College coaches can’t do it all, you can help

Updated: February 4, 2011

By Clay McEldowney

College coaches are coming under increasing pressure to run successful programs in the face of ever-present dragons breathing fire down their necks and those of their athletes. They work hard to maintain a well-balanced program and prepare their athletes for competition.
However, with greater balance in the quality of college teams (who would have ever thought an Ivy League team would ever have been ranked No. 1?), the pool of high school blue-chip recruits is spread out over more colleges than ever before, and despite the drop in the number of NCAA programs, the coach for a top program ironically has more competition than ever from other schools in signing recruits.
Additionally, coaches must keep up with sport politics — protecting their programs from Title IX’s gender quota and budget cutbacks. It is no wonder that today the job of coaching has never been more challenging and complex than it has ever been.
It’s unreasonable to expect the college coach to handle it all on his own. Even when he competed and singularly faced his opponents on the mats, he had coaches and teammates in his corner and parents and friends dispensing encouragement. As a coach, he needs support in his corner as well.
Alumni should be in the coach’s corner. Coaches generally realize that alumni support is helpful for their wrestling programs, particularly with fundraising. However, some may not be aware that today alumni are ever more critical to coaches’ success in achieving their goals of putting the best men on the mat and winning championships. They can be much more to a team’s success than a funding source.
Dan Gable recently commented on the value of alumni organizations to the success of college wrestling. (WIN December 10, 2010.) He used Cornell University as an example of how a college, particularly one without athletic scholarships, engaging alumni has been key in sustaining and improving the wrestling program.
Coach Gable also mentioned how the Penn State alumni got engaged and worked with the administration to change their coaching staff to help them in their objective of becoming a national championship team.
The University of Maryland wrestling team is another example of how strong alumni activism can help strengthen a program. Maryland alumni like Steve Hayleck have worked hard behind the scenes to support the efforts of their outstanding coaching staff led by Kerry McCoy.
At my alma mater, the Friends of Princeton Wrestling was founded in 1962 by a small group of interested and dedicated alumni with the full support and encouragement of the late coach, Jimmy Read, and AD Kenneth Fairman. In 1993 the infrastructure created by the Friends of Princeton Wrestling provided the crucial organization needed to save the team when it was threatened.
Alumni at Olivet College in Michigan also successfully rallied to save their wresting team when it was threatened several years ago.
High school coaches are concerned about the cutback in athletic and scholarship opportunities being afforded to their graduating wrestlers.             Coach Joshua Resnick of Estancia High School believes the key to easing the burden on students and keeping wrestling around lies in alumni He was quoted in The Daily Titan, Fullerton, CA (October 26, 2010), “There’s no secret that alumni have a lot of power in the university setting. If the alumni from a wrestling team at a university that has been around for 20 or 30 years got their butts in gear, they could have a say. Alumni have to take an active role if they care enough.”
It’s unfair to expect coaches to do everything. Alumni can help keep the fire breathing dragons at bay by providing needed support to the coaches and wrestlers and some measure of political and financial protection for the program.
In my next article, I will outline exactly how alumni can organize effectively to support their team. n