CSC Chairman: “CSUB wrestling team has earned the right to survive”

A few weeks back we told you about how the wrestling team at CS-Bakersfield was slated for elimination. Earlier today, the Bakersfield American ran an editorial by CSC Chairman Eric Pearson where he writes about how the team has earned a chance to continue:

California’s statewide budget crisis has hit college campuses hard. Students have protested cuts in services and increases in their fees, and many of the state’s college athletes have found themselves benched by the budget.

When college sports teams face elimination, spending on football is often blamed. However, nearly 40 percent of NCAA schools don’t have varsity football teams. That’s the case at Cal State Bakersfield, which announced plans in February to cut its golf, tennis and wrestling programs. When cuts are applied to athletic teams, male athletes face the disproportionate share of the sacrifice, thanks to Title IX’s gender quota. Female athletes have the threat of litigation on their side, but Title IX doesn’t afford any such protection to male students.

The “blame football” narrative obscures the fact that many threatened men’s programs offer to fund themselves in order to survive. Unfortunately, money alone is often not enough to overcome Title IX’s gender quota, which works by counting the number of athletes, not dollars.

Its rigid formula requires that the gender ratio of a school’s varsity athletes mirror the gender ratio of the undergraduate population. Three years ago, the Fresno State wrestling team was threatened, and supporters of the program stepped forward with funding. The school refused the offer. Even though Title IX compliance wasn’t originally cited as the reason for dropping the team, it is a barrier to the program’s reinstatement.

Bakersfield is another example of what a community will do to save a college team. After the announcement to terminate the wrestling team, legendary coach T.J. Kerr offered to retire early, so that his salary could go toward savings in the program’s budget. What is even more impressive is that Kerr had the foresight to establish an endowment, which is valued at more than $400,000, while also setting aside an additional $100,000 for a rainy-day fund.

The CSUB assistant wrestling coach, Mike Mendoza, proposed further budget cuts for next season, showing his willingness to make sacrifices as the likely future leader of the program.

Moreover, supporters in the community have offered to fund the team’s entire budget for the next two years.

In an announcement justifying the cuts, CSUB Athletic Director Rudy Carvajal said, “The ongoing financial crisis requires extraordinary measures to ensure the long-term sustainability of the Roadrunner athletics program.”

If that’s the case, then cutting the wrestling program at CSUB sends the wrong message.

While it would be unfair to require every men’s college team threatened by budget cuts and Title IX to fund an endowment in order to survive, it is an injustice to punish a program that has demonstrated such responsible behavior. The California State University system must encourage good fiscal management, and should embrace the extraordinary effort of the CSUB wrestling team to save its great tradition.

Eric Pearson is chairman of the College Sports Council. He lives in Los Angeles.

Good luck to our friends at Bakersfield. Hopefully, we can get another happy ending like we saw at CS-Fullerton.

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