To the Editor:
As Director of the Recreational Sports and Wellness Department, I was surprised to see The Cluster’s recent piece titled “Sprawl or nothing; where is Mercer wrestling?” that appeared in the sports section of The Cluster on February 26, 2015. I must say that I am disappointed that no one from The Cluster reached out to our office for comment as our department oversees the Club Wrestling program. If someone had done so he or she would have received a response that would have avoided clear factual inaccuracies that remained in your story.
We cannot enter into this discussion without an understanding of the Club Wrestling status. Wrestling, since its inception, has been a Sport Club program housed under Recreational Sports and Wellness. The piece continuously and erroneously states that the wrestling program received cuts in funding and scholarships due to Title IX regulations once the football program at the university started. This is wholly inaccurate. Intercollegiate Athletic programs are entirely separate from Sport Club programs. The resumption of Mercer Football and Title IX implications had no impact whatsoever on Club Wrestling.
Mr. Andres reached an agreement with the University to provide small academic subsidies to incoming wrestlers in approximately 2008. The program was initiated to increase efforts to recruit potential male students during a time when female recruitment was outpacing male recruitment. In 2014 — in consultation with Dr. Douglas Pearson, Dean of Students, and Emory Dunn, Senior Associate Director of Admissions — a determination was made to sunset the offering of these funds for two primary reasons. First, the need to increase male enrollment had dissipated. Secondly, these academic subsidies did not fit under the model of the “typical” sport club.
There are currently 11 sport clubs taking part in activities through the Recreational Sports and Wellness office. Of these 11 clubs, only one – Club Wrestling – had ever received any type of scholarship support for their athletes. In addition, Club Wrestling was and still remains the most well-funded Sport Club we operate. The determination was made that to offer scholarship funds to one Sport Club while not offering to others was unfair and not in the intended mission of our program.
Mr. Andres served numerous years at Mercer University first as the Director of Campus Life and then as Director of Recreational Sports and Wellness. He served as a volunteer coach and advisor for the program. His dedication to the team is even more inspiring as he did this for no financial benefit. As you can imagine, it’s incredibly difficult to find someone to dedicate as much time as he did as a volunteer coach.
None of our other Sport Clubs have a coach. They elect their own officers and leaders, they schedule their own matches, they paint their own fields, and they schedule and operate their own practices. It’s incredibly time consuming work and I’m thankful for the student leaders that step up and take that ownership role. It’s also an incredibly rewarding developmental experience for those students.
The article attempts to blame the departure of Mr. Andres for a lack of interest and participation recently. I find fault in that because I’ve seen every other sport club on campus increase participation numbers even in the absence of a dedicated coach. I’ve seen the Club Soccer team organize and host round-robin tournaments and compete in regional matches. I’ve seen the Club Tennis team travel to USTA Regional Tournaments while organizing a philanthropy tournament to take place in March. I’ve seen Club Volleyball travel both a men’s and women’s unit to Tulane and the Club Lacrosse team rise from non-existence to host and travel to their first matches. They’ve done all of these things without a coach or scholarships. They did it because they wanted their clubs to be successful.
Finally, I’ll say that the Club Wrestling program has been provided with ample financial support and resources to compete at events they wish to attend. The team recently sent a roster of wrestlers to the NCWA Regional event in Orlando, Fla. At this event four wrestlers qualified for the NCWA National Tournament. We will be financially supporting the travel of all four of those wrestlers and two support staff members as they travel to compete in Allen, Texas. They’ve attended many other events throughout the region this year. What we will not do, however, is give financial or scholarship support to this club at the expense of the other sport club athletes that have worked just as hard to make their clubs successful.
Going forward the club can be as successful as the club leaders work to make it. This is true not just for Club Wrestling but for all of our Sport Clubs. We’re excited about the growth in our program this year as we’ve seen an influx of new competitive clubs. Our office will always strive to support student leaders in this area but part of the experience of a sport club is operating from a student-driven model. We will continue to operate with that as our mindset.
Director of Recreational Sports and Wellness