An open letter to Stanford University administrators:
Wednesday, July 8 was one of those days you can never forget as a mom; to see my son with his head hanging, and with a deep sigh, telling me that the sport which he has loved since the age of four was going to be cut at the end of this year. My heart sank. As I read the open letter to the community posted on behalf of President Tessier-Lavigne, Provost Drell and Athletic Director Muir, I became even more confused by the logic of the decision to cut the Stanford wrestling program. I must express my concern for the lack of researching all possible solutions and avenues to keeping the program, and the abrupt manner with which the news was delivered.
I am disheartened, and must respectfully disagree with this decision. I understand the immensity of the responsibilities placed upon the University administration, especially trying to navigate through a pandemic. However, I would hope that the Stanford University administrators would take a step back and recall some of the core values that Stanford is known for: “ethics, boldness, and foundations.” The decision to cut the sport of wrestling at Stanford contradicts these core values. Stanford sets a high precedent for academic and athletic excellence across the nation upon which all other collegiate institutions model themselves. How are our communities to process that Stanford leadership sees them as a number, a financial hardship that cannot be overcome?
It was not ethical to cut wrestling without ever notifying the coaching staff of financial struggles, and giving them the opportunity to reach out to their numerous supporters and donors to offset that financial burden. This was not done in true Stanford fashion. To end the program means ending the dreams of Stanford wrestling student athletes from small town rural communities, like my son, Ethan, as well as many other wrestlers coming from first generation or low socio-economic status families.
I would also like to speak of the criteria listed for cutting wrestling. Again, I respectfully disagree with the sentiment that wrestling does not have a large national following or support from NCAA, or prospects for future success. Wrestling has the seventh highest participation rate of any high school sport for boys in the nation. Further, 80+ women’s wrestling programs have emerged in the country. Wrestling is what molded my son Ethan into the unbelievably hard-working and determined young man he is today. There are not many opportunities in our small village of Manchester, Mich., but through the determination instilled in our son through wrestling, his commitment to drive hours to practice the sport he loved and his belief that wrestling could be the gateway to entering his dream school, Stanford, our son’s dream became a reality.
Ethan became the first student from Manchester High School to attend Stanford, and only the second student to be accepted to such a prestigious university. There have only been a few others in the history of our community to go on to a Division I school as a student athlete. This accomplishment gave so much pride to our village and so much hope to his former high school wrestling teammates and the young wrestlers involved in our club program.
Not only is wrestling a gateway for small town students, but wrestling is also a sport that attracts student-athletes from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds. A survey of Stanford wrestlers from 2006-present showed that 48 of 108 respondents (44%) qualified as first-generation and/or low income, compared to 18% of the overall Stanford undergraduate student body. Furthermore, wrestling is one of only five sports that has a profitable NCAA Championship. Wrestling ranks #2 across all three NCAA divisions with respect to first-generation college bound students. And, the icing on the cake is our returning talent this 2020-2021 season: three NCAA All-Americans, seven NCAA qualifiers, four Pac-12 champions, nine Pac-12 finalists and headed for the program’s highest finish to date at the NCAA Championships. I urge Stanford University administrators to please reconsider this drastic decision. This is a sincere, heartfelt plea from a small town wrestling mom to ask that you remain true to Stanford’s values, and consult with administration and our amazing coaching staff to come up with a plausible solution to KEEP STANFORD WRESTLING.
With pride for Stanford wrestling,
Parent of current Stanford wrestler
Contact Melanie Woods at woodsmjehe ‘at’ gmail.com.
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