The oldest track & field blog on the internet

Saturday, June 17, 2006

A Program Reinstated

Just the other day it was announced that Fresno State University would reinstate their men’s cross country program. The team was cut three years ago, along with men’s indoor track and soccer and women’s swimming; outdoor track avoided the axe only after head coach Bob Fraley offered to work for free.

This is being hailed as a victory for track, but it’s not much of one. The AD cut the wrestling program at the same time, and I figure bringing XC back is just trying to put some shine on that turd. Cross will cost the university literally nothing, as it adds no administrative or scholarship expenses to the track program, and the NCAA’s sport sponsorship will cover the rest. The AD’s press release gives some shockingly reasonable rationalizations for cutting wrestling, while avoiding the standard blame-the-women-and-Title-IX song and dance.

Cuts of any kind always fit into a bigger picture, however. Fresno State’s football team is known as a BCS whore, willing to play any big-conference team anywhere any time, as long as there’s a big payout. They haven’t been a doormat, either, with a 10-8 record in these games, once being a single win short of making it into a BCS bowl. But the system is rigged against teams from the “mid-major” conferences, both competitively and financially. Also, as a member of the WAC, whose members stretch from Louisiana to Hawaii, Fresno State’s football travel budget is even more ridiculous than that of a typical school. So they reap little if any gains from the huge amount of resources poured into football.

One of the reasons for cutting wrestling looks nice enough on paper; #5 cites the poor classroom performance of the team. An AD actually pursuing the educational mission of the institution is a refreshing change. However, this isn’t just any university. These guys are still paying Jerry Tarkanian an amount approximately equal to the entire annual scholarship budget for men’s track, and having ever hired Tark the Shark means your school doesn’t give a crap about academics, let alone keeping him on your staff. Tark “retired” (read: was forced out) when FSU’s basketball program was found to have been involved in academic fraud and illegal payments, resulting in probation by the NCAA. Recently, the probation was extended and the Bulldogs narrowly avoided having the entire program shut down by the NCAA. Nice guys, huh?

Bottom line: can afford illegal payments to basketball players, cannot afford other sports. Got it?

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