Wrestling and bowling programs not to harm budget

Story by Chris Smith

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In the face of budget cuts and financial concerns, Baker University is continuing with its plan to add wrestling and bowling programs to the school’s athletic department.

Athletic director Dan Harris has been adamant about implementing the new programs, and has gained support from local wrestling advocates, but some students believe the university’s current economic issues should put a halt on any new additions.

“I feel like adding new programs right now is unnecessary,” sophomore Hannah Bausch said. “Adding wrestling and bowling, along with the renovations to the dorms, just don’t feel like a necessity right now considering the cutbacks.”

Harris maintains the programs will not negatively affect the university budget, however. In fact, those directly involved believe wrestling will be key in bringing in revenue for the university. He said that 162 high school wrestlers have applied for admission and been accepted to attend Baker.

“There’s so much interest that we’re having to tell people ‘no’ now,” Harris said. “Any program that goes from zero to something like that is a keeper.”

Head wrestling coach Jimmy May said he plans to sign 26 student athletes for next fall.

“We already have 18 recruits signed,” May said. “We still have a number of kids we’re still talking to. The program is off to a great start.”

Harris believes the ease in recruiting can be traced to the idea that Baker is filling a niche not currently being fulfilled anywhere else in the state.

“We’re the only NAIA institution in the state of Kansas with a wrestling program,” Harris said. “Currently the NAIA is growing (its) wrestling programs and the NCAA is dropping them left and right.” 

Harris said he is having similar success on the recruiting front for the women’s bowling program.

“I’ve already signed eight recruits from the Kansas City and Lawrence areas,” he said. “Six of whom have high school bowling experience.”

While the initial gains certainly are positive reinforcement for the additions, questions of sustainability will arise after the new crop of athletes are in place.

“The following year we might only need to bring in five or six athletes,” Harris said. “So what the (wrestling) program will continue to bring after it gets its feet on the ground is yet to be determined.”

Outpouring support for their initiation indicates the programs will find success.

Harris said he has raised enough money through to cover the costs of recruiting and two new mats for the wrestlers to use.

“USA Wrestling fronted us $5,000 for our program,” Harris said.

“Another $5,000 came from the USA Wrestling branch in Kansas. The only thing the institution is paying for is the salary of the coach. Period.”

BU hired Kristal Wilson, a three-time All-American at Wichita State University as the women's bowling coach Wednesday. <br/>  
 

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Wrestling and bowling programs not to harm budget