December 19, 2011
College wrestling is currently at a crossroads where key decisions will determine whether or not the sport is successful in the future. Given the current climate of college sport, it is likely that many non-revenue, Olympic sports will continue to be a primary target in program elimination decisions. So, what is it going to take for college wrestling programs to be sustainable moving forward? Well, it is going to take a mentality where coaches learn to embrace change and the opportunity to innovate through risk taking. From a marketing standpoint, this will include a shift in mindset where coaches collectively make decisions for the betterment of the sport. While this will include a variety of different decisions and investments, a primary opportunity lies in front of us in the form of a viable team championship that could aid in growing interest in programs at the local level. Not sure exactly what I am talking about? Well, it is quite simple really. This is Mat Mayhem…
Benefits of New “Mat Mayhem” Format
One of the greatest benefits that the new NWCA National Duals format offers is the opportunity for a legitimate team championship. With the future qualification system, it provides a foundation for each dual meet to truly matter during the regular season. Ideally, this will encourage coaches to invest more heavily in the team element of the sport. In addition to potential improved dual competition, this championship format allows for a product with better marketing appeal due to the fact that each dual has more meaning (based on outcome implications). Ultimately, this will provide a foundation that coaches can promote on their college campuses during the season. Building on these benefits, this year’s new format brings another unique aspect in that it will take place at four regions (Cornell, Iowa State, Oklahoma State, and Rutgers) that will serve as qualifiers for a final four championship event the following weekend. Oklahoma State head coach John Smith talks about some of the benefits of the new format in a recent interview.
The Re-Branding Process: “Build It & They Will Come”
With the positive changes in the new format of the event, it seems natural that innovative adjustments would be made in marketing efforts to enhance future consumer interest. This is particularly true given all of the challenges facing wrestling in today’s intercollegiate athletic environment. With this in mind, it makes sense that a re-branding process would coincide with the changes in the structure of the National Duals. Thus, this is where the new concept of Mat Mayhem comes into play. Similar to the March Madness concept in college basketball, this theme provides a foundation for the event to grow into something much larger given the multi-site (and weekend) concept of the new format. From a marketing standpoint, this theme is extremely important because it provides a central concept for the event to grow when new marketing plans are developed to enhance consumer and media interest moving forward. Equally important, as explained by Ohio State head coach Tom Ryan below, it provides an innovative structure to grow the dual meet aspect of the sport at the local, grassroots level in the future.
The Next Step: “Go Big or Go Home”
The Mat Mayhem concept cannot reach its full potential without the support of coaches across the country. It also has little chance to being a game changer for college wrestling without the backing of loyal wrestling fans. In fact, for college wrestling to take the next step, coaches and fans have to be active in promoting this event during the upcoming months via social network sites and other Internet mediums. In theory, if this was to occur, the sport would take the first step necessary in building a dual meet championship with the potential to legitimize the team aspect of wrestling. However, this is a collaborative initiative that would need support right away. So, if you consider yourself as an advocate for the sport of wrestling, share this entry with as many people as you can so we can grow the Mat Mayhem concept. More importantly, be sure to encourage other fans to attend one of the regionals so the concept is an immediate success. With eight teams in the top 10, 23 All-Americans, and six NCAA Champions, this is an event that we can turn into something special for the sport of wrestling.
“A person first starts to live when he can live outside of himself” (Albert Einstein)