Opinion: Retired UMN Coach Gary Wilson on Men's Track Cut

To Mark Coyle and the Board of Regents.

We have lost our way, not only here but all over the nation.

Somehow, over the years, we have gotten further and further away from the mind and body and soul model of the ancient Greeks. We have become the money and more and more STUFF model of D1.

I listened very intently to the Board of Regents presentations today. What I heard was the mantra that this is a sad day and it was a tough meeting with coaches and athletes.

All of these things are true.

I also heard that we are projecting a 75 million dollar shortfall and that we are going to cut four men's sports to save 2 to 3 million dollars over the next two years and in the same breath I heard that there was a consideration to borrow the rest of the money.

I am not sure the reasoning on this since there isn't much of a difference in borrowing 72 or 75 million. It is a lot of money no matter what.

One of the Board Members made a great point. All the schools in the Big Ten have built budgets based on the Big Ten TV money. If that goes away (which will most likely happen this year) we have now lost 50 million dollars of a 130 million dollar budget.

Now, this is not one persons fault and yet it is everyone's fault including coaches, administrators, and yes the NCAA and Presidents from our D1 schools. We have all jumped on the KEEP UP WITH THE JONES TRAIN and have no idea how to get off.

Yes, we are all complicit, and yet four sports with great student-athletes are the victims of the coaches' greed in the sports of football and basketball and yes ALL sports. There never seems to enough staff, or weight room people or quality control staff and on and on.

Another thing I heard was the fact there are gender equity problems and to offset this we must cut men's sports. Some suggested we should add another women's team. As was said that solution would be too expensive and not wise during this time.

I remember back around 2004 Joel Maturi, the AD, came to our staff and said we are in big trouble and unless we become compliant with proportionality we will get sued. I then asked him, how many more women do you need? He said 30. I said ok I can do that, and of course, he said how? I said I will add 30 walk-on distance runners to my roster. I got on the phone and started adding women and within one year he had his 30 women. Of course, that was really like adding 90 because they all ran three seasons. This added a few thousand dollars to the budget but certainly not as much as adding an entirely new sport.

By the way, every woman in my distance crew ran in an equal number of meets because we would take a second group to Hamline or Macalester or St Thomas. They had a great experience and graduated with many wonderful degrees. Out of those walk-on kids, many went on the make Big Ten Meets and yes, even become All Americans like Gabe Anderson Grunewald and Steph Price. This is a solution that could still work.

Now I am not writing to minimize the fact that you are in difficult times but I implore you all to go back to the drawing board to see what can be done in the short term to save these sports and furthermore what can be done to be a national leader in helping stop this unsustainable arms race model. If not, we are only seeing the beginning of the end for many more Olympic sports not only here but across the nation.

Will it take work? Yes!!! Will it be really difficult. Yes.

Of course, it might not be as difficult as having to go to more meetings with young kids and Olympic sports coaches, and as Regent Rosha's son said, "crush their dreams."

In closing let me say I respect all of you for the difficult situation COVID has caused. I don't pretend to know all of the answers but having coached D1 for 30 years and at all levels, for 50 years there has to be a better answer than what is on the table right now.

Give these coaches and athletes another chance for at least 2 years and then see where you stand.

In the name of Roy Griak, who gave 50 years to this University, please help our men.

Thank you for listening.

Sincerely, Gary Wilson

Retired Women's CC and Track Coach

University of Minnesota