NCAA to hear National Duals proposal after NWCA endorsement vote

Updated: September 10, 2012

By Mike Finn

By a slight margin, the majority of Division I wrestling coaches voted this past weekend to endorse the idea to make the winner of the National Duals the official team champion of the NCAA.

On this Tuesday, Sept. 11, the NCAA Wrestling Committee — based on this recommendation of the National Wrestling Coaches Association — will appear before the NCAA Championships Cabinet to propose the NCAA take over the sponsorship of the National Duals, which in the past 25 years has been run by the NWCA.

In addition, it will be recommended that the official NCAA team champion will come out of the National Duals instead of the traditional postseason tournament, where the team that produces the most individual points is named the team champion. (If passed, the NWCA will continue to honor the team champion at the traditional tournament.)

The NWCA’s board of directors actually announced in August at the NWCA national convention that the coaches association would endorse this format change in determining the NCAA team champion. But a large number of coaches protested to the NWCA that they did not want to make the change; forcing the NWCA to ask the NCAA Wrestling Committee to table the idea for a year.

But Dave Martin, the chairman of the NCAA Wrestling Committee, informed the NWCA that the Championships Cabinet might drop the idea for good if it was not presented before the Championships Cabinet this year and recommended that the NWCA poll its membership before dropping the idea.

That led to NWCA president Rob Koll, the head coach at Cornell University, to send out a memo to all 77 Division I coaches to vote on the idea. By the time the voting ending on the afternoon of Saturday, Sept. 8, 39 coaches voted yes, 36 voted against the idea and two other coaches abstained.

“I’m really pleased we have a full consensus,” said Koll. “We had a full consensus as all board members voted for it. Then we had all this discord from people who were not at our meeting (at the coaches convention) complaining no one knew what was going on.

Rob Koll

“That’s why we took a full vote and the majority ruled.”

If the NCAA Championships Cabinet endorses the idea, the first NCAA National Duals would take place in 2014, when teams must qualify for the tournament based on their dual record and placement within their conference. (The NWCA will continue to host a National Duals this February with the winners of four regional sites, Feb. 17, advancing with last year’s top four teams — Minnesota, Oklahoma State, Iowa and Illinois — at an eight-team championship tournament on Feb. 24.)

While the NWCA did not announce how each of the coaches voted on Sept. 8, here is a listing of what coaches told WIN Magazine about the proposal in the week leading up to the NCAA presentation:

No on current proposal (12): Appalachian State (JohnMark Bentley), but supports concept, needs more information; Army (Joe Heskett), likes concept; Illinois (Jim Heffernan); Iowa State (Kevin Jackson), like concept, but needs more information; Lock Haven (Robbie Waller); Maryland (Kerry McCoy), but yes on concept; Michigan (Joe McFarland), supports concept, but wants more information; North Dakota State (Roger Kish); Northern Iowa (Doug Schwab); Old Dominion (Steve Martin); and Purdue (Scott Hinkel); Utah Valley (Greg Williams).

Yes (10): Arizona State (Shawn Charles); Minnesota (J Robinson); Missouri (Brian Smith), Nebraska (Mark Manning); Ohio (Joel Greenlee); Ohio State (Tom Ryan); Oklahoma (Mark Cody); South Dakota State (Chris Bono), but not enough information; Virginia (Steve Garland); West Virginia (Craig Turnbull).

Not enough information (1): Northern Illinois (Ryan Ludwig).

The University of Iowa’s Tom Brands announced in a statement that the Hawkeyes were also opposed to the idea. Defending national champion Penn State’s coach, Cael Sanderson, has been opposed to strongly opposed to the proposal as well.

Sanderson has felt since early on in the process that high-profile teams like his supporting lower-tier programs with dual meets on the struggling team’s campus by itself would do more for wrestling than the new proposal. Sanderson and company took their team to wrestle Utah Valley in a home dual last year while the Duals were taking place.

Brands pointed out that the idea of the new National Duals format, first conducted last year in four regional locations and a Final Four in Stillwater, Okla. drew poor fan attendance for a format considered a “savior” for college wrestling. He and others use that as an example as a risky change when the NCAA individual tournament has been such a proven success. Recent NCAA tournaments have been sellouts or very close to it now for a number of years. And popularity for the event has been at record highs.

“When you look at the facts of this proposal, you can’t say it’s crazy to consider it,” said Koll. “If the majority of our peers agree with it, so be it. I’m really disappointed that certain people got antagonistic.

“The one good thing that will come out of this is the vast majority of coaches who fell disenfranchised are going to get so much more involved. They won’t think this is a conspiracy by a small group of coaches to make this happen. That’s what upset me the most is that this got hijacked and people questioned the motives of the board of the NWCA, which is comprised of more than (NWCA executive director) Mike Moyer and Rob Koll.

”The reason the NWCA is promoting an official National Duals tournament is to promote dual meet competition to generate more grass root fans. Most teams have put a great deal of focus on the number of individual champions and All-Americans produced at the traditional tournament, which began in 1928, since that how the team standings were sorted out. Proponents of the new change feel the team race will be significant at the individual tournament. However, an increased emphasis on the National Duals will help teams generate more interest in regular in-season duals than before.

Koll, in his memo to college coaches, said the NCAA Wrestling Committee agreed to the following in a new National Duals:

“The current 16-team model is the initial plan. Just like all other NCAA tournaments we hope to grow the tournament with an intermediate five-year goal of adding eight more teams.

“Should any of the eight traveling teams in the first round need financial assistance, the NWCA will cover up to $10,000 of travel expenses covered (by the NWCA);

“The NWCA is permitted to promote the individual tournament team score. This includes team trophies, announcing the score at the venue. Furthermore the NCAA committee representative went so far to say that the NCAA would even be willing to generate the team score for us.

“The NCAA would continue to support the individual NCAA Championships (recognizing All Americans, per diems, etc……. Just not recognizing a team champion).”