Soon after the release of the letter J Robinson published a response explaining that he felt the University of Minnesota mischaracterized his actions and avoided culpability for their own lack of institutional control and cooperation.
So who's right: The University of Minnesota's Athletic Director, or J Robinson?
After reading the University's explanation and J Rob's response the best conclusion might be both and it might be neither.
College kids are dumb and college wrestlers even more so, often making tragically, cosmically stupid decisions regarding their own health and wellbeing.
As a coach I've seen wrestlers stumble into the office with massive cuts on their brow from "playing WWE." I've seen a whole side of a body turned into a scab after a wrestler crashed during a downhill long board luging race. Then there are the fights, the booze and YES -- drugs.
As a wrestler I saw teammates jump off roofs, commandeer a bar for personal use and attempt to play chicken with a train. Sometimes the scene around a wrestling program filled with testosterone and empty on leadership can be something more akin to an episode of Jersey Shore, or maybe the Sopranos. Tough-guy attitudes, rampant immaturity and easy access to intoxicants can make a tight-knit group of wrestlers into one muscular ball of bad decision making.
To combat this behavior many coaches set rules with strict consequences. From the outside it seemed that J Rob had always set very clear expectations for his team and was effective at enforcing penalties for poor judgment, but also rewarding positive behaviors and actions. There was never much question as to his ability to lead young men and it showed itself with several individual NCAA champions and a handful of team titles.
However, from 10k feet it seems as though maybe even he was perplexed by what to do in response to the team-wide abuse (and sale) of drugs. I know that I would be lost on how to respond, and that most coaches I know would be hopeless to figure out the correct response. While J Rob laid out very clear expectations, there was likely no answer in place for an incident this far-reaching.
For many in the wrestling community J's response seems fair and even-keeled -- the drugs were gone, the wrestlers forced into programs to repair any addictions issues they might face, and the stakeholders in the wrestlers' lives were informed. Could anyone come up with a more complete and thoughtful solution to the issue? J did the best he could by his team and for the health of the individuals, but that might not have been enough to save his job.
The University of Minnesota doesn't seem to take issue with J's intentions as much as the fact he forgot who signs his check. Like all institutions there is a level of transparency that must be met, and like J oversaw his wrestlers and their expectations for behavior, the University had expectations for J and his behavior. In the end they felt he didn't meet those expectations and was subsequently fired.
So who's to blame: J or the University? Neither or both, but I don't think you can blame one without indicting the other.
My hope is that J takes another job, but this time something off the mat. Administrative positions have the ability to make big changes and I think that J's outlook on the sport and its future are important to preserve.
Here's to wishing everyone involved a better future: the administration, J Robinson, and especially the wrestlers.
To your questions ….
Spencer Lee won his second straight junior world title (Photo/Justin Hoch)
Q: Biggest takeaway from Junior Worlds?
-- Mike C.
Foley: Spencer Lee is a monster. Forget the quick technical falls, he GUTTED out a win in the 50-kilogram finals and won over the anti-American crowd with his effort. I think that I said in a previous mailbag that he might not be ready for 57 kilograms in 2020, but that's an opinion I can see changing if/when Lee adds some muscle.
Another takeaway is that the Americans aren't peaking at 18 as much as they are 23-25 and that's OK. Even as that's the case, the team had an impressive performance and as freestyle adds appeal with more visibility I think the Americans will continue to approve.
Q: Is there any chance that women will compete in Greco-Roman sometime during the 2020 Olympic cycle? Also, will Iran ever field a women's wrestling team?
-- Jacob R.
Foley: No. Under the current IOC rules, the first time wrestling could be added as a new style to the Games would be 2024, and only then as an exhibition sport. Assuming that wrestling adds a style it's highly doubtful Greco-Roman would make the cut since beach wrestling has been around for several years, is highly marketable and would be more likely to bring along with a men's program as well.
Iran just fielded a women's team for belt wrestling, and Rasoul Khadem was just elected to the United World Wrestling bureau. Those are good indications that there could be some progress. However, that would come from the government, not just the federation.
The single most watched wrestling video … ever? (Seriously)
Q: You mentioned how Iranians receive some money from the government and Turks get a salary for Olympic medals. However, in the U.S. we have a private organization in USA Wrestling and the Living The Dream Medal Fund that pays our guys. For some of the more successful countries in wrestling (Russia, Azerbaijan, Cuba, Iran, etc.) where does their funding come from? Is it the government or are there similar organizations in other countries that preside over the wrestling there?
-- Chris P.
Foley: The Russian government provides a large gift (this year it was a BMW) and some cash. That is then supplemented by the regional governments (Abdulrashid Sadulaev got a horse) and then a untold amount of money comes from private donors. There is a story that Makharbek Khadartsev would receive several hundred thousand dollars for world championships.
Cuba is paid $1200 for gold and given a very insignificant monthly salary from the government.
America leads the way in terms of paying their wrestlers …
Q: What happened to Anzor Boltukayev in Rio? Sick? Injured? He looked like a shell of himself.
-- Mike C.
Foley: The Russians said he had food poisoning. Your guess is as good as mine, but he not only looked tired, but sloppy.
Q: How did Coleman Scott become the 2012 Olympic gold medalist? Will there be a medal ceremony? Lastly, has this happened before?
-- Gregg Y.
Foley: Togrul Asgarov has NOT violated WADA's anti-doping code. There is not gold medal to be redistributed.
Should it happen in the future I highly doubt there would be a ceremony in the USA and certainly not at the international level.
However, he would GET PAID.
Q: Did you see this? Sacred Heart head wrestling coach Any Lausier is riding a bike to St. Louis to raise funds for his program.
Foley: I'm a big fan of cycling and put down a long ride in 2008. Coach should be commended for this endeavor! Very tough ride that I hope goes really well. I'll be donating a few bucks and hope more of the community pitches in to help one of Division I wrestling's least supported programs!
Q: What excites you most about the upcoming college wrestling season?
-- Mike C.
Foley: Uh, watching Olympic champion Kyle Snyder eff around versus highly talented and woefully outmatched college heavyweights.
Q: Can you give the wrestling community insight or history as to why NCAA wrestling never adopted the NCAA track & field model of two separate seasons for very similar but different sports? Did the powers that be in wrestling and the NCAA ever consider an official NCAA folkstyle season for the winter, fall, spring and have an official NCAA freestyle and Greco-Roman and corresponding season?
-- Marcus R.
Foley: Until you wrote this question I never considered this as an option! Obviously, funding would be a huge issue, but I think that there is some validity to the idea of making a LOW KEY collegiate dual meet season to help our guys transition from the college style to the freestyle and Greco-Roman rules.
Something modest like 5-7 matches? I think that's a workable idea!