When Boise State announced last month that they would drop wrestling in preparation for starting a baseball program, whose start date has not been named, the wrestling community was once again forced to launch efforts to save an imperiled program. It has been less than a month and the news cycle, without much concrete progress to report, has largely moved on. However, those fighting to save Boise State wrestling have not given up, continuing to fight on several fronts in an effort to get the program reinstated.
These situations can be difficult to gauge. While there has been no statement from the Boise State administration or the Idaho State Board of Education that would indicate the efforts to save the program are working, those groups and others like them are notoriously tight-lipped about these matters. While a specific list of goals that need to be met to save the program would be nice, Boise State made clear in their initial announcement that they view this decision as final. However, we know that no decision in this realm is truly final. Just this week, New Mexico’s ski team was reinstated after the Athletic Department had recommended it be cut. Public pressure and fundraising can work, even when the outlook appears dark.
The New Mexico situation and Boise State President Bob Kustra’s remarks about why he wants to start a baseball program should give a sliver of hope to those battling for the future of Boise State wrestling, but they also show how difficult the fight will be. In both cases, the financial support of outside elements, the ski and tourism industries in New Mexico’s case or the minor league baseball team in Boise, played a major role in the final decision. Administrators know that athletic budgets are only going to be squeezed more in the near future which leaves them always looking for programs backed by major donors. This combined with Kustra’s clear desire to have a baseball team at any cost, spelled doom for Boise State wrestling.
However, it also highlights the way back on a couple of fronts. First, the only reason wrestling was cut was to offset the cost of the more expensive baseball program. In Boise State’s own statement announcing the move, they mention that cutting wrestling is just a first step to cutting expenses so that they can afford the additional cost they are preparing to take on. If wrestling were endowed and did not cost the athletic department a penny, you can be certain they would have looked elsewhere for savings. So, that becomes the mission for those trying to save the program. Though the school has stated before that they could have both baseball and wrestling without running afoul of Title IX, that opinion could change. The fundraising effort may need to include enough for an additional women’s team as well, though since baseball hasn’t yet started, those issues may be years down the road.
The other way Boise State wrestling has a way back is through Kustra’s clear disregard for wrestling throughout a multiple year pursuit of baseball. Mike Randles, who detailed many of the failings of Boise State throughout this process here, highlighted an Idaho State Board of Education policy that administrators “shall put forth honest effort in the performance of their duties” and “shall act impartially and not give preferential treatment to any private or public organization or individual”. When Kustra talks of building an alliance with the minor league baseball team and other people with means, he shows the world the level of effort he has put into ensuring the baseball team gets started and endures. However, it is clear that he did not put that same level of effort into reaching out to the wrestling community to give us the same chance. He has clearly violated the clauses that require him to put forth an honest effort and act impartially. This decision has been several years in the making, but at no time did Kustra let anyone know that wrestling could be in danger.
Because of that, the efforts to save Boise State wrestling have all had to be launched after the fact. There are the Facebook page and Twitter account where you can stay up to date with the latest happenings. There is a change.org petition and, perhaps most importantly, there is a gofundme page to raise as much money as possible. You can also contact the Bronco Wrestling Club to make a pledge that will only be collected if Boise State wrestling is reinstated. This Wednesday, May 17th at 8:30 am local time, there will be a rally at the Stueckle Sky Center as the Idaho State Board of Education arrives to conduct meetings. While the board has tried to stay out of it to this stage, the clear disregard for their own rules by the Boise State administration should continually be brought to their attention. The outlook may be bleak, but there is time left on the clock. Those fighting for Boise State’s survival have not given up and they deserve whatever support we can give them.