport at any university college or high school produces a rich revenue because of the participation, sacrifice, team presence, and more for any athlete. That is revenue that cannot be computed but is valuable for the school and its students.
Also, the Title IX program was designed to help female athletic programs, not hinder or hurt male programs. But it seems that this has, at times, developed into the “tail wagging the dog.” No male program should be penalized to satisfy Title IX, but I fear it happens all too often.
ODU, like many institutions, face difficulties caused by COVID-19. However, they all should enrich programs, not slash and burn them. The cost of such thinking and action hurts more that the athletes of all those “non-revenue sports.”