This announcement comes on the heels of others announcing the loss of programs at the University of Sioux Falls (NAIA), University of North Carolina-Greensboro (DI), University of Nebraska-Omaha (DII), and Liberty University (DI).
Head Coach Mario Thomas was informed of the decision earlier this week, and now the announcement has been made. SUNY Morrisville will discontinue wrestling and will not compete next season. The reasons given are not very satisfactory, though they avoid the typical talk of budget cuts and Title IX. One of the reasons stated is the general decline of interest in high school wrestling. This ignores National Federation of State High School Associations data showing that the number of male participants in high school wrestling has increased every year since 2003. It is not entirely clear from the press release what the rationale was for eliminating these athletic opportunities. Morrisville had 28 different athletes compete in at least one match last season, and they will have zero in 2011-2012. Morrisville recently transitioned from junior college to NCAA status and has competed in the last two Empire Conference championships after serving its probationary period. Read the press release below, followed by the text of a letter sent out by head coach Mario Thomas earlier this week prior to the press release.
Morrisville State College to discontinue sponsorship of men’s wrestling
MORRISVILLE, N.Y.¬ Morrisville State College will be discontinuing its sponsorship of men’s wrestling as an intercollegiate sport effective the 2011-2012 academic year, according to Greg Carroll, the college’s director of athletics. Carroll said the decision to drop wrestling came after careful consideration of all aspects of the sport’s place within the colleges’ National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III Department. “We have seen a general decline in the popularity of wrestling at the high school level, and as a result colleges at all levels have been forced to look at the sport’s place in their own programs,” he said. “Many of those schools who were traditional rivals of Morrisville State in years past have discontinued their programs and we have found it difficult to transition the sport to the four-year level,” Carroll said. Since Morrisville State’s main conference affiliation does not sponsor wrestling (North Eastern Athletic Conference), the Mustangs were a member of the Empire Collegiate Wrestling Conference along with RIT, Brockport, Cortland, Oneonta, Ithaca, Lycoming, and Messiah College. Morrisville State will continue to offer football, soccer, cross country, ice hockey, basketball and lacrosse for men at the intercollegiate level, fielding a total of 15 sports for the athletics program.
I write this email with a heavy heart as I have just been informed that Morrisville State College athletic administration will Discontinue the Men’s wrestling team this year. As most of you know Morrisville has a very long and storied history in the NJCAA and now as we ascend to the ranks of the NCAA, I believe our journey has ended before we have even started.
A press release has not been sent out as of yet and I am not sure that makes a difference. The reason I was given for our elimination was two prong. The first reason being that our retention rates were too low and the second reason was because the Athletics department was not willing to fully commit to the program to make it as good as it could be. I was also told that this decision was not a financial one.
In our defense, here are a few numbers that show an improved retention rate. I was hired here in the fall of 2008 a couple of weeks before school started. Even with the late start I was able to fill the roster with 42 student athletes, at the end of the school year we were left with only seven. Of those seven athletes from my first season, all of them are either graduating next year or have graduated since. In my second season I recruited 35 student athletes and at the end of the season we had 17 students on the roster, and this season I recruited 30 student athletes and we ended our season with 22 students on our roster. The culture is changing here at Morrisville. Are we there yet? Absolutely not, but I feel that our program has not been given a fair opportunity to show that we can compete in one of the toughest conferences in division three.
We also have four seniors on our team who are looking to graduate next spring and if we were to lose our team, we would rob them of the chance to compete for a national championship their senior year. Since I have taken over this program I have been trying to build a culture where my student athletes learn to believe in themselves, stick together as a family, and to represent Morrisville state with pride. I believe they have done all that I’ve asked them to do and they deserve a final season. All I’m doing is what I’ve always asked them to do, and that’s battle!
I am asking all of you, to empathize with my situation and advocate for student athletes and wrestlers all over. We were so excited to be accepted into the Empire Conference, we just want a chance to prove we can compete and be successful. Put yourself in the shoes of guys who just want an opportunity to compete. With all of the recent programs dropping let’s not add to that. Whatever help, info, ideas, or words of encouragement you can offer would be appreciated. Here is the email addresses of our Athletic Director and Interim President: Greg Carroll (Athletic Director) email@example.com, 315-684-6072 and Richard Carreno (Interim President) firstname.lastname@example.org, 315-684-6038.
In closing this letter, when Greg Carroll interviewed me for this position, he told me ” Mario, I believe we can do wrestling very well here”. All I’m asking for is the opportunity to make that a reality. Three years is not enough time to take a program from the ground and build it into a contender which seems like what he is expecting. Again, any help or answers you could provide would really help as I am adamant about not wanting to lose this program and take away opportunities for young men.
With Best Regards,
Mario D. Thomas
Head Wrestling Coach
Morrisville State College