Boise State cut its wrestling program April 18 with the intention to soon add a baseball team. Despite an extremely vocal resistance by wrestling supporters, there still are no plans to change course.
President Bob Kustra met with Idaho State Senators Marv Hagedorn and Chuck Winder recently, and reinforced the school’s position on the matter. Wrestling supporters have reached out to Boise State, the State Board of Education, their local representatives and media outlets since the decision.
An online petition has more than 17,000 signatures, while a GoFundMe page has $68,000 in pledges on top of what the grassroots group Save Boise State Wrestling says has received more than $200,000 in direct pledges through the Bronco Wrestling Club. The wrestling team’s budget in 2016-17 was $488,000.
In a letter obtained by the Idaho Statesman, provided by Save Boise State Wrestling, Hagedorn and Winder recapped their meeting, saying they were “unable to change his mind.” According to the letter, Kustra cited financial concerns that have forced the school to look at costs of smaller programs and that wrestling was a dying sport in Division I athletics.
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There was mention of retaining coach Mike Mendoza in an administrative role, should he wish to remain at the school, along with a push to continue the sport, albeit as a club sport. The senators hoped that if that is successful, and if funding is strong, it could return. It should be noted, if Boise State has a baseball team and wrestling ever returns, it would also need to add at least one women’s sport.
In documents obtained by the Idaho Statesman in May, Kustra responded by email to questions by other state legislators, namely Senator Steve Bair. Bair asked for the process involved in the decision, to which Kustra said it was him, his staff and athletic department officials, noting that “a decision like this cannot be put out for a vote.” He said adding a new women’s program is costly, while adding that “dropping a a program that does not compete in (the Mountain West) conference and which hasn’t been very successful in recent years was a realistic option.”
Kustra also said the decision aligns the school better with the Mountain West, that Mendoza was hired last year before any decision was made, and that with football ticket sales down, more revenue must be found or spending must be decreased. Adding baseball will be an expensive addition, though the school has said it has identified additional ways to fund it.
Boise State’s decision came days after incoming freshmen began to sign with the program, though the school intends to allow wrestlers to finish school on scholarship if they wish. Some have moved on to other programs, including senior Will Bardezbain to Kent State and signees Jose Tapia to George Mason and Kevin Vough to South Dakota State.
Here is our work on the decision and its fallout: