Carl Adams had a busy day Monday. He got a call from a top New York high school wrestler, who, after weeks of contemplation, decided to commit to Boston University for the fall. Then the 32-year BU wrestling coach hosted another recruit and his father, who came up from West Virginia, to have lunch and give them a tour of the campus.
But by the end of the day, Adams was brought to tears. BU administration announced its decision to kill the varsity wrestling program at the end of the 2013-14 season.
“I’m no fool. I’ve seen other programs get dropped over the years,” Adams said. “But I had a recruit on campus. [The recruit and his father] asked a very pointed question yesterday. They said, ‘How stable is the program?’ And I raved about how supportive the administration had been and the fact that we’ve come a long way.
“Within the next hour I had to call them back and say, ‘How ironic’ and apologize for telling them what I told them about the support that we had.”
For Adams, who has won 10 conference championships and coached four All-Americans in his three-plus decades at BU, the news came as a complete shock. He was not involved in any prior discussions and did not find out about the decision until he met with athletic director Mike Lynch 3 p.m. Monday — about the same time BU announced it publicly.
“I’m insulted,” Adams said. “When you put your heart and soul into something, you don’t expect to get blindsided.
“I feel terrible for the kids in the program. I feel terrible for the sport of wrestling,” Adams continued. “I don’t know what prompted this decision. The administrators, they’ve been good to the program. I love working at BU. That makes it all that much more shocking. The program is moving in a good direction, and then it feels like you got hit in the back of the head by a 2-by-4.”
Adams said the team was informed about two hours later, after the news began circulating online.
“It was a shock. It was like, ‘Why? Why us?’” Adams said. “Kids were crying, some of them. That’s a really tough situation for college athletes who put their heart and soul into the sport that they loved — to lose it all of a sudden.”
The exact reasoning for the decision is unclear. BU Athletics representatives did not respond to calls Tuesday afternoon seeking comment, but a Monday release said “an immense infusion of resources, including major facility enhancements and additional staffing, would be required” to bring the team to a championship-caliber level.
The first paragraph of Adams’ biography on goterriers.com, BU’s official athletics website, reads, “Carl Adams and the Terriers are in the midst of an upswing on the national level.”
A question-and-answer document distributed by the athletic department to BU wrestlers, families and alumni explaining the decision called it “a strategic decision” that is the right move for the long-term direction of BU Athletics.
The Q&A also says the decision is neither solely money nor Title IX based. The school will not reinstate the program, even if funds are raised.
But that doesn’t mean the BU wrestling community isn’t trying.
News spread quickly, and by Tuesday evening there was a “Save BU Wrestling” fan page with more than 2,000 likes and an open group by the same name with almost 2,200 members.
Brad Castronovo, a 2012 BU graduate who was on the wrestling team, is helping spearhead the Save BU Wrestling movement. He thought it was an April Fools’ Day joke at first, but when he realized otherwise he “sprung to action and went after it.”
“The administration wants to take it away,” Castronovo said. “But we’re going to fight like hell to get it back.”
He said the school’s decision is a shame, as the wrestling team is among the most successful overall in terms of academics, community involvement and on-the-mat performance. The team has a 100 percent graduation rate, participates in most if not all of the community outreach projects organized by BU Athletics and, most recently, sent three wrestlers — junior Nestor Taffur, junior Kevin Innis and freshman Dane Harlowe — to the NCAA championships March 21-22.
The athletics department also has not done a great job promoting the team over the years, according to Castronovo.
“But we’re still succeeding, we’re not complaining, and we love what we’ve got,” he said.
Castronovo said the group will circulate petitions in the coming days so people — those that are a part of the BU community, the wrestling community or both — can demonstrate their support.
Another one of Castronovo’s concerns is Adams, who has been involved in the sport for more than half a century. Adams has collected 301 wins in his time at BU.
“It’s an absolute shame that this is how he is going out,” Castronovo said.
But Adams has been here before. In 1981, after his second season as head coach of the University of Rhode Island team, he was named New England Coach of the Year.
Then URI eliminated its varsity wrestling program.
“This is like a replay,” Adams said of BU’s decision. “But 32 years is a lot longer than two years. And I’m a lot older now, so it stings.
“Wrestling defines me. I’ll always be involved in wrestling. To what extent, who knows? But I’ll be teaching kids, I’ll be designing wrestling equipment. I’ll always be involved in wrestling till the day I die.”