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ABBOTT COLUMN: An alumni view why Boston Univ. should keep varsity wrestling
Gary Abbott USA Wrestling

Note: This column appeared in the Daily Free Press today, which is the Boston University independent student newspaper

Monday was April Fools Day, and I thought somebody was pulling my leg when I got an email with a press release that BU was dropping its varsity wrestling program. After a quick visit to the BU Athletics website, I realized that this was not a joke.

As a BU wrestling alumni, Class of 1982, this was shocking, unexpected and painful news. After graduating BU with a journalism degree, I built a career combining communications and wrestling. I have served 25 years as Director of Communications at USA Wrestling, which manages our sport nationally. Just like anybody who has been involved with BU wrestling in the past, I can’t understand why BU would make such a poor decision which is not in the best interest of the athletics department or the university.

Why should you as BU students care about this? I would suggest that if you care about what Boston University is all about and what it should stand for, then this is an issue you should get involved with.

Here is what I know at this point. According to the BU press release, the university “thoroughly reviewed and evaluated Department priorities” in making this decision. This process must have been done behind closed doors. Neither BU wrestling coach Carl Adams nor the alumni from the wrestling program were ever informed that the sport was being reviewed or was in any jeopardy. In fact, Coach Adams was not informed until Monday afternoon at about the time that the announcement was made. Wrestling had no input in this process at all.

BU alumni get all kinds of letters and fancy brochures bragging about the level of excellence that BU has established, as well as the tremendous upgrades it has made on campus with its facilities. I understand this is all about fundraising, but I also believed that BU was dedicated to this principle.

Among the lame excuses in the press announcement about cutting wrestling was that “to bring the wrestling program to a championship-caliber level, an immense infusion of resources, including major facility enhancements and additional staffing, would be required.” This does not sound like the university dedicated to excellence that I am told about as an alumnus.

Here are the facts. BU has a competitive wrestling team, led for 32 years by one of the nation’s most respected coaches, Carl Adams. Although not in the national Top 20, BU has produced winning wrestling teams and qualified numerous athletes for the NCAA Championships all during Adams’ era. BU had two conference champions and three NCAA qualifiers this year alone. Coach Adams has over 300 career victories in college wrestling, number two among active coaches. It would be fair to say that additional investment would improve BU’s success nationally, but this is by no means a program that is not performing.

In regards to facilities, it is also fair to say that BU does not have an adequate training facility. The Terrier wrestlers are still working out in a small space in the athletic building under Rich Hall, the same room I trained in over 30 years ago. However, this is not the fault of the BU wrestlers.

Two years ago, I attended the BU alumni wrestling match where BU beat national power Iowa State in Case Gym. There were BU development people there to give us a tour of the wonderful new athletic facilities and it was impressive. BU has chosen not to upgrade its wrestling facility while doing all of this construction. The wrestlers have made do with what they had and continued to be successful. Never once did they say they might not continue wrestling because they didn’t create a new wrestling room during all of that construction.

This issue is not about who is the coach, but the way they have treated Coach Adams is deplorable. He is a popular coach on campus, a leader in the industry, and an African-American role model that BU should be proud of. He has given most of his professional life building great students, athletes and leaders through the wrestling program. BU wrestling has performed well in the classroom, in its public service and within the campus community. This is the kind of coach and kind of program that BU should take pride in, not eliminate.

This doesn’t even account for all of the revenue that BU wrestling has brought into the university through the Carl Adams Wrestling Academy, the successful summer camp held on campus each summer. I have been proud that BU Athletics was a leader in providing a varsity wrestling team. Wrestling is an active sport on the high school level in New England, and BU was a center of excellence for the sport in the region.

For the juniors on the BU wrestling team, the athletic department had the courtesy to allow the team one more year. I have a great idea. Why not spend that year working with the BU wrestling alumni, going over all of the reasons they want to drop the program, and come up with solution which allows this program to continue? Other major universities, including nearby Brown, had the courage to reverse a decision to drop wrestling when they worked through the issues.

I will readily admit that this announcement is very personal to me, not only because of my support for the wrestling program. My niece is currently a BU student who has helped with the wrestling program. My nephew was accepted to BU two weeks ago, and was considering attending because of its academics and its wrestling program. This is a huge disappointment to my family.

I always tell people my two greatest learning experiences during college were not in the classroom. They were being on the varsity wrestling team and serving as an editor for the Daily Free Press. It truly hurts me to imagine that the wrestling opportunity which was so dear to me will now be taken away from future BU student-athletes. Please take a closer look at this and support the effort to Keep BU Wrestling.

Gary Abbott (COM ’82) is the Director of Communications for USA Wrestling, a four-year letterman for BU Wrestling and the Fall 1981 Editorial Page Editor for the Daily Free Press.

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