Wrestling support campaign growing
Issue over recently dropped sport has fingers pointing
Andrew Riggs / The Collegian
Former Fresno State coach Dennis DeLiddo is one of many leading the charge to bring back the wrestling program. DeLiddo retired as coach two years ago.
(below) Former Fresno State wrestlers Sean Carlson and Samuel Fragoza continue to wrestle in the Bulldogs’ wrestling room despite the loss their former team.
By David Kassis
Although the men’s wrestling program was cut from Fresno State in June, a great push is ongoing to bring the sport back to campus.
On June 15, Fresno State Athletics Director Thomas Boeh announced the wrestling program would be scrapped, and men’s cross country would be reinstated. Boeh stated in a press release that the move was primarily to help the school save money, as well as a long-range strategic plan for Fresno State athletics.
But there are those, such as former wrestling coach Dennis DeLiddo, who believes Boeh and Fresno State had other motives in mind than to simply cut costs.
“It’s pretty obvious that they [Fresno State] have sold out smaller sports programs for football and basketball,” said DeLiddo, who wrestled for the Bulldogs in the late ’60s and coached the team from 1981 through 2005, leading them to seven Western Athletic Conference titles.
In 2006, Fresno State’s athletics department budget was $22 million. According to Bruce Lippman, another leader in the fight to bring the program back, wrestling only took up 1.2 percent of the total athletics budget.
“When you’re talking about that kind of money, the school is spending pocket change on wrestling,” said Lippman, who is also the head coach at McLane High School. “Football has 85 scholarships, and wrestling got 9.9. It wouldn’t take a lot out of their budget.”
DeLiddo, Lippman and many others fighting Boeh and University President John Welty to bring wrestling back have found the effort very difficult.
“$1.2 million has been committed from boosters in the Fresno and Clovis area to fund Fresno State wrestling,” Lippman said. “We offered to pay the salaries for coaches, travel expenses and everything else, but Boeh still turned us down. He is not going to budge.”
“[Boeh] is incredible,” Lippman continued. “Every time he tells us a reason why we can’t have wrestling, we counter back, but he keeps saying no. The last e-mail I got from him said his decision was final and that he did not want to hear from me any more.”
Boeh did not return phone calls regarding the wrestling program’s status.
With the termination of wrestling, Fresno State is expected to save $350,000-$400,000, which won’t fully be realized until 2008.
Another reason Boeh gave for his decision was the low academic achievement by the members of the team, who have an aggregate GPA of 2.44, the lowest in the athletics department. The student-athlete average is 2.89.
Fresno State stated that there was not a dedicated wrestling practice facility or locker room for the team, or a cost-effective venue for competition.
“Our wrestling facilities have been used for 25 years, but now the school says they are no good,” DeLiddo said of the north gym and locker room. “We don’t have anything against them. That is kind of a vague excuse.”
DeLiddo feels that Boeh’s decision to scrap wrestling has more to do with personal feelings than statistics.
“[Boeh] said straight out that wrestlers are bad people,” DeLiddo said. “That is a very unprofessional comment from someone in his position.”
“Too many sports are being dropped at Fresno State which is cut-throat and rotten,” DeLiddo said. “It takes a man with integrity to balance the budget fairly. Anyone can come in and cut programs.”
Lippman also believes that Boeh’s decision was a personal one.
“I guess he just doesn’t like wrestlers,” Lippman said. “I think he’s just trying to enhance football, make them a BCS contender. It’s hard to know what his motives are. When you look at the scheme of things, student athletics should not be a business.”
The men’s track and field program will benefit by having the cross country program brought back after a three year absence.
Support around the valley is constantly growing for the wrestling team. A tailgate was at the last home football game to collect signatures, and another will be set up for Saturday’s game against Oregon.
Lippman says he is looking for 20,000 or more signatures to get the school’s attention.
“We are hoping to get the program back in time to compete this season,” DeLiddo said. “We need the support of the student body. They’ve cut soccer, water polo, women’s swimming, and now wrestling—where does it end? [Boeh] needs to be man enough to say that he did the wrong thing.”
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