Mixed emotions after Boise State drops wrestling program

Fallout continues after the shocking news.

BOISE - Fallout continues after shocking news out of Boise State. The university announcing it's dropping its varsity wrestling program to possibly make room for baseball.

The athletics department says the decision comes as BSU tries to compete with other universities in the Mountain West Conference.

The move is effective immediately and has sparked mixed emotions across the region as Boise State says goodbye to a tradition.

MOREBoise State to drop wrestling program, possibly add baseball

For baseball fans, players and coaches -- the possible move brings excitement.

The Treasure Valley has many talented baseball players and high school programs, so they're thrilled about the potential for a varsity level addition and the ability to compete with the seven other Mountain West baseball programs.

But wrestlers say this was a huge blow.

“I feel like I just got stabbed in the back,” said Boise State senior wrestler Austin Dewey. “I feel like everyone did.”

Sadness, frustration and anger…

“It was cold hearted, cold blooded, it really left me with a rock in my stomach,” said Dewey. 

Dewey says the wrestling community in the Treasure Valley - and across the region - is shocked.

"Wrestling is pretty big around here," said Kevin Wood.

Kevin Wood wrestled at BSU in the late 70s and early 80s, and has been coaching across the valley for decades.

He's watched Boise State's wrestling program thrive over the years -- competing in the PAC-12 Conference and winning six conference championships since 2000. The program's last championship was in 2011.

“They've had some outstanding wrestlers out of here,” said Wood.

He says his disappointment lies with the administration.

“It just seems like a total lack of integrity of how they did it,” said Wood.

Wood and Dewey both say this is detrimental for young wrestlers in Idaho.

“It's going to drastically affect high school wrestling around the valley,” said Wood.

"That's something that's all these local kids look up to and want to do," Dewey added. "And to have a program that not only guys like me come to, that's a big boost for the community. It's a big thing for everyone, for the entire state."

Any aspiring college wrestlers who want to compete at a 4-year institution will have to go out of state now.

“It’s an easy decision for people because many wrestling programs are not self-funding,” said Apsey.

Right now, baseball is the only Mountain West sponsored sport that Boise State doesn't have and the university said it can't afford to support both wrestling and baseball.

Boise State President Bob Kustra and Athletic Director Curt Apsey didn't return our request for comment on Tuesday or Wednesday. But Apsey said in a statement: "This was not an easy decision, but one that needed to be made as we consider the long-term vision for Bronco athletics. We will continue to honor the scholarships we provide our student-athletes, and will do all we can to help those who want to continue their collegiate wrestling careers elsewhere."

Current coaching contracts will be honored, Apsey said.

University officials say baseball will strengthen the long-term brand and reputation of Boise State at a national level.

“It's gonna be a great program and it's long overdue,” said Steve Koppes.

This move is great news for others, especially young players who aspire to play ball in college and want to stay in Boise.

“There's a lot of talent here. Unfortunately there are not a lot of opportunities once they graduate from high school,” said Koppes.

BSU has a club baseball team which competes on a high level. Former Boise State club baseball coach Steve Koppes says the university's plan to potentially reinstate baseball is exciting and encouraging for the future of the sport since the school hasn't had a division one baseball program since 1980.

“It's a great area for baseball, it will definitely succeed here,” said Koppes.

Both supporters and opponents believe Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 is a contributing factor to the decision: the university can't add a baseball team while maintaining a wrestling program unless they add another women's sport or provide more financial assistance for female athletes.

Seven other Mountain West schools have NCAA varsity baseball programs, so supporters say the possibility of a program at BSU will keep and attract kids here. Marcus Trujillo says with BSU having a varsity program, local kids will stay local.

"For all the young BSU fans out there - 10, 11, 12-year-olds - I think now they're going to have a goal and dream to pursue baseball at their favorite college, Boise State," said Marcus Trujillo, current Boise State University club baseball pitching coach told KTVB. "I think for the state of Idaho and the Treasure Valley, for the youth players, now they're going to have a place they can look forward to going after high school."

There is no timeline for adding a baseball program at this point, but university administration says they are committed to moving forward with the plan as quickly as possible.

There are talks about the baseball team possibly sharing a proposed 5,000- to 7,500-seat, multi-use stadium in downtown Boise with the Boise Hawks minor league baseball team.

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An Idaho State Board of Education athletics budget report shows the wrestling program had almost $116,000 in revenue for the 2015-2016 school year and almost $468,000 in expenses. But wrestling isn't the only program that lost money; only men's basketball and football boosted revenue.

© 2017 KTVB-TV


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