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Thread: Article from Athletic Business: Pinned Hopes

  1. #1
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    Default Article from Athletic Business: Pinned Hopes

    It's a homecoming that many are celebrating. On July 13, first-year athletic director Pat Kilkenny announced that Ducks baseball will return to the University of Oregon after a 26-year hiatus. But the news ruffled more than a few feathers in Eugene and beyond. That's because Kilkenny also revealed that the upcoming wrestling season would be the school's last. "My second-favorite sport is baseball, so I think adding baseball is a magnificent thing for the University of Oregon to do," says former UO wrestling All-American and current head coach Chuck Kearney, who has dedicated more than two decades of his life to the program. "We're struggling to understand why it has to come at the cost of wrestling."

    And so a bittersweet saga has unfolded, complete with the subplot surrounding women's competitive cheer, which like baseball will assume varsity sport status in 2008-09. Kilkenny, a former business leader and high-ranking UO donor, says the shakeup makes sense for an athletic department that — despite its position among fewer than two dozen in the nation that sustain themselves financially — remains "fragile."

    "The guarantee we made to our administration is that we would continue to take steps forward from a financial perspective," says Kilkenny, who met in April with members of an ad hoc committee of potential donors led by former UO baseball coach Mel Krause. "The baseball community not only had to provide operating capital for the reinstatement of baseball, it also had to provide us with operating capital for the additional women's sport. So we had leverage."

    Leverage is not a foreign term to wrestlers, but Krause's baseball support network clearly got the jump on the local wrestling establishment. "The statement that the baseball community made spoke loud and clear," Kilkenny says. "We had 150 financial commitments that we didn't solicit but that were part of this ad hoc group. And out of that group, we confirmed only one donor as having been meaningful to the university in the past. Part of my charge is to expand the donor base, so that was pretty compelling."

    The reorganization will reportedly increase the athletic department's 2007-08 budget by $300,000, as the new programs are established well in advance of actual competition. "As a wrestling coach, you understand that when sports are listed and wrestling is at the bottom, it's not necessarily because of alphabetical order," Kearney says. "It's not a priority at a lot of schools, and the wrestling community has allowed that to happen, and we need to do something about that — not just at Oregon, but at all schools. There are hard decisions that have to be made, and we understand that. But we much prefer tightening the belt to eliminating a program."

    One thing on which Kearney and Kilkenny can agree is that UO wrestlers lack a permanent campus home. They surrendered their wrestling room to a new athletic training center in November, and practiced last season in gym space on loan from the UO Student Recreation Center. But when asked if his student-athletes were beginning to feel like kids at the card table during Thanksgiving dinner, Kearny says, "The mentality inherent to our sport is that we're not real concerned about lavish training facilities. Our needs are pretty simple — a room with mats in it."

    Kilkenny characterizes the program as saddled with much greater physical-plant deficiencies, however. "We needed a solution that was going to require, by our best guess, somewhere between $4 million and $7 million to build a practice facility for our wrestling group," he says. "So we started looking at that, and with the baseball group talking about their interests, that's when we decided to put together a committee to analyze our sports offerings."

    Perhaps no two sports are as different as wrestling and competitive cheer, and Kilkenny sees them on diverging trend lines — citing the significant number of collegiate wrestling programs eliminated in recent years, while claiming competitive cheer is "one of the fastest-growing sports that women participate in nationally."

    According to NCAA participation statistics, varsity wrestling has experienced a net loss of 133 programs in all three divisions since 1981-82, the biggest drop by far of any sport. In 2003, the University of Maryland became the first NCAA Division I-A school to sponsor competitive cheer as a varsity sport, yet the NCAA still doesn't sanction it as such. "No doubt we're significantly out in front of the crowd" in terms of competitive cheer, Kilkenny says. "We hope that since Oregon does tend to do some innovative things on the sports side, we'll foster more interest on the West Coast."

    Meanwhile, an estimated 33,000 high school wrestlers are already competing in the Pacific Northwest, with ever-diminishing avenues for advancement. Oregon will become the latest of six Pac-10 Conference institutions to drop wrestling since 1979. Once it does, only eight four-year colleges in the region will offer those 33,000 wrestlers roughly 200 total roster spots. Says Kearney, "In my mind, that's the bigger crime, that a market that's out there is being denied opportunities."

    Kearney, who coached an individual NCAA champion in 2006, adds that he is encouraged — even touched — that the two high school wrestlers who signed letters of intent to attend Oregon will forgo their option to withdraw and instead join a full roster of returnees (existing wrestlers were free to transfer without penalty). "One of the parents said that in this recruiting process she liked Oregon best for its academics, the kids in the program and the honesty and integrity of the coaching staff," Kearney says. "Her take on it was that one year of that was better than none."

    Despite having both shoulders to the mat and the count running, supporters of Oregon wrestling still hope for a reversal. "I don't believe that wrestling is gone at the University of Oregon," says Trent Kroll, head wrestling coach at Hood River (Ore.) Valley High School. "I think we can and will get it back, but we're going to have to work hard at it now."

    "Right now, we're attempting to make ourselves financially sustainable, to take that burden out of the argument so we can be looked at again," Kearney says. "We have another season, and we're obviously looking to put our time and energies into coaching that team and making it the best season we possibly can. But the rest of the time we're going to spend trying to raise money."

    An independently launched website (saveoregonwrestling.com) began accepting online donations July 20. Meanwhile, Kilkenny's late summer was spent searching for a head baseball coach, touring ballparks, and studying collaborative relationships between collegiate and professional teams. He also reviewed written correspondence from within the wrestling community, as more than 1,000 pieces arrived on his desk and that of UO president Dave Frohnmayer in the two weeks following the announcement. "They were from all over the United States," Kilkenny says. "A lot of the input we received was very thoughtful and that — along with the impact on our student-athletes, our coaches and their families — has made this one of the tougher things I've done in my life."

    Kearney contends that the very nature of his sport — perhaps more than any other — prepares individuals for life's challenges. "In wrestling, you have to be resilient to be successful," he says. "You have to be able to take tough times and bounce back, and you have to be accountable. In my estimation, that's what makes wrestling so valuable in our educational process. We need those traits in our communities. I think that Mr. Kilkenny and Dr. Frohnmayer are seeing that demonstrated, and I'm hoping that it makes them rethink."

    http://athleticbusiness.com/articles...1624&zoneid=28
    Last edited by Schlottke; 09-04-2007 at 03:37 PM.

  2. #2

    Default Re: Article from Athletic Business: Pinned Hopes

    An independently launched website (saveoregonwrestling.com) began accepting online donations July 20. Meanwhile, Kilkenny's late summer was spent searching for a head baseball coach, touring ballparks, and studying collaborative relationships between collegiate and professional teams. He also reviewed written correspondence from within the wrestling community, as more than 1,000 pieces arrived on his desk and that of UO president Dave Frohnmayer in the two weeks following the announcement. "They were from all over the United States," Kilkenny says. "A lot of the input we received was very thoughtful and that — along with the impact on our student-athletes, our coaches and their families — has made this one of the tougher things I've done in my life."

    Blah, Blah, blabbity blah...he is letting go of a sport with a base of 33,000 highschool wrestlers in the region for baseball and competitive cheer? I can see baseball but competitive cheer has almost zero revenue and is basically a cost center...this "club" activity should definitely not come at the expense of a sport like wrestling...the budget for competitive cheer with travel has to be at LEAST as much as wrestling. I guess the only difference is that I am not sure if competitive cheer has scholarships...

    Thats a damn travesty!!!
    "Light travels faster than sound. This is why some people appear bright until they speak."

  3. #3

    Default Re: Article from Athletic Business: Pinned Hopes

    Here is what that b!tch Renee Baumgartner had to say to one of our HS coaches who contacted her. SHe is so far from the truth.


    Dan Williamson of Milwaukie HS

    I just called Renee Baumgartner, assistant A.D. at U of O to get her take on why they chose to drop the wrestling program. She claims, ?it had nothing to do with title IX at all, and had everything to do with the lack of participation in wrestling at the lower levels.? I called BS on this in terms of the numbers of High school and youth wrestlers in the states of Oregon and Washington where Oregon draws most of their athletes, because I know those numbers are strong. She countered by saying she was talking about nationwide. She said, ?I guess kids have decided to skateboard and do other things rather than come out for wrestling all across the nation at the youth and high school levels, because the numbers are down and that?s why 420 Division I schools have dropped wrestling.? I told her that I thought her facts were wrong about wrestlers at the lower levels dropping in numbers nationwide and also said she was being dishonest about why the wrestling programs were being dropped at D-I schools. I said, ?You know it?s because of a misinterpretation of title IX that wrestling is being dropped at colleges, so don?t be disingenuous with me.? After that statement, she decided our conversation was over. I called USA wrestling to see if our wrestling membership at the Jr., Schoolboy, Novice, Midget, levels are dropping nationwide, or is ?somebody? doing some hellacious lieing to use as a smokescreen.

    I also asked Ms. Baumgartner, if the rumors are true about Chuck Kearney being offered a sweetheart administrative position to compensate him for losing his coaching position, if he doesn?t put up too much of a fight about the program being cut. This is the rumor that?s been circulating around the wrestling community. I?ve heard it from several sources but I can?t believe that it could be true. Someone who loves the sport of wrestling would not be so selfish about the lives of the young athletes involved in the program.

    I do find it odd however, that Kevin Roberts U of O alum and present OSU assistant coach and former head coach Ron Finley seem to be doing most of the leg work to try to save U of O?s program

    Ms. Baumgartner said there was no truth to the rumor of an administrative position for Chuck Kearney at the U of O.
    Oregon Wrestling Forum www.theowf.net/the_owf

    Don't you know who I am? I'm the JUGGERNAUT BIATCH!!

  4. #4

    Default Re: Article from Athletic Business: Pinned Hopes

    Here is their numbers again. Call them up and tell them how full of crap they really are and that their numbers are completely false.

    Pat Kilkenny Athletic Director 541-346-4481

    Reneé Baumgartner Senior Associate Athletic Director/SWA 541-346-5329

    Dave Frohnmayer
    phone (541) 346-3036
    fax (541) 346-3017
    e-mail pres@uoregon.edu
    Oregon Wrestling Forum www.theowf.net/the_owf

    Don't you know who I am? I'm the JUGGERNAUT BIATCH!!

  5. #5

    Default Re: Article from Athletic Business: Pinned Hopes

    The facts are that 250,000 kids wrestled in high school last year and that high school participation, after a staggering drop from 1972 - 1984, has increased every year beginning in 1985. For the past four or five years the annual increase has averaged around 4%.

    High school wrestling in Texas is exploding - both for boys and girls. Look for the same to happen in Arkansas once it gets a hold there.

  6. #6

    Default Re: Article from Athletic Business: Pinned Hopes

    YOu're exactly right. I just read that 251,000 plus high schoolers competed in wrestling in 05-06. Another thing to keep in mind is that a lot of schools fail to report numbers. I looked at our state schools reporting and I counted at least 10 schools who didn't report that I know have 15-30 kids each. That could easily be another 5000-10,000 kids nationwide. And Arkansas numbers are through the roof right now as far as growth is concerned.

    It is the 6th largest sport in the US amongst high schoolers and the girls numbers continue to grow each year with Texas, Hawaii and WA now sponsoring tournaments. OR has added a girls state tournament showcase, much like WA did before they added it as a state tournament and sport.

    Bottom line is these type of people have an agenda and its never good for people like us.
    Oregon Wrestling Forum www.theowf.net/the_owf

    Don't you know who I am? I'm the JUGGERNAUT BIATCH!!

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