Foley's Friday Mailbag: April 5, 2013

InterMat senior writer T.R. Foley answers reader questions about NCAA wrestling, international wrestling, recruiting, or anything loosely related to wrestling. You have until Thursday night every week to send questions to Foley's Twitter or email account.

Do you want to read a past mailbag? Access archives.

Boston University athletic director Mike Lynch announced Monday that the school had decided to discontinue the Terrier wrestling program following the 2013-2014 season. According to head wrestling coach Carl Adams the news came as a surprise to him as well -- only learning of the team's fate moments before the school made the announcement official on its website. It was a telling anecdote about a team and coach out of touch with the reality of college athletics.

The elimination of any program causes concern within the wrestling community. We unite behind Facebook pages asking us to support the reinstatement of the team, and notable alumnus write letters in support of the program and admonish the administration. It's our therapy, our way to vent about the inequities of an amateur athletics culture that stresses anything but the ideals of amateurism. Social networking campaigns and letter writing initiatives feel productive, but are nothing more than twisting tight the cap to a bottle of spilt milk.

Mike Lynch and I spoke on Tuesday about the university's decision to drop the program. He's a well-mannered administrator who lives inside the bubble of education and believes that his school chose to act in a way that would "increase visibility and competiveness in the region as well as nationally." He added that despite recently adding a men's lacrosse team, the school had not fallen out of Title IX compliance because they had "consistently added women's programs and met the needs of our female students." Cutting wrestling he said was a "tough decision," but only in the way a leader is supposed to say the words. There was no pain behind his voice.

That's because when it came time for the board and the president to evaluate the wrestling team and the future viability of the program they were met with total institutional apathy. By Lynch's account wrestling had no notable alumni giving, negligible fan support, and limited nationwide success. Add-in that the school would be transferring conferences next season and the decision made itself. A sport on cruise control, running out of gas and with no plans to refuel.

If Lynch wanted to create a scapegoat he could have cited any number of reasons, but when pressed it came blurting out: outside of the wrestlers and Adams, few people cared.

Was he right?

Play the devil's advocate and think about how many fans are going to miss the Boston program, a team with four All-Americans in 32 years? Those non-existent alumni, the negligible number of fans? You can agree or disagree with the outcome, but Lynch was right that the support and results weren't substantial enough to prevent the elimination of the program. By almost every metric available to the modern athletic director the Boston University wrestling was failing. No success, little support and poor fan interaction. What was the purpose of continuing to help a team that wouldn't help itself?

Wrestling deserves to be a sponsored sport in higher education, but the wrestling community knows the score, and that includes Carl Adams. Our sport has learned that we can't expect handouts or to be immune from meeting financial obligations. The elimination of Boston wrestling, while enraging to fans and lifelong supporters, was the fault of the coaching staff and alumni, but the media and the wrestling community at-large also played a role.

In terms of the democratic process, media is supposed to be a check on the powerful; in sports it's much the same. We are supposed to be outside the system of graft and corruption that brings down politicians, but in the wrestling community we've had our courage snipped by the tight working quarters of our assignments. We've become complicit in letting the coaches who are under-performing on at-risk campuses continue as though nothing is wrong, because we are afraid to hurt their feelings and lose access. I'm the worst offender, backing off an annual hot seat article after my initial list irritated some coaches. The awful part was that I knowingly, consciously refused to list the have-not's like Boston University because I figured that it would be in bad form. I was wrong.

Football and basketball coaches get fired because the members of the media write articles about their win/loss record -- the wrestling media ignores the bad and promotes the good. Without a check from the media, coaches are allowed to sustain their inaction and eventually become the chicken with the longest neck. Adams, while widely respected as a great guy and a leader on campus, was simply not getting the job done. We all need to take responsibility for what happened, stop having hurt feelings over what is written or said, and start building powerful alumni and fan bases to keep this from happening in 2014.

Wins and losses matter, but preserving your favorite collegiate wrestling program from elimination is actually more about fan and alumni support. You've heard the platitude about how some coaches "make it difficult to cut the program," well in this circumstance an alumni base like you see at Maryland or UT-Chattanooga would have made eliminating the program impossible. As it was there was nothing standing between the athletic director and a wrestling-less Boston University.

Being a 21st Century coach is not easy. You need to understand everything from social media to low singles finishes. It's a huge task, but there is an army of young, intelligent assistant coaches willing to become CEO's of their programs. They have the tools to not only create All-Americans and conference champions, but to recruit an alumni base and curate a fan culture that will be their buffer against easily slung axes of athletic directors. Adams will be missed. He deserved better than to see the program he loved eliminated. He was a pioneer, a black head coach in a sport with only a handful at a time. He's beloved by his wrestlers and respected by his peers. He's a good man, and that should still mean something.

But what happened in Boston should never have occurred. The wrestling community has the map to right these ships, which makes watching them run aground just an exercise in pride and stubbornness. We need to do more as alumni, fans and media. We need to push our coaches for results on and off the mat. Or as Ben Askren so eloquently stated this week, let's not be afraid to see some heads roll.

To your questions ...

Q: Why are the NHSCA High School Nationals and FloNationals held on the same weekend? These are two of the biggest high school tournaments in the country and they have to be the same weekend? This divides the talent. I want to see all of the elite wrestlers in the country all at one tournament. We can see who is the true national champion. So many tournaments now call themselves "nationals" that the title national champion does not mean as much anymore. I think I remember Flo having some issues with the NHSCA about the way they ran the tournament. Maybe it was cost or they were not giving Flo access to the tournament? Can't Flo and the NHSCA work things out and join efforts to create the best tournament in the country? If you were a coach of an elite high school wrestler, where would you send him? FloNationals or the NHSCA Nationals?

I miss the days of seeing a weight class like this one at 2001 NHSCA Senior Nationals.

1st: Joe Dubuque NJ
2nd: Ricky LaForge NJ
3rd: Nick Simmons MI
4th: Nate Gallick AZ
5th: Travis Lee HI
6th: Shawn Bunch KS
7th: Jacob Palomino CA
8th: Drew Opfer OH
--Dave T

Foley: That's an insane weight! I'm assuming you know this bracket because you were in attendance. I'll be scanning the brackets all night ...

Flowrestling founder Martin Floreani talked to InterMat about FloNationals a few years ago and had this to say:
We saw an opportunity where we feel like people weren't doing it right. They were trying to take advantage of the sport to really make money. I'm not a socialist by any means. I'm a thriving capitalist. But my philosophy is you better put out an awesome product and especially when I have one as emotionally attached to as I am with wrestling. You better treat wrestling right and then make money. You better have a foundation of putting out an amazing product and then if you can make money off that, then that's great.
We live in a competitive world, and Flo isn't scared to mix it up with the established powers in the sport. The NHSCA Nationals are well run, but Flo's desire to create a better experience for the wrestlers and the fans, regardless of motivation, is admirable. The market will dictate whether or not they're doing a good job of meeting the demands of their participants, something undoubtedly assisted by their online presence and video streaming capabilities.

What about a round-robin among the champions at each weight class? Could be a cool idea, but maybe we should let the high schoolers get a little break from the road. Let 'em rest, overeat and enjoy the social anxieties of being a teenager.

Q: Looking to next season and the 174-pound class, with Andrew Howe projected to come back, Chris Perry coming back, and Matt Brown returning as a junior after a great season, this weight class is looking like the most competitive and fun to watch. Thoughts and predictions?
-- Ken S.

Foley: You're tempting me to choose Matt Brown, because you know I have an unabashed faith in his abilities. However, I'm playing it smart and going with Andrew Howe.

Howe will be a sixth-year senior, and a full three seasons removed from his 2010 NCAA championship. (He finished third in 2011, Olympic redshirted in 2012 and medically redshirted in 2013). Brown and Perry are both low-scoring wrestlers, a game that Old Man Howe can play better than anyone. Were it not for an ACL surgery we'd be talking about Howe as one of the all-time greats. As is he can win a second title and end his career in elite company as a three-time finalist.

Hopefully the media and fans will get as interested in the champ vs. champ matchup here, as they did for Dake and Taylor in 2013.

Howe over Brown in the NCAA finals, 3-2.

Q: Has anyone ever gone undefeated in a college season with bonus points in every victory? It seems like that would be a good goal for David Taylor. He will most likely go down in history as the best and most dominant two time NCAA champ, but maybe something a little extra to stamp his name in the history books.
-- Seth H.

Foley: Not in the modern era. Gable was close his senior season, right up until that match with Larry Owings.

Should he defeat every opponent by major or better, Taylor would certainly put a stamp on his career. However it's just as likely that Ed Ruth would run the table as a senior and secure bonus points in every match.

Q: Being a Wisconsin Badger follower, and a big time fan of Andrew Howe, I remember when he defeated Kyle Dake in a freestyle match two years ago. In my opinion Dake should think twice about believing that he will be replacing Burroughs after 2016 as the 165 champ, because he will never defeat Howe. The fly in the ointment is Howe's recovering from his ACL, which should not be a problem. Also, the Badgers will be a top six team at year end.
-- Howard D.

Foley: Of course Howe is wrestling for Oklahoma in 2014 so if you're adding him to the Badger roster you may want to stop before placing a big bet on Wisconsin.

You're right. Dake would be a fool to overlook Howe, who has given Burroughs a match every time they've faced each other. Assuming that his ACL has been repaired and is functioning at one-hundred percent, then Dake will need to figure out how to create offense. As stated earlier, there just aren't a lot of ways to score on Howe, who like Dake has a tendency to win the close matches.

Howe-ever, there is also the issue of age and sturdiness post-2016, to say nothing of the IOC's decision to eliminate wrestling. Dake will be three years Howe's junior and likely have suffered fewer catastrophic injuries.

Q: I watched the Jason Welch-Derek St. John final and was surprised by the locked hands call. It looked like Welch's hands were locked when St. John stood up, but he released them immediately when they came down to the mat. Wondering if you saw it differently or if there is something in the rule I don' understand.
-- Joe C.

Foley: Wrestlers are given a moment of reaction time, but anything beyond a half-second would be considered a gift. The replay on ESPN shows that it took him more than a second and a half to unclench his hands. The locked hands were odd especially given Welch has made a career riding from the top position, but mistakes happen.


European Championships Highlight Film
We need MORE of this type of exposure. Will the IOC drama mean more original content? Or will we just be reading AP newswire stories? I vote for more cowbell.

Iran's Sporting Dreamers
This is a 45-minute documentary that is absolutely engrossing. A must-watch, must-share bit of exposure into a part of the world we hear about, but rarely see.

Witness - Iran's Sporting Dreamers by aljazeeraenglish

Q: I'm going to bet on David Taylor making his fourth final next year and winning his second national title (quite the risky bet, I know). That leads me to ask this question. In the eyes of history, who will be seen as the more dominant four-time finalist, two-time champ, David Taylor or Ben Askren?
-- Daniel L.

Foley: Ben Askren was a more dynamic public figure in college, and progressed the sport through a unique style and technical innovation. David Taylor is a rock star with an enormous amount of fan appeal. Choose your side wisely.

Were it not for Chris Pendleton the decision would be easy, but given Askren's 1-7 record against the Okie State national champion it makes an open-shut case more difficult to argue. Also David Taylor has social media, which amplifies his popularity when compared to the then Twitter-less Askren.

Much will come down to how DT does next year, and for the moment I think we can assume he'll win the NCAA title which would lead to a split popular vote. If the tiebreaker came down to my humble opinion, I'd choose Askren as the more dominant champion. The man barely broke a sweat in disposing of Jake Herbert, an eventual two-time NCAA champion and Olympian.

Taylor beat Brandon Hatchett. Askren had to beat THIS LOOK.

Jake Herbert

Q: How good is N.C. State going to be next year? With everyone returning and Nick Gwiazdowski off redshirt, can they be legit top 10? Also, Cornell: Lots of good young wrestlers (Brian Realbuto, Dylan Palacio et al), joining a solid retuning cast. What is in their immediate future?
-- TJ Hart

Foley: N.C. State: Very, very good. Pat Popolizio is an incredible coach and leader. Though the team is going to suffer for a few years from a lack of depth and talent in the room, he has his guys competing at ACCs, with several over-performing on the weekend. If he can keep up the momentum with his existing guys, and get Gwiazdowski back on the podium, N.C. State has an outside chance of placing in the Top 25 at the NCAA tournament.

Cornell: When won't they be good? They recruit studs and coach 'em up. They've reached the point where anything outside of the top ten is a massive disappointment, and in good years they feel like they should be in the top four with a chance to win the whole thing.

*Re: Head coaches as CEOs: Coach Koll is exactly what the wrestling community should demand from their head coaches. He engages alumni better than any other head wrestling coach I've met and has a loyal fan base. Good things happen to your program when you work hard to bring people into the fold.

Q: What is the story with Destin McCauley? Been Wisconsin, ISU and OTC? Any chance he finds himself at Iowa fitting into the 149 slot?
-- Craig G.

Foley: He is finalizing the paperwork with his chosen school and should be announcing next week. Stay tuned ...

Q: After re-reading your post regarding Gable vs St. John I noticed for the first time the statement that this year's NCAA champs would beat a group of "old timer's in "9 of 10" matches. I was flabbergasted. I thought the math is right but probably the other way around, so I put together a team of pre-2000 wrestlers and I am sending them out for a mythical match. Quite frankly, I would not be surprised if the maligned group of decrepit old folks sweep. But, you take a look and tell me your opinion:

125: Yojiro Uetake
133: Dan Gable/John Smith
141: Cary Kolat/Dan Gable
149: Lee Kemp/Wade Schalles
157: Lee Kemp/Pat Smith/Wade Schalles
165: Dave Schultz/Mark Schultz
174: Mark Schultz/Les Gutches
184: Cael Sanderson/Ben Peterson
197: Cael Sanderson /Ed Banack
285: Bruce Baumgartner/ Lou Banach/Kerry McCoy
-- TJ Hart

Foley: You dog, you just dropped the best names from the last 50 years of wrestling!

And still I tell you that they are at best going to split with today's wrestlers. That's right, ONLY SPLIT.

You can't tell me that the technique and athleticism of a wrestler 40 years ago is on par with what we see today. Our wrestlers right now are the best we've ever seen, not because of their ability to dominate each other but their ability to understand and respond to more techniques.

For example a fireman's carry was the iPhone of wrestling for more than two decades. You just don't see guy getting hit in a fireman's carry anymore! Why? Because the young guys learned how our opponents might set it up, which blocks it from being utilized. Next, if it is launched, this generation's wrestlers have adapted enough to figure out how best to avoid hitting the mat. And that's just one move.

Think of wrestling like the advances in technology, as more becomes known and shared, the faster we adapt and innovate. With kids watching YouTube every night learning the most effective techniques they can skip out on learning too much about the fireman's carry, a low-percentage finish, and focus on an outside leg series with a higher rate of successful finishes. Even Jesse Jantzen's tilt series from the shallow half is starting to have less success in the college ranks, and that was NEW in 2002. Since then coaches and wrestlers have learned to prevent the position and defend it once attempted.

However, I do think that the great champions of the past -- if put in a time machine and given the chance to brush up on techniques and athleticism, or given a chance to grow up and eventually wrestle in this decade -- would be as successful as they were in their time. Champion stock has nothing to do with technique, it's a mentality, and you picked wrestlers who had everything it takes to succeed at any task and in any decade.

The debate continues ...


Roger Ebert was a friend to some of the wrestlers I knew in Chicago. It's self-serving, but I liked Siskel & Ebert growing up and found this commentary on Star Wars and the power of watching "children's movies" to be immensely pleasurable.

RIP Roger Ebert.


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dkman610 (1) about 5 years ago
I can't help but post this, I see Andrew Howe being another Dustin Kilgore...
DrNuveen (1) about 5 years ago
Dude....That Iranian video should be mandatory for all wrestlers in any program. That is some powerful stuff. Changed my day and I will replay it often to focus my dedication to work and life. Amazing.
LoneWolf (1) about 5 years ago
Don't forget bigotry. If Iran refuses to wrestle Israelis, they shouldn't be allowed to compete at all. Better yet, FILA should match up Iranians and Israelis in the first round of every tournament at every weight. Then they couldn't get away with this garbage and still win medals.
TLS62PA (1) about 5 years ago
"Without a check from the media, coaches are allowed to sustain their inaction and eventually become the chicken with the longest neck."-

This is what has happened to WVU, despite the school having a good alumni base and following. I have written to local WV news papers for some exposure on the situation and have asked for opinion pieces just to shed light on this. I wouldn't call Turnbull complacent, but if you read his quotes, he isn't living in the same world as we are in terms of wrestling. On our scout message board, a big deal is made about the situation. But without the help of the media, you're cause (or any cause) is as good as nothing.
ac1998 (1) about 5 years ago
" By Lynch's account wrestling had no notable alumni giving, negligible fan support, and limited nationwide success."

Isn't this statement an indictment of his own leadership. By all accounts Carl Adams is a good man, but if the athletic director felt that one of the programs under his control wasn't successful didn't he have the power to change this?
trfoley (1) about 5 years ago
I asked him that directly. "Why are you only now seeing this as an issue?" He dodged and said that now was the first time they reviewed it as a whole, etc. Then he kept saying what a great job Carl did. Which was weird because then he'd say they weren;t nationally competitive. He blamed the room size and funding, then basically said there was NOTHING they could do. When asked about hiring a new coach that was younger and with big goals he just kept saying that they had Carl Adams. Weird. Again, they saw this as something nobody would care about, and they were largely right ... nobody emailed the mailbag about the loss of Boston wrestling.
spencerszewczyk (1) about 5 years ago
everyone is automatically assuming that howe is going to be at 174 next season. however, as far as i've heard, he's wrestling this year at the U.S. team trials at 163, and i'm sure, just like dake, that he's not going to run from anyone, even david taylor. i think there's a good possibility that he wrestles at 165 next season and taylor is going to have to wrestle another finals match against a man who is almost a twin of dake: strong as a gorilla and almost impossible to score on with a "will not lose" attitude. is it possible that one of the greatest of all time may only win 1 title in his college career?
DannyClarke (1) about 5 years ago
jammen (2) about 5 years ago
Foley: He is finalizing the paperwork with his chosen school and should be announcing next week. Stay tuned ...

What! Don't we at least get a premature verbal to renege on?
DannyClarke (1) about 5 years ago
He's going to Nebraska. Callin it.
DannyClarke (1) about 5 years ago
Nailed it.
howiefartz (1) about 5 years ago
I would disagree about current greats vs. greats from the past mainly on the "technique" argument. Many of wrestling core moves are timeless IMO. However, I think one of the bigger hurdles would be the ability modern wrestlers have in the "scrambling" category. Askren brought his funk to the sport but many have since duplicated and added these to their list of skills to the point these once "crazy" moves are common place.

Also my thoughts on Dake vs Howe: Im a Howe fan, always have been. But Dake can and will score to win, he always does. Taylor took Dake down abd walked back to the center of the mat with swag. That quickly left when Dake turned into him, picked him up by the back of his neck and inside his left leg and dumped him on his head. He nearly got 2, but was awarded 1. He then wasted no time doing what few others could do..... he rather easily took Taylor down. Taylor was beat from the first period on.....
DannyClarke (1) about 5 years ago
Hypothetically speaking.. if Howe were to go 165 and beat Taylor would Taylor still be considered an all time great? 1 title and three finals losses...

Also on the international debate,, the winner of Howe V Dake still has to get through Burroughs so I think both of them will be riding the international pine for awhile.
pfeister (1) about 5 years ago
What about Steve Mocco? Four finals, two championships, 137-6 record and 56 falls. Stud. Pat Milkovich, Michigan State - 1972-76 (1-1-2-2), Darryl Burley, Lehigh - 1979-83 (1-2-2-1) and Mark Branch, Oklahoma State - 1994-97 (1-2-2-1) should also be considered, but before my time.
tjhart (1) about 5 years ago
Originally, Mr; Foley said "this year's champs" now it's "current greats." That's a major shift. But, if you look at this year's list of champs, Dake and Ruth might join the list of those mentioned as All-Timers. Frankly, I'm not sure Dake beats Shultz and I'm pretty sure Ruth has a a hard time with Cael.
As to funk: Fist of all Askren wasn't in the original conversation but if you're talking funk, take a look at Schalles video vs Lee Kemp then talk to me.
trfoley (1) about 5 years ago
Love it. You aren't willing to concede that there has been a major growth in talent over the past 40 years? C'mon! That's plainly evident. Again, I still think you can only judge them in their own time, but watch video of any sport from 40 years ago, including wrestling, and you can see the massive difference in athleticism, not to mention technique. I think that trumps all other attributes.
gutfirst (1) about 5 years ago
it's reasonable to say that the wrestlers of 40 years ago were as strong, fast or well positioned as today's wrestlers. so, what gives today's wrestlers an advantage?
tjhart (1) about 5 years ago
NO, I am not willing to concede, "there has been a major growth in talent over the past 40 years." The people I mention not only won NCAA titles, they were World and Olympic champs as well. How many of this year's group placed higher than even third at the last Open Nationals? As to the evolution of technique..., did you watch Dake? A blast double and a tightwaist/half ride...! Wow, talk about new and innovative. As you admit, my list has most of the top-wrestlers of the past 50 years, so tell me again how your guys gain a split? (BTW- that split is quite a move down from you saying this year's group wins 9 of 10).
LoneWolf (2) about 5 years ago
In 1968, Bob Beamon long jumped 29' 2.5". Only 1 time in the past 45 years has anyone duplicated that. (In fact, the 2012 Olympic gold medalist had the shortest winning distance since 1972. That's regression, not progress.) Jim Hines ran the 100 meter dash in 9.9 seconds - on a cinder track with crappy shoes and spikes. He would beat anyone other than Bolt today.
Don't assume that athleticism gets constantly better just because time passes.

Gable could kick anyone's butt at Iowa up until his hips went out. There's a famous example of his facing world champ Randy Lewis in the Iowa room with the bleachers full of people watching. He beat him by about 50 points!!! And I'm pretty sure Cael Sanderson could destroy Ed Ruth and Quentin Wright. If you doubt it, just ask them. Neither of them came close to making the Olympic team last year. Sanderson could have won the Trials in his sleep.

You simply can't lose most of the college wrestling programs in the country since Title IX and think it wouldn't have an effect on the quality of wrestling.
And if our guys are so much better today, why do we win so many fewer medals in international competitions? That is an objective standard. Our old-timers were winning golds all the time. How many golds have we won since 2000? Not many.
chasev619 (1) about 5 years ago
Oklahoma is looking to definitely finish top 3 next year
kcranick (1) about 5 years ago
I have to agree with Foley. All sports evolve with time and the most recent example I can think of where the "old school" style came up short was Brent Metcalf in 2009. Metcalf was an absolute hammer and one of the most successful younger wrestlers to use a more traditional wrestling style. That style clearly did not work so well against Caldwell who had a more modern style. HOWEVER, one could still argue that Metcalf's dominance was derived from that style. I think the old vs. new could easily come down to a style matchup but I still give new school the upper hand.
spencerszewczyk (2) about 5 years ago
you can debate all school vs. new school all day. however, the one thing that hasn't changed over all these years are falls. a pin is a pin as much back then as it is now, and wade schalles didn't just win, he pinned almost everyone he faced (i still think he holds the all time pin record). he also invented the spladle, which is a move that a lot of wrestlers still use today. you can talk about the evolution of the sport all you want, but as far as i can tell, a cradle still works pretty well (ask bubba jenkins or j jaggers), a headlock still works, so do half nelsons, arm bars (logan steiber anyone?) and a nice double (jordan burroughs?). in conclusion, the wrestling basics that the "old timers" worked to perfection, are still the staple moves that all successful wrestlers use today.
jbradleyr (1) about 5 years ago
"He's a well-mannered administrator who lives inside the bubble of education..."

An important insight not to be overlooked. You would not characterize an AD like Andy Noel in this way, and it speaks volumes as to why Lynch could not answer your questions in a substantive way.

It's the "what COULD we have done, anyway?" syndrome in which Lynch can look back and assign non-blame. In reality, it was much easier for him to let Adams' program die out, thank him for his service to the university, and ride-out a different failing program for the next two decades.
mray1 (1) about 5 years ago
Sorry to disagree with you Mr. Foley but Carl Adams is 1st class in more ways than you can count. Ben Askren has a loooooooooooooong way to go before he gives anyone any advice. Carls program may not be filled with the successes that you are inferring but they have a 100% graduation rate plus they are great citizens. You also mention about today versus yesteryear but with all the Askren type funk (made famous by Schalles by the way) , a wrestler like Carl would have eaten the likes of the Askrens for dead as he did with Schalles every time they wrestled. This sport teaches more than just having someone be a great wrestler on the mat. Boston University should not lose their program because they don't measure up to what you and a few others feel that they should be doing. I think that unless we fight for EVERY program , we will be failing in all areas. The idea that there are 1/2 the D-1 programs left that numbered around 150 a few decades ago should be warning enough.