Eastern Wrestling is no more

A sports program that had been at Eastern for 59 seasons will not be around for this upcoming season.

Former Eastern Director of Athletics Rich McDuffie announced on May 17 that Eastern’s wrestling program would be discontinued.

McDuffie cited the team’s poor academic performance as the reason the team was cut.

Three years ago, the NCAA adopted a program called the Academic Progress Rate. The NCAA collects data on athletes’ eligibility status, graduation rates and retention rates.

According to the NCAA, the APR includes a formula that calculates the academic performance by a student-athlete.

The formula gives each scholarship athlete two possible points, one each for remaining at the same school and for staying academically eligible. They then divide earned points by total possible points.

A perfect score is 1000 – 100 with the decimal moved to the right – while the NCAA cutoff is 925.

For the 2004-2005 Academic Progress Rate Institutional Report, wrestling had an APR of 851, with 26 athletes represented in the data.

The NCAA has collected three years worth of data on Division I teams.

“We have been required to reduce our scholarship aid to the sport,” McDuffie said. “We will be penalized again and that means further reduction to scholarships.”

The NCAA requires institutions that have teams with an APR below 925 to develop and implement an academic improvement plan for these teams.

“They were required to come up with a plan and I guess they implemented the plan but did they show up?” McDuffie said. “I understand they didn’t, some did and some didn’t.”

Wrestling head coach Ralph McCausland urged his wrestlers to take homework on road trips and increase their grade point averages, McCausland said back in February.

“Coach McCausland could not have done any more to help grades besides actually doing the work for us,” said sophomore wrestler Ed Carpenter. “Too bad a few undisciplined kids had to ruin it for him.”

Eastern president William Perry took he position July 1, and immediately was confronted with the reaction to the wrestling program being cut.

Perry stayed silent for his first couple of weeks about the decision until he made an official statement on the subject himself on July 12 stating that he would not revisit the decision made by the university.

“I felt like I needed to look at this,” Perry said. “I received several e-mails asking me to reverse the decision.”

Perry said he sympathized with those opposed to the decision, but after researching the matter himself, decided he would not change the decision.

Not all the wrestlers on the squad suffered academically. Junior wrestler Greg Perz was named to the 2007 National Wrestling Coaches Association Academic All- American squad. Perez was named to the squad in 2006 and has a 3.73 cumulative GPA and had the 11th-highest GPA of the 57 wrestlers honored this year.

“He’s a great student and a great wrestler,” McDuffie said. “But he’s a part of a group and that group has been judged. It’s not my judgment, it’s the NCAA’s judgment.”

The NCAA’s judgment could include punishment for the entire athletic department, McDuffie said.

If a Division I team is cited four times the NCAA puts the team on restricted membership status, McDuffie said.

If an institution is unable to correct the problems in their program they are placed on correspondent membership and then the entire program loses all membership privileges in the NCAA, including postseason play, McDuffie added.

“You face a decision,” McDuffie said. “Do you potentially put the entire athletic department in jeopardy? I don’t think so.”

McDuffie waited to make the final decision until the NCAA released its three-year report and spring semester grades were released.

“Neither of them was very pretty,” he said.

The wrestling team had a spring GPA of 2.63, the second-lowest of any Eastern sport. Men’s basketball had the lowest GPA at 2.60.

“I really think that the GPAs issue was just an excuse to get rid of us,” said Kenny Robertson, a three-time qualifier for the national championships during his career at Eastern. Robertson used his last year of athletic eligibility this past season.

The decision was made by McDuffie and former Eastern President Lou Hencken and had been discussed for a few months, McDuffie said.

Neither McDuffie nor Hencken told the wrestling team the program was in jeopardy of being cut because of their academic performance, McDuffie said.