Carson Newman supporters making progress in saving wrestling team

By Gary Abbott | April 29, 2009, 4:39 p.m. (ET)
It was a tough day for the wrestling community in Tennessee on April 5, when Div. II Carson Newman College announced that it was dropping its wrestling program, citing financial issues.

Rather than accept this decision, a large group of Carson Newman alumni and area wrestling supporters quickly organized to save the program. Using the internet technology provided by the popular social network Facebook,

A Facebook group entitled "Save the Carson Newman College Wrestling Program" was created. Through this morning, there were 4,128 members who have joined as members. This support group has been working hard to convince the administration that the program should be reinstated.

Paul Tucker is one of the leaders who set up the Facebook page and has been organizing the effort to reinstate wrestling.

"Get to Facebook, and join the group," said Tucker. "It shows your support, but it also gives you updated information. Everything we do goes up there. We also can message all the members. We do that periodically to get more support."

The Facebook page has been very active, with messages from Tucker and other leaders giving updates on a daily basis and asking for specific actions.

Visit the Facebook group at:

One of the main focuses right now for the group is fundraising. In order to convince the college that the program is viable, the organization is collecting financial pledges of support.

"Our goal is to make sure that Carson Newman is fiscally stable while keeping the wrestling team. We have a large group of people willing to work for that goal. I don't know how they can say no to that. We have people willing to do the legwork to make the program survive," said Tucker.

Right now, the immediate fundraising target is $60,000, something that the grassroots leaders believe is very attainable. Ultimately, if the program is saved, there will be an additional goal of raising substantially more money to provide the wrestling team with an endowment.

"They are trying to save about $60,000 as far as we can tell. The tuition that the guys are paying is between $600,000 to $1 million a year. It doesn't make any sense to us to drop this team that is producing revenue for the college," said Tucker.

There is an appeal for everybody who has joined the Facebook group, as well as anybody else within the national wrestling community who wants to help, to make a pledge for $10 to the effort.

"If all 4,000 of our supporters gave 10 bucks, it would be $40,000, just like that. $10 is nothing. That is one trip to McDonalds. Right now, we need to get the pledges up. Once we can get it reinstated, we will call the people back and collect the money," said Tucker.

In the first week alone, the leaders report that over $14,000 was pledged. Widening the appeal by expanding their support base is a key part of helping them reach their goal.

There are two key meetings this week where the wrestling community will have a chance to make its case with the administration.

On Thursday, April 30, there is a meeting with the Athletic Committee, the Athletic Director David Barger, Carson Newman's head wrestling Coach Don Elia and the program supporters. The next day, on Friday, May 1, the Board of Trustees will meet and the wrestling program will be one of the agenda items. Having a substantial pledge of money to the program prior to the meetings

Anyone who wants to help out with a $10 pledge (or more), should send an email immediately to Paul Tucker at

Many other efforts are underway to build support for the team. The group has already directly contacted many of the Board of Trustee members. Tucker found it interesting that the Board had not been notified in advance that the college planned to drop wrestling at this time.

"The Board members are non-committal. They were not informed, so they are factfinding now. We are giving them as much information as we can. I have contacted eight of the nine Board of Trustees. Out of those, every one is sympathetic. None want to see a sports program get cut. They don't understand how the president came to that decision. They have been gracious to us."

The group is also asking people to send emails and make phone calls supporting the program. They are asking people to be very positive and respectful when they contact the administration.

Send your support letters or make phone calls to:

Dr. J. Randall O'Brien, CNC President 865-471-3202 email

David Barger, CNC Athletic Director 865-471-3372 email

Please Carbon Copy email responses to:

There has been an effort to get the story out in the media in the community, another effort which has been helpful to the cause. The Chattanooga Times Free Press has published a story, and the group has been interviewed by the Knoxville News Sentinel. The student paper on campus has also covered the story. The group has been interviewed nationally by Wrestling 411.

Although many who have been part of the Carson Newman wrestling program have stepped forward, Tucker is very pleased with those who did not compete there who have made a personal commitment.

Paul Tucker did not wrestle for Carson Newman. He was a local high school wrestler at Jefferson County High and attended Carson Newman's wrestling camp. His brother Robert Tucker did wrestle for Carson Newman from 1989-93, qualifying for the NCAA Championships three times.

Tucker was impressed by a college wrestler from another nearby program who has found a way to make a donation, in spite of having limited personal finances.

"All these other colleges that compete against this school want to keep it there. We have wrestlers supporting wrestlers," said Tucker.

For information regarding "Save the Carson Newman College Wrestling Program," please contact Paul D. Tucker at: