Boise State cutting wrestling, plans to add baseball
BOISE – Boise State athletics made a stunning announcement Monday that the department was ending the wrestling program effective immediately in hopes of soon adding a baseball team.
Boise State’s wrestling program had been around since 1959 and featured two national champions in Kirk White (1999) and Ben Cherrington (2006). The program won six Pac-12 team titles during an impressive run of success from 2000 to 2011.
The school said in a release Tuesday afternoon that the decision was made with the “intent to add baseball in the future” but offered little concrete details.
“This was not an easy decision, but one that needed to be made as we consider the long-term vision for Bronco athletics,” Boise State athletics director Curt Apsey said in a statement.
Boise State said they will honor the scholarships of the wrestlers currently on the team that wish to stay and will help those that want to continue wrestling elsewhere. The school also said contracts for the coaching staff will be honored.
“When it became clear that the university could not support both baseball and wresting from a budgetary and structural standpoint, it was decided to simply make the tough decision in hopes of giving our coaches and student-athletes ample time to pursue their careers elsewhere in they choose,” Boise State said in a brief Q and A about the decision.
The school noted that baseball is the only Mountain West-sponsored sport not offered by Boise State and said “we believe baseball will strengthen the long-term brand and reputation of Boise State at a national level.”
Boise State offered no target date to officially launch the baseball program, saying “there is no timeline, but we are committed to moving ahead as quickly as possible.”
School president Bob Kustra told the Idaho Press-Tribune in June 2015 that starting a baseball team was a goal of his. He said at the time the school would not need to eliminate another sport to stay in compliance with Title IX, saying the decision would be a financial one.
Boise State didn’t confirm whether or not Title IX compliance was a factor in the decision Tuesday, but did say finances came into the decision.
“The elimination of wrestling alone will not be enough from a budgetary or structural standpoint, but it was the first step that needed to be taken to build the future structure of the athletics department,” the school said.
The Boise Hawks announced the purchase of land downtown last month and plan to build a new multi-purpose baseball and soccer stadium that could be ready for use by as early as the 2019 baseball season.
The two sides have had discussions in the past about Boise State sharing the stadium with the Hawks should they start a baseball team. It’s not known yet if that is the plan, but it would seem likely the Broncos could launch their new baseball program with the start of the new stadium in downtown Boise.
“One of my pet projects has been a baseball program,” Kustra told the Idaho Press-Tribune in June 2015 when Apsey was hired as athletic director. “It’s tough to talk about that to an AD when they are forced with all these new budget pressures regarding cost of attendance, but I really want to raise some money for a baseball program.
“I think it’s great that we have such solid high school programs across the valley, and yet if somebody wants to go on and play Division I ball, they have to go someplace else. I think we have a great talent group of student-athletes at the high school level in baseball, and I’d like to see them come here. But again, this is where I take orders from the athletic director. I understand the pressures and believe me, it’s about finances and we have to balance the budget.”
The addition of baseball would be a boost for high school baseball in the area as well as for the baseball programs at both Northwest Nazarene and College of Idaho.
Boise State and the College of Idaho played every year in baseball starting in 1936 until the Yotes dropped baseball in 1978. Boise State dropped baseball in 1980, and C of I brought it back in 1987.
Adding baseball would allow both programs to play Division I games against the Broncos during the fall and spring. Division I teams often play midweek nonconference games against regional, non-Division I teams as a way to add home games to their schedule and get bench players more playing time.