Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Making Sense of the Innuendo and Misinforation about UNO and Wrestling

Every time I turn around, I get a slightly different variant of what happened with UNO and the termination of football and wrestling. It makes the bad part of the story confusing and misleading, and covers up the good side of the story.

Nobody is happy that two programs had to be cut at UNO. I don't believe for one second that anybody wants these programs to end. That being said, the budget pressures on UNO are real and are driving these decisions in the end.

I honestly believe that Trev Alberts, John Christensen, and the Omaha business leaders who drove this decision did so out of what was best for the University as a whole. I don't believe there were "outside pressures" from Lincoln to keep UNO down. The only "outside pressure" I think exists is that certain regents resent having to spend University funds on athletics instead of on academic programs. That's not new; that came up during the Nancy Belck uproar.

I find the idea of the State Senator Tyson Larson introducing a resolution to condemn UNO's decision to discontinue wrestling to be humorous at best. If Larson really feels that UNO should keep wrestling, his resolution should be part of the state budget and contain real funding to ensure the program's survival, if he's really serious about this being a state issue.

Did UNO need to kill wrestling? No.  But keeping wrestling presents a bunch of problems for UNO athletics. I've gotten conflicting reports as to whether UNO needed to add golf and men's soccer. It seems that while UNO didn't HAVE to add golf and men's soccer, the Summit League really wanted UNO to do so. Without those two sports, UNO only would compete in three conference men's sports, and that's an uncomfortable arrangement. The best analogy I can come up with is to think of your family life, when your wife wants/needs one thing and your parents or your job requires something else...putting you in an uncomfortable position where you have to make a call and somebody ends up very unhappy. Who are you going to satisfy, and what are the ramifications?

Likewise, UNO administration and the wrestling program have an uncomfortable arrangement as well.  UNO wrestling has done wonders for the school, but Mike Denney has long been against the move to division 1. Seemingly almost to the point of disruptive, if you believe some of the stories.  Trev Alberts even disclosed one in an interview on KFAB last night. UNO has been dominant in D-2 wrestling, but the switch will be disruptive at best to his team. They won't be able to compete for national titles during the transition, for example.

The ideal solution would be to keep wrestling and add the other programs, but that presents Title IX nine issues that require additional women's sports ... and additional funding. And that's something that UNO can't do, because if they could do that, they would have done it by now.

1 comment:

Bridget Brooks said...

Great analysis, Mike.

I have to think that even if they had kept wrestling, people would have been unhappy because of the NCAA moratorium on competing for championships during the transition time.

Mike Denney wouldn't want to be out of contention for another national championship for four years, IMHO.

From my view as a careers industry consultant (resume writer), there were some red flags in that relationship. Anytime "new ownership" comes into an organization, you have to prove yourself again, even if you're the star performer. What may have worked for you in the past ("just win, baby" and doing most of his own fundraising) won't necessarily work in the future, when a different culture requires different outcomes.

Yes, wrestling is successful. Yes, they cover most of their own costs. But their season tickets are only $20/year and their attendance numbers were dismal. (I have a call in to get exact numbers).