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The BU wrestling program will end after next season, wrapping up its 45-year history as a Division I sport, the athletics department announced Monday. The program was largely shaped by wrestling legend Carl Adams, who has coached the team for more than three decades.
“As we looked to the future, many questions arose about our ability to be successful in a changing collegiate sports landscape,” says Michael Lynch, assistant vice president and director of athletics. “It’s a very sad day for all of us in Terrier sports, but it’s something that we feel we needed to do to move the department forward in the best possible manner.”
Adams says he was shocked and devastated by the news, but felt worse for his wrestlers, because “they got lopped off for a reason that I’m still trying to figure out.…I have great respect for the administration, but I’m at a loss.”
The decision, Lynch says, came after a lengthy review process that assessed the University’s overall budgetary constraints, the shifting sands of conference affiliation occurring nationwide, the fact that wrestling does not have a formal affiliation in the Patriot League—the conference the University is moving to next year—and the team’s performance over the past two decades. This year the Terriers finished fourth in the Colonial Athletic Association championship, sent three wrestlers to the NCAA championships, and completed the season 9-9-2 overall, with an in-conference record of 2-4.
“We have not been able to compete at the level we would want to,” Lynch says. “We want to say in all sports that we can win a conference championship, but we haven’t in the last 15 years.”
Todd Klipp, a senior vice president, general counsel, and secretary of the BU Board of Trustees, says improving the team’s performance would require costly measures like hiring more staff and major facility enhancements.
At least half of the 25 Terriers on the roster get some type of financial aid, Lynch says. The team’s 2 seniors and 11 juniors will be able to finish their wrestling careers here. Sophomores and freshmen will retain their scholarships through graduation if they choose to stay. Lynch says the University will help those students who want to continue wrestling transfer to another institution, where they will be eligible immediately under NCAA guidelines.
“Although this is a difficult situation, we are trying to make it as easy, convenient, and painless as possible for the student-athletes,” Klipp says.
Adams told his wrestlers that he “would support them in whatever they felt they needed to do.” He knows team members will be recruited heavily by other schools, and he faces an uphill battle recruiting freshmen to fill out next year’s roster. “We’ve got another season,” he says, “but we’re asking these athletes to go out and get the job done and be at a terrible deficit as far as their ability to win as a team.”
Cocaptain Nestor Taffur (MET’14), who took first place in the conference’s 157-pound weight class, says he’s shocked by the news and is reviewing his options. “Right now,” he says, “I want to help support the cause on campus, be a leader on the team, and help unite everyone.”
The team’s other cocaptain, Kevin Innis (SAR’14), still hopes the program can be saved. He says wrestlers are “a resilient group of guys” who see this as “just another challenge for us. We’re staying positive.” Innis came in first this year in the conference heavyweight competition.
“I can’t see myself leaving this group,” he says. “My best friends are on the team. I can’t see breaking that up. I live with these guys. They’re my family now.”
BU isn’t the only school that’s nixed its wrestling program over the years. Forbes has reported that there were 146 Division I wrestling teams in the 1981-1982 season, with 3,659 student-athletes participating. By the 2011-2012 season, those numbers had dropped to 77 Division I teams, with 2,438 student-athletes.
“It’s fair to say that at the collegiate level participation in wrestling has declined significantly over the years,” Klipp says.
Innis, who started wrestling when he was four, says it breaks his heart that wrestling is dying out as a Division I sport. “It’s not just a sport. For a lot of guys, it’s their lives,” he says. “I’ve been doing this longer than I’ve been in school.”
The end of wrestling also means the departure of Adams, long a wrestling legend and the backbone of the BU program for the past 32 seasons. As an undergraduate at Iowa State University, he was a two-time NCAA champion at 158 pounds and a three-time All-American. After graduating in 1972, he competed in the World Cup Championships and the Pan American Games, was named the National Mat News Middle Weight of the Decade in 1975, and was inducted into four wrestling Halls of Fame, Massachusetts, Iowa State, Glen Brand of Iowa, and Midlands.
“Wrestling is one of the best teachers of how to succeed in the game of life,” Adams says.
At BU, Adams racked up more than 300 of the 429 victories the team has earned since becoming a Division I sport in 1969, making him fourth among active coaches in career wins at that level. He led the Terriers to 10 conference championships and more than 100 NCAA appearances and was named conference Coach of the Year four times.
“It is no exaggeration to say that Carl Adams is wrestling at Boston University,” Klipp says. “He’s really done a fabulous job and put his heart and soul into the program here.”
“He is a true team player and somebody who had done about as much as is humanly possible with the limited resources that he has,” Lynch says. “I’m more disappointed for him than I am for anyone, and I know this is a sad day for him. Coach Adams is an important part of our athletic family, and we hope that our ties will continue well into the future.”
Reviewing his career highlights, Adams says he most enjoyed seeing his unranked BU wrestlers trounce defending champions at national tournaments and defeating his alma mater last year at a home match. But his biggest joy is working with his “kids.”
As to his future, Adams says he’s not worried: “I know that my wrestling skills have taught me to be a survivor.”