Wrestling Gets a Second Chance
The number of California high school wrestlers has skyrocketed to over 27,000 and the list of four-year wrestling programs in the state has shrunk to seven.
Cal State Fullerton can say they are one of the lucky seven.
The wrestling team was granted a reprieve on Aug. 24, five days after the university announced it would discontinue the 43-year-old program after the 2010-11 season.
“There is no such thing as giving up and I don’t believe in a ‘no-win’ scenario,” Titan Head Coach Dan Hicks said. “You find a way to get it done and that is what we’ve done in the last year and a half.”
This was after the administration and Athletic Department did not see eye to eye on the delivery of the money by Aug. 1.
“The university will allow the wrestling program to use existing pledges toward future seasons to cover the shortfall that was created when the program missed its August goal of approximately $196,000 in the bank to fund the 2010-11 season,” CSUF Athletics Director Brian Quinn said. “All new money coming in must first go to covering this year’s shortfall.”
While the problem has been temporarily resolved, three factors stand in the way of a permanent resolution.
1. Budget cuts
“It really comes down to the budget crisis and the school not having an answer for what they are going to do with athletics,” Hicks said.
The dire financial situation for many California universities has trickled down to their respective athletic departments.
“(With) what’s happening with the financial crisis – within our system, within our department, with our institution, we have to find ways to balance the budget,” Quinn said.
In his eight years going on nine, Hicks has seen tuition costs steadily rise each year while the athletics budget has been stagnant.
The real blow came when the Campus Life and Athletics-Student Fee Referendum was 17 votes short of passing last spring, leaving the Athletic Department desperate for funding and its future in doubt, Hicks added.
2. Not being in the Big West Conference
“The biggest issue for the reason why we were singled out is because we are not in the (BWC). If it was based on performance, number of athletes that we have representing the school or being at Nationals for 26 straight years, there is really no reason to cut us,” Hicks said.
The Titans wrestle in the PAC-10 Conference and are not affiliated with the BWC, who houses all CSUF teams except for two.
“Any Big West sport we cannot look at dropping because we are a member of the Big West,” Quinn said. “The only sports that could come under consideration because they aren’t Big West sports are gymnastics and wrestling.”
The team needs to raise approximately $450,000 by March 1, 2011 to fund the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons.
“As we have done before, we will continue to find ways to overcome the obstacles and save (CSUF) Wrestling,” Hicks said in a letter. “We can continue to fund the Lasting Impact Pledge drive, develop other fund raising events, explore opportunities for a Fight for Wrestling Night, like Cal Poly and Cal Bakersfield, and look for donors who have the means to help us.”
Raising money is nothing new to Hicks.
He along with his wife Jill Hicks, head coach of the CSUF gymnastics team, raised a record-setting $700,000 over a 14-month period.
Although this will be his most daunting task, Hicks is beaming with optimism.
His nationally ranked incoming recruiting class features four state champions and five high school All-Americans.
Overall, the program has produced 31 conference champions, 12 Div. I, three Div. II All-Americans and 87 NCAA Div. I national qualifiers.
For the older wrestlers, they know the opportunity to preserve a program will benefit present and future Titans.
“It’s a chance for us to save our program, the program I’ve worked five years for and the program I love and a chance for the freshmen to get to where I am,” Kurt Klimek, senior, said.
Hicks is confident that with more support, CSUF can become one of the premier wrestling programs in the nation.
“We must survive for the 27,000 plus high school wrestlers in California who want a chance to wrestle in college,” Hicks said. “There are too many states with no college opportunities. We must find a way now.”
© 2010 The Daily Titan.