Columnists, Sports

Ghosts of Editors Past: BU alum’s view on why BU should keep varsity wrestling team

Gary Abbott (COM ’82) is the Director of Communications for USA Wrestling, a four-year letterman for BU Wrestling and the Fall 1981 Editorial Page Editor for the Daily Free Press. 

Monday was April Fools Day, and I thought somebody was pulling my leg when I got an email with a press release that BU was dropping its varsity wrestling program. After a quick visit to the BU Athletics website, I realized this was not a joke.

As a BU wrestling alumni, Class of 1982, this was shocking, unexpected and painful news. After graduating BU with a journalism degree, I built a career combining communications and wrestling. I have served 25 years as Director of Communications at USA Wrestling, which manages our sport nationally. Just like anybody who has been involved with BU wrestling in the past, I can’t understand why BU would make such a poor decision; one that is not in the best interest of the athletics department or the university.

Why should you as BU students care about this? I would suggest that if you care about what Boston University is all about and what it should stand for, this is an issue you should get involved with.

Here is what I know at this point. According to the BU press release, the university “thoroughly reviewed and evaluated Department priorities” in making this decision. This process must have been done behind closed doors. Neither BU wrestling coach Carl Adams nor the alumni from the wrestling program were ever informed that the sport was being reviewed or was in any jeopardy. In fact, Coach Adams was not informed until Monday afternoon, at about the same time the announcement was made. Wrestling had no input in the process at all.

BU alumni get all kinds of letters and fancy brochures bragging about the level of excellence BU has established, as well as the tremendous upgrades it has made on campus with its facilities. I understand this is all about fundraising, but I also believed BU was dedicated to this principle.

Among the lame excuses in the press announcement about cutting wrestling was that “to bring the wrestling program to a championship-caliber level, an immense infusion of resources, including major facility enhancements and additional staffing, would be required.” This does not sound like the university dedicated to excellence that I am told about as an alumnus.

Here are the facts. BU has a competitive wrestling team, led for 32 years by one of the nation’s most respected coaches, Carl Adams. Although not in the national Top 20, BU has produced winning wrestling teams and has qualified numerous athletes for the NCAA Championships all during Adams’ era. BU had two conference champions and three NCAA qualifiers this year alone. Coach Adams has more than 300 career victories in college wrestling, number four among active coaches. It would be fair to say that additional investment would improve BU’s success nationally, but this is by no means a program that is not performing.

In regards to facilities, it is also fair to say BU does not have an adequate training facility. The Terrier wrestlers are still working out in a small space in the athletic building under Rich Hall, the same room I trained in more than 30 years ago. However, this is not the fault of the BU wrestlers.

Two years ago, I attended the BU alumni wrestling match where BU beat national power Iowa State University in Case Gym. There were BU development people there to give us a tour of the wonderful new athletic facilities, and it was impressive. BU has chosen not to upgrade its wrestling facility while doing all of this construction. The wrestlers made do with what they had and continued to be successful. Never once did they say they might not continue wrestling because BU didn’t create a new wrestling room during all of that construction.

This issue is not about who is the coach, but the way Coach Adams has been treated is deplorable. He is a popular coach on campus, a leader in the industry and an African-American role model that BU should be proud of. He has spent most of his professional life building great students, athletes and leaders through the wrestling program. BU wrestling has performed well in the classroom, in its public service and within the campus community. This is the kind of coach and kind of program BU should take pride in, not eliminate.

This doesn’t even account for all of the revenue BU wrestling has brought in to the university through the Carl Adams Wrestling Academy, the successful summer camp held on campus each summer.  I have been proud that BU Athletics was a leader in providing a varsity wrestling team. Wrestling is an active sport on the high school level in New England, and BU was a center of excellence for the sport in the region.

For the juniors on the BU wrestling team, the athletic department had the courtesy to allow the team one more year. I have a great idea. Why not spend that year working with the BU wrestling alumni, going over all of the reasons they want to drop the program, and coming up with a solution that allows this program to continue? Other major universities, including nearby Brown, had the courage to reverse a decision to drop wrestling when it worked through the issues.

I will readily admit that this announcement is very personal to me, not only because of my support for the wrestling program. My niece is currently a BU student who has helped with the wrestling program. My nephew was accepted to BU two weeks ago, and was considering attending because of its academics and its wrestling program. This is a huge disappointment to my family.

I always tell people my two greatest learning experiences during college were not in the classroom. They were being on the varsity wrestling team and serving as an editor for the Daily Free Press. It truly hurts me to imagine that the wrestling opportunity that was so dear to me will now be taken away from future BU student-athletes. Please take a closer look at this and support the effort to Keep BU Wrestling.


  1. Gary Abbott makes some great points. Let’s work to get Boston U leaders to take a closer look at their wrestling program. New England HS and youth wrestling is thriving and growing. There are too few colleges in New England with wrestling, let alone D1 Wrestling. New England needs BU Wrestling.

    Ken Chertow

  2. A few weeks ago, I watch Rider University wrestler Zac Cibula lose in the conference finals to BU’s Nestor Taffur. Though sad for my close friend and former teammates loss, I was proud of Nester for his accomplishment. Why? Because over the years I have come to know and respect Nester both ON and OFF the mat. He is a stand-up guy who isn’t afraid to shake an opponents hand and engage in cordial discussion. We’ve done this many times over the years – including a few hours before the above mentioned match.

    The above story is simply one example of the many BU wrestlers I have come to know over the years, including the author of this article who I know fairly well (he and his wife kindly housed me last week while moving to Colorado Springs).

    Like Gary and Nestor, BU wrestling has produced many outstanding individuals who fully embody the high standards touted by the university. Much of this can be accredited to head coach Carl Adams, a legend in the wrestling community. Yet, after 32 years, the best way to honor his anticipated departure is not to retire the program but to find the next Carl Adams – I’m sure he would agree.

    BU can, and should, make every effort to reverse this decision and keep wrestling as one of its flagship athletic programs. As an alumnus of Rider University wrestling, I am confident that many of our alumni would support my position.

  3. Hope this gets reversed. I wrestled 4 years at Mason just before BU was in the CAA, and I’ve watched the program through the years and grew up watching training videos put on by Carl Adams. I realize that we’ve seen some good programs come and go (JMU comes to mind) and it’s really disappointing every time, even if it’s a rival. I’m pulling for the program.

  4. Drop BU Wrestling? This is just another example of a great University not understanding what a valuable resource it has to enhance its own reputation. I have know Carl Adams for my entire tenure as a wrestling coach (44 years and now retired). My own two sons have attended Carl’s wrestling camp at BU – one who is now an assistant at F&M College – and still speak of the lessons learned from Carl, on and off the mat.
    I attended the CAA Championshisps (the NCAA qualifier) at BU this past March, and was so proud for Carl and his team when an athletic represenative from BU had an announcement made before the finals, telling of Carl’s achievements as a wrestler, coach and ambassador of Boston University. How proud Carl was then, and how devistated he must feel today. Shame on you BU !!! There must be some way to rectify this misdeed and give Carl, his Alumni and the concerned public an opportunity to save, not just the wrestling program at BU, but the integrity of the University and all the young men and women who will be denied the learning opportunity if this deceision is allowed to be carried out.
    I certainly hope that BU and the powers that govern this University will give Carl Adams and the wrestling program a 2nd chance.
    Respectfully – Jack Childs (former wrestling coach at Drexel University and
    past President of the NWCA)