DOVER, Del. – Delaware State University’s Department of Athletics has announced that it will discontinue its wrestling program effective the 2009-10 academic year, reducing the number of sports offered from 18 to 17.
"Dropping the wrestling program was a very difficult decision influenced by several factors," said acting DSU President Claibourne D. Smith. "Like a number of programs around the nation being discontinued in these economic times, it is with regret that the University can no longer field a wrestling program adequate to University and NCAA expectations."
Student-athletes presently receiving athletic scholarships in the wrestling program will continue to receive the same dollar amount, AD Young-Sanders said, provided they maintain good academic standing for 2009-10 school year. She added further that the reason for making the announcement now was to give full support to any wrestler wishing to transfer to another institution.
A review of the program took place due to ongoing concerns of financial viability, academic deficiencies and the lack of improvement with the Academic Progress Rate (APR) at the NCAA Division I level, said acting Director of Athletics Candy Young-Sanders.
"With the tough economic times, including budget cuts state-wide, the wrestling program was in serious distress in several areas and the University lacks the resources to fix many of the problems," said AD Young-Sanders.
Of great concern have been the state’s budget cuts and their potential impact on the University. The entire University is engaged in prioritizing budgets and making cuts, AD Young-Sanders explained. "We don’t have the ability to put additional monies toward the wrestling program to give it needed improvements and support," she said.
Along with the budgetary concerns, AD Young-Sanders points to the team’s low APR scores. The program has not achieved nor progressed in the APR to the standards mandated by the NCAA. Two consecutive years of perfect APR scores (1,000) by the wrestling program would still not bring the team to level that NCAA requires (925), resulting in severe penalties that will affect the entire Delaware State Athletic Department, including its Division I status. Wrestling, along with football and men’s basketball programs, have been assessed historical penalties (last four years of data) in the latest APR report, due to be made public on May 6.
With the number of coaching changes and the inability to retain student-athletes, it is anticipated that the wrestling program will be hit with a penalty as a result of the four-year average APR score, impacting the program’s scholarship levels, practice times and roster size, the acting-AD said.
AD Young-Sanders said the team made great improvements this past season, with 100 percent retention. Head Coach Ken Melchior took over the position last September and kept the team in good academic standing, while recording more victories than the squad had produced in the past few years.
"Coach Melchior’s efforts in trying to get the DSU wrestling program righted over the past year is to be commended," said AD Young-Sanders. "In less than one year, Coach Melchior found success on and off the mat, winning more contests than this team has seen in a number of years, and maintaining support in the wrestling community. Unfortunately, the emotional support has not translated into the long-term financial support needed to keep the program going."
The loss of the wrestling program will bring DSU’s gender equity percentages closer, the acting-AD said. Including the wrestling program, the DSU athletics programs had an overall percentage breakdown of 58% male and 42% female. With the discontinuation of the wrestling program, the male percentage is reduced by 4-5%, resulting in an improved parity in intercollegiate sports opportunities for DSU men and women.
Delaware State Athletics is an NCAA Division I member that competes in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. Women’s sports include basketball, bowling, cross country, equestrian, indoor and outdoor track, soccer, softball, tennis and volleyball. Men’s sports include baseball, basketball, cross country, football, indoor and outdoor track, and tennis.