There are large differences in opinions, but where coaches and fans agree is in recognizing that the sport of collegiate wrestling could use a boost in revenue and positive media attention. The sport needs cash to survive and since that is tied directly to television appearances, there is a need to create a new event. Where the camps split is whether two events will actually help all programs, or only a few select teams with resources. The NWCA and coaches who outwardly support the change of schedule are encouraged by the idea that ESPN will cover two major events. The big picture will to them be richer and full of opportunity. The other group of coaches (I've been told about one in three college wrestling coaches oppose the proposal) think that there is too much risk in creating another championship, and that the bloodletting of college programs is nearing its reational endpoint.
Mike Moyer (left), executive director of the NWCA, is a strong proponent of the National Duals becoming NCAA-sanctioned (Photo/Austin Bernard, Tech-Fall.com)Deciding whether or not to endorse the new plan is essentially a question about the risk and reward. Should college wrestling risk it's premier event in March (and the possibility it becomes slightly watered down) for the potential revenue of a dual meet format? Will the fans, viewers and advertising dollars follow wrestling to both a dual meet and individual tournament?
Many of the coaches I contacted believe that if they all agree on which direction they'd like to head, they could weigh heavily in one direction and influence the NCAA. Here are some of the pros and cons as told to me by several coaches and pronounced by the NWCA across several media platforms.
First, new details about the proposal that we now know:
How will individuals be chosen?
Same, but "the results of the team portion of the championships would not count toward the selection criteria for individual qualification." The idea is to prevent those in the top sixteen from having an added RPI advantage heading into wild card selection.
How will teams be selected?
Overall win/loss percentage (must wrestle at least 12 dual meets)
Strength of schedule
Results versus common opponents
Some questions and concerns
Won't this proposal eliminate 30-plus teams from ever competing in the NCAA Championships as they can't meet the funding of the top programs, and won't that disincentive athletic directors
Will the NCAA actually sanction two events? According to some coaches, they believe the NCAA tends to look at issues in terms of social equality (Title IX) and adding another NCAA championship, even if it's divided, could push for elimination of the individual tourney -- wrestling's proudest tradition.
Will ESPN choose to cover the Dual Team Championships? Is there a market? Will ESPN be contractually obligated to cover both events? If the dual team tourney is darkened by ESPN, will another outlet be allowed to cover it?
Will the NCAA cover all the travel expenses for teams to travel to regional sites on short notice, and to the main event? (The first round teams are expected to cover their own expenses, and the NCAA will cover the main event.)
What happens to the teams outside of the top sixteen teams? Where will they wrestle? Does they eliminate dual meets that have traditionally warmed teams up for the conference tourney?
Will fans be able to show up to the events with only two weeks notice?
The sum total of ten starting wrestlers determines the eight wild cards. What if my team lineup isn't set?
How will this affect medical redshirts?
Another event will provide more attention for the sport by providing a second national event. More attention means more money and profit sharing will be discussed as a viable option, potentially helping lower income schools.
Individuals understand team competition and would better be able to follow who makes it to the next round of wrestling and why.
The dual team format will allow for also-rans to have a chance in any given weekend, to win a national championship. (Virginia Tech made it to the finals of the NWCA/Cliff Keen National Duals last season, but placed 11th at the NCAA tournament.) Parity would create interest at the local level and pull in local media, local sponsorship and fan support.
Dual meets matter during the season. This would create higher interest in the outcome of matches and thus drive more interest and create a "spectator base."
Individual tournaments and championships don't create income for local programs and don't have a lot of interest, but the dual meet format is going to feed back into the program during the regular season by creating captivating and meaningful events. Growing the base is essential to maintaining long term viability.
Another NCAA tournament means two opportunities for performance evaluation by athletic directors. Some years your favorite college will have a good team, and other times they might only have a few good individuals. This format allows for exemplary performances to athletic directors.
The NCAA Championships cabinet will take another look at the proposal on Sept. 10. The NWCA has sent a clarification document, which should provide more insight and answers. Once that becomes available, InterMat will be sure to post and provide context.