Last week, Eastern Michigan announced the decision to drop four sports - softball, men's swimming and diving, wrestling, and women's tennis - at the end of the school year in an effort to ultimately save about $2.4 million.
It was a wildly unpopular decision, especially from the close-knit wrestling community, considering EMU head wrestling coach David Bolyard had just put together an outstanding wrestling season and was named MAC Coach of the Year, and the program also produced the school's first All-American in decades.
Just days before the decision was announced, EMU vice president and director of athletics Scott Wetherbee was congratulating the wrestling program on their outstanding season...only to drop the axe on the programs he was referencing two days later.
The decision infuriated a large number of folks, one of which is Michigan high school Hall of Fame football coach Noel Dean, who has built the Lowell Red Arrow football program into one of the premier programs in the state over the past over twenty years.
For those of you unfamiliar with coach Dean, you may be wondering why a football coach is upset with EMU's decision to get rid of wrestling. Here's where you have to understand that Dean's family has had a rich tradition of wrestlers that have been wildly successful at the high school level, including state titles and undefeated seasons for the Red Arrows. They've gone on to be highly recruited by some of the top college wrestling programs in the country, before the latest of which decided to wrestle at Ivy League wrestling powerhouse Cornell, where two of them have recently captured All-American honors.
Instead of quietly voicing his displeasure with the decision behind closed doors, Dean decided to take things a step further, and much more public by penning a very passionate letter that was featured onMichiganGrappler.com.
Although the decision to cut the sports programs was ultimately made by Wetherbee, coach Dean addressed his letter to EMU football coach Chris Creighton, and informed him that he'd no longer be welcome at his school, and goes on to share exactly why.
The letter starts with this opening:
"I have to do what is right for the state of Michigan. As you know, I have coached high school football in the state of Michigan for the past 27 years. I have great respect for you as a coach and a person. You are just under the wrong leadership at the wrong time."
It goes on to note how close wrestling and football are, in the state of Michigan particularly.
"Your president, a guy from South Dakota obviously doesn't understand the culture of Michigan and the value us lifelong Michigan residents not only have for the sport of football but wrestling too.
He doesn't understand how deeply intertwined football and wrestling is in this state. Many coaches are involved in both and have sons, nephews and grand kids that participate in both.
My biggest impact players have been both football players that are wrestlers. I am always and also told to have multi athletic players. This is in stark contrast to HIS position.
To close, Dean was blunt, and honest.
"Wrestling contributes too much to the fabric of our schools systems in Michigan (a guy from South Dakota might not get it), but if I stick to the facts on this. wrestling is only a bone to keep people happy FOR NOW. They are coming for you next."
"You are a good man but, you may be at the wrong institution."