Wrestling program future for student athletes at the University of Southern Colorado rest in the ha

By Dan Carlson | June 12, 2001, 12 a.m. (ET)
PUEBLO, Colorado: The Community in Support of USC Wrestling is scheduled to address State Board of Agriculture on Wednesday, June 13 in Denver, in last ditch effort to try to save the USC Wrestling program. The meeting is set for Doubletree Hotel in Denver, Colo., at 3202 Quebec Street, beginning at 9:00 p.m. The "Community in Support of USC Wrestling" is a grass-roots community group of USC graduates and students, local community leaders and wrestling leaders. The organization has been formed to seek the reinstatement of the Univ. of Southern Colorado wrestling program. On Tuesday, May 16, the Univ. of Southern Colorado President, Tito Guerrero III, announced that USC would be dropping its very successful NCAA Div. II wrestling program effective immediately due in large part to the financial woes of the university. It is the contention of the Community in Support of USC Wrestling that the university will actually lose in excess of $500,000 per year in student tuition/fees and state matching funds. The actual budget to operate the wrestling program in 2001-2002 was $99,000. Appearing on behalf of the "Community in Support of USC Wrestling" will be: * State Senate Majority Leader, Bill Thiebaut (D-Pueblo) * State Representative, Abel Tapia (D-Pueblo) * Dan Carlson, USC graduate and community leader * Jimmy Ray Zeigler, USC graduate and former wrestler and current head coach at Northwest Community College in Wyoming Many other supporters of the USC wrestling program intend to participate. The "Community in Support of USC Wrestling" expects a decision to be made by the State Board of Agriculture either to reinstate the program immediately or to permanently eliminate the wrestling program at the University of Southern Colorado. The State Board of Agriculture is the governing body of the University of Southern Colorado, Ft. Lewis College and Colorado State University. Attachment: Position Statement Position of the "Community in Support of USC Wrestling" Convenient decisions are not always the best decisions! First and foremost, the poor timing of this decision came one week after the school year ended and student-athletes had already left town and/or began summer jobs. Based on recent media reports and statements from university officials, it is perfectly clear that the school was planning major reductions and possible cuts within the athletic program(s) months in advance to this decision. The administration at the university claim that after examining and exhausting all other potential alternatives, they then had no other choice but to take this course of action. We, the Community in support of USC Wrestling, believe the university owed it to their student-athletes the opportunity to review their options and make a rational decision in regards to their future - be it at USC or another university. This could have easily been accomplished by announcing to the entire athletic department, at the beginning of the 2000-2001 school year, that the department is in financial trouble and there was a strong possibility that all the programs would see major budget reductions and/or the school may cut the wrestling program at the end of the year. By taking a responsible course of action, the wrestling coaches and supporters of the program would have the opportunity to implement a funding plan on their own accord in an attempt to save the program. Furthermore, announcing the cuts earlier in the year would have given the student-athletes the opportunity to research and pursue educational and wrestling opportunities at other institutions. By the time this decision was made, the majority of wrestling programs in the country had already finished recruiting and committed their scholarship monies for next year ñlleaving our student-athletes without any true alternatives. Upon making the announcement to eliminate the program, the university also announced that they are going to honor the current outstanding scholarships, which is also required by law. The majority of the 40 plus student-athletes this decision has impacted will likely be forced to sit-out an entire year so they do not lose another year of eligibility, while waiting and hoping for a scholarship offers from other institutions. Officials at the university have publicly stated that they will require the wrestling team to generate at least $150,000 or more per year in new donor endowed monies by July 1, 2001 - before they would even consider reinstating the wrestling program. First, we believe that it is unfair to the wrestling coaches and the kids in the program to have to shoulder the entire burden of not only their own programíss budget, but also the entire deficit of the athletic department. The budget to operate the wrestling program next year called for $99,000 - that number includes all scholarships, salary & fringe, as well as operating/travel. We are simply asking to be given the chance to raise the funds necessary to support the wrestling budget for the 2001-2002 school year and for the university to work with our community group to secure a plan for the long-term survival of the program. Based on the concerns stated herein and the university officials failing to consider the emotional impact of the timing of their decision on these student-athletes, the Community in Support of USC Wrestling intends to make every effort to fight on behalf of these student-athletes! Pros to eliminating the wrestling program The USC Athletic Department will save approximately $64,000 in 2001-2002 ($99,000 wrestling program budget minus $35,000 in scholarship money that must be honored by the university). By eliminating the wrestling program, the university is able to demonstrate progress in working towards Title IX compliance without effecting the number of other male athletes participating in other programs. Cons to eliminating the wrestling program Financial Impact to the University: USC will lose approximately $6,000 per year in state funding for each in-state student participating on the wrestling team and roughly $3,000 per year in tuition & fees 25 students-athletes @ $9,000 = $225,000 in lost revenue annually USC will lose an additional 10-15 students who attend USC each year with the hopes of walking-on to the wrestling team 15 students @ $9,000 = $135,000 in lost revenue annually USC will lose an additional 25 ñ 30 students who attend USC because they are either a friend or relative to someone on the wrestling team. 30 students @ $9,000 = $270,000 in lost revenue annually Based on these numbers, the university made a hasty and irrational non-business decision, to eliminate a $99,000 (a year) program that generates in excess of $600,000 back to the university through state funding and student tuition and fees. No rational businessman would ever discontinue a product or service that provides a 600% return on investment! The university has been experiencing a steady decline in student enrollment. According an NCAA study, the national graduation rate for student-athletes is nearly 78% versus a graduation rate of less than 40% for non-student-athletes. Marketing Impact to the University as well as the City/County of Pueblo: Through youth wrestling tournaments, the USC wrestling program attracts over 3,000 kids, ages 10 - 18, on campus annually. The following is a list of youth wrestling tournaments slated for 2001-2002 at USC. Cadet Duels - Comprised of one team from 22 states (28 wrestlers per team) Southern Plains Open - Approximately 400 kids with representation from 7 states Rocky Mountain Regional - Approximately 700 youth participants Colorado Classic - Approximately 225 youth participants Colorado State Freestyle Championships - Approximately 500 youth participants For each wrestler attending these tournaments, there are probably an additional five people (e.g., mom and dad, brothers and sisters, grandma & grandpa, etc.) who also attend the event in support. These events are a much more powerful and cost effective marketing tool than the traditional recruiting methods employed by the sch