Today the University of Nebraska Board of Regents voted to approve the University of Nebraska at Omaha's move to the Summit League this fall. While this is a plus for the Summit League, which has had its own share of turmoil in recent years, it has caused a great deal of anger and sadness amongst athletes and fans of the Mavericks.
This is the next step in what can be called two weeks of tension, feelings of betrayal and spin trying to explain why things were happening.
As part of the move, the school will eliminate its football program and and the best wrestling program in Division II. The Mavericks have won six of the last eight wrestling national championships, including this year's event, which concluded the weekend before the announcement of the programs demise.
According to departmental press releases, it has been said that Summit League is a better fit for the school and that the programs are being eliminated under a plan to align the their sports offerings with the Summit League.
While this may be the case, it is more about glitz of Division I. This was supported when Don Leahy, the former athletic director, said there was no reason why the school could not dream about playing across town in the baseball College World Series.
A closer look at the Summit League members shows that several of the universities (Western Illinois, North Dakota State and South Dakota State) have been participating in football in the Missouri Valley Conference, a FCS conference. Additionally, South Dakota State is still active with wrestling since they have joined the Summit League, as they are a member of the Western Wrestling Conference. The WWC is an NCAA wrestling-only Division I conference and has members seven active members across the plains.
So options were available, Alberts said to KFAB that the WWC was not a viable option, because of the need to increase the budget, plus keeping wrestling also would create a gender-equity imbalance. This imbalance is being created because the school is adding men's soccer and golf teams to meet the offerings of the Summit League.
While Alberts has said the school would work with athletes, either by honoring their scholarships or working to find new schools them, the timing of this decision has been criticized.
First, as the ability for athletes to transfer is limited at this time, especially for recently signed recruits, as those doors may have been closed. The bigger reason is the timing of the announcement, which took place just as the wrestling program celebrated their third straight national title.
This shows the dark side of college athletics, as Albert said there is a need for an athletic department today to be run like a business.
While at the Board of Regents meeting, he said “This is obviously an emotional day. It's also a day of great opportunity for UNO." A great opportunity for you Trev, a day of great sadness for the athletes that have been betrayed by the desire to be a big time program.
So it is time to take the helmets and pads and donate them to local schools, time to roll up the mats and put them in storage, as UNO says goodbye to Division II and to the traditions and successes of their past.
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