Editor’s Note: On Oct. 23-24, the majority of NCAA Division I coaches met in Chicago for a summit to discuss the future of the NWCA National Duals; a subject that severely split the Division I coaches this fall. Legendary coach Dan Gable recently met with WIN Editor Mike Finn to speak about the direction of the coaches association and its impact on the sport.
WIN: What did you think of the NCAA Division I Coaches Summit, which took place in Chicago in October to vote on the controversial National Wrestling Coaches Association National Duals future? While NWCA president Rob Koll was disappointed that the coaches did not endorse the idea, he was pleased that so many coaches showed up to express themselves at a time that many consider is a critical time in college wrestling.
GABLE: When they had the first vote, Rob Koll said, “This is perfect.” I thought about it for awhile and decided while nothing is perfect, this has been as historic of an event that wrestling has had because it was a positive gathering of coaches’ minds.
Wrestling coaches are tough and not always as smart as they should be. Mike Moyer is the executive director of the NWCA and these coaches are his team. That’s hard for some of the coaches to accept because they like to be their own leader. But if they are his team, I felt Mike was finally putting his team all together in one room.
While it’s good that coaches are so independent minded, they should not get away from the concept of what it takes to win team titles and that’s a team of individuals who want to work together … because one individual will not win a team title. If you can get 60 percent of your team to get on the same level, you have a good chance of winning.
So if you look at this sport, is this group of coaches a team? They have to be if they want wrestling to be a significant college sport. If wrestling is going to be untouchable from administrators threatening it existence, these coaches have to be a team.
In turn, I hope Mike Moyer also learned something about his team considering they were there for nearly 24 hours straight. The more a leader knows about his team, the more the leader knows who he should talk to, to get them on board more.
I don’t think all the wrestlers on my Iowa teams were the best of friends. They learned to tolerate each other and may have gotten excited about someone they may not have liked. Mike needs to get Tom Brands excited about Cael Sanderson for what they can do for the sport.
There had to be more good come out of that meeting that bad. The problem with the National Duals was that there was not a good structure in place. This coaches summit, to me, was the start of a structure to make the sport better whether it’s for the National Duals or conference realignment and whatever other issues wrestling has. I call this a good start.
WIN: Was it simply because the coaches met face-to-face and not from far away, which could lead to more criticism?
GABLE: You learn the human aspect of people and see them react right in front of you instead of over the phone or the internet. That’s what I don’t like about our technology age in that people don’t really talk to each other face-to-face anymore. Items that get discussed on the internet blow up nearly all the time.
I think coaches had a reality situation in Chicago that can be a positive. But if the coaches simply just walked out the door those days and don’t come back to it, then it was a hit-and-miss. The NWCA now has to follow up and continue to work on the agenda that has come out of the Summit and show that they can come up with a conclusion.
WIN: Not all college coaches and programs have the same struggles. I can’t image top programs like Penn State, Iowa and Oklahoma State dealing with the same things that a Sacred Heart would face. How should the coaches association deal with these programs with different issues?
GABLE: I do think the NWCA is doing something to help the programs that are being threatened by going to those universities on behalf of the wrestling programs.
If you take programs like Penn State, Iowa, Oklahoma State and Minnesota and put them at the top. If every program was at their level, we would not have many problems.
Whatever is the ground level of wrestling programs, the NWCA needs to move them up a little. Do the top programs stop? No, we want to get them higher too. For example, Cael Sanderson should want to fill the bigger arena on the Penn State campus, not Rec Hall. He should make the basketball arena a wrestling arena.
It’s going to be tough to get the bottom programs to the highest level, but that’s the way it is in any business. But we also don’t want our sport to level off. There is no ceiling to college wrestling.
WIN: If we can keep comparing the coaches association to a wrestling team, where a team might have a weaker link, how does the organization help these weaker programs?
GABLE: College wrestling programs are an educational system that has potential to help other programs within a school. Also if the less-strong programs, which are more impressionable and want to see where it is going, they need to see on a daily basis that this is worth-while.
The leaders — and I mean the coaches — have to be visionaries to help the lower-tier programs as well as the programs that are Division II, III and NAIA programs. The more excited we can get the coaches, the higher level they’ll shoot for.
Unfortunately, the vision of these coaches has been one of only looking at their own team and not beyond.
WIN: Are today’s coaches dealing with things that you never had to?
GABLE: Yes, and that’s why today’s programs are in such tough situations right now.