Boise State announced last week that it would cut its wrestling program and pursue a baseball program. While it’s early in the process, the decision produced more questions than answers. Here’s what we know about timelines, funding and the reasons why Boise State made the decisions it did.
Q: Is there any chance of a wrestling comeback?
Immediately after Boise State’s announcement, wrestling advocates from around the country began petitioning the decision. A petition through Change.org has amassed more than 14,000 signatures. A resolution from the student assembly to stall the process was sent to the student government but did not pass. A rally was held at the Idaho Department of Education building in Downtown Boise on Saturday in an attempt to help save the wrestling program.
Despite this outcry, the decision to drop wrestling is final, Boise State President Bob Kustra told the Statesman on the day after the announcement.
“This isn’t a decision that’s revocable. This is a final decision, one we’ve worked on for many months, it’s been two or three years in the works ... We have to move forward,” Kustra said.
In an interview with KTIK radio on Thursday, Boise State Athletic Director Curt Apsey said that the decision to add baseball had been in the works, but the decision to drop wrestling was recent.
“Baseball’s been talked about for years – way, way before I became the athletic director,” Apsey said. “Wrestling didn’t really become a part of the conversation until earlier this year.”
Q: What is the status of wrestlers and recruits? Have any asked to transfer or landed at other schools?
Current wrestlers may leave for other universities without the penalty of dealing with typical NCAA transfer rules. Usually, an athlete transferring to another Division I university has to sit out a year of competition.
If wrestlers choose to stay at Boise State as students, the school will pay the remainder of their scholarships as long as they remain academically eligible. Coaches will also have their contracts honored. If a wrestler transfers, any scholarship money would have to come from his new school.
“Currently, several wrestlers are pursuing other opportunities,” sports information director Joe Nickell said. “We can provide a final number closer to the start of this next academic year, once final decisions have been made.”
Q: What will happen to wrestlers who signed letters of intent? Are they considered on scholarship?
Nickell said those who signed letters “will have their scholarships honored should they choose to enroll at Boise State. All resources, including academic and medical support, will continue to be made available to student-athletes as long as they are enrolled at Boise State and remain academically eligible and on track for degree completion.”
Q: How much did wrestling cost at Boise State?
The program had a net loss of $351,960 in 2016-17 ($467,665 in expenses and $115,705 in revenue), according to figures from the Idaho State Board of Education released in April. According to the NCAA, the median net for a wrestling program was a loss of $590,000 in 2015, the latest year for which data is available.
Q: How much does a college baseball team cost?
Apsey told KTIK that he estimates about $1 million per year, but “nothing is set in stone.”
The median cost of a baseball program at a university with an FBS football program was $1,664,000, according to NCAA data from 2015. With expenses and revenues taken into account, the median net revenue for a program was a loss of $926,000.
The median salary for a college baseball coach at an FBS school in 2015 was $256,000.
Nevada, a member of the Mountain West, had expenses (scholarships, operating costs, coaching salaries, recruiting, uniforms, marketing, etc.) of about $1.33 million in 2016 and $415,375 in revenue, meaning the program lost $914,000 and change, according to the Reno Gazette-Journal.
Fresno State’s expenses last year were $941,06 and its revenue was about $150,000, according to the athletic department. Fresno State defines its expenses as operating costs, scholarships and coaching salaries/benefits. San Jose State had $956,179 in expenses (operating costs, scholarships and coaching salaries) and collected only $20,489 in revenue, according to the university.
Any money BSU saves by eliminating wrestling will not be able to fund the baseball program immediately, as the school will be paying for scholarships and coaching contracts were extended.
“It’s not like the wrestling budget is going away tomorrow,” Apsey told KTIK.
Q: How many scholarships does Boise State expect baseball have? How many did wrestling have?
Nickell said that BSU can offer the full scholarship limit for baseball, which is 11.7. Wrestling was 9.9, he said.
Q: What sort of Title IX implications played into getting rid of wrestling rather than just adding baseball?
Nickell explained that there are many facets with Title IX, which requires that women and men be provided equitable opportunities to participate in sports, but one of the keys is participation as it pertains to the ratio of the student body.
“As previously stated, there were multiple factors involved in this decision. However, there are two primary components at the center of Title IX compliance — participation and financial aid. Boise State is committed to compliance in each area. The calculations are complex and the compliance component for participation relies on the male/female ratio at the university as a whole,” Nickell said.
“Based on NCAA limits, once baseball is added as an intercollegiate sport, Boise State would be allowed to offer 131.3 scholarships on the men’s side (including 85 for football) and 117 on the women’s side. However, what is actually awarded is something that will be assessed each year.”
The current student body is made up of 23,886 students, 55 percent of whom are women. In 2016-17, Boise State supported 11 varsity sports for women and seven for men.
Q: What is the timeline for hiring a baseball coach and recruiting players?
Apsey said on KTIK, “The simple, honest answer is we don’t have a definite timeline right now.”
BSU has added other varsity sports in recent years, perhaps giving an idea of a possible timeline. On May 10, 2006, BSU announced it would add softball. The school hired its first coach on Sept. 4, 2007. The program signed its first three players on Nov. 20, 2007, and held its first practice on Sept. 27, 2008. The first game was on Feb. 6, 2009.
Q: How quickly could the Mountain West add Boise State?
According to Jaime Hixson, the league’s associate commissioner, BSU could begin playing baseball in the conference as early as 2018, assuming all the pieces are in place to get the program underway. The seven current baseball members have schedules set through 2019, Hixson said, but the process to change those could get done.
“Now, we would have to know that pretty quick (for 2018),” Hixson said. “If we knew by June, there’s a good chance we could get that done.”
Q: What would the prospects be for immediate baseball success?
The University of Oregon dropped its wrestling program in 2007 and began playing baseball again in 2009, after dropping it as a varsity sport in 1981. The Ducks hired coach George Horton on Sept. 1, 2007, and played their first game on Feb. 21, 2009.
Oregon was 14-42 in its first season under Horton, who came from Cal State Fullerton, where he led the Titans to the national title in 2004. But he was starting over in Eugene.
“It’s bittersweet. It’s obviously a fun challenge to start a program from scratch,” Horton said. “The bitter part of it is, it’s a long building process.”
In its second season, Oregon went 40-24 and made it to the NCAA regionals; the Ducks have been to the NCAA Tournament five times since 2009. Horton said that there is a lot of hard work ahead for whoever gets to lead BSU and that support from the university is crucial. He said it’s been fun being part of history at Oregon.
“(My coaching friends) told me the most rewarding point in their careers was building it from scratch,” Horton said.