PROVO, Utah - After long and careful study, Brigham Young University announced that it will phase out the university's men's gymnastics and wrestling teams.
"This has been a very difficult decision, but one that had to be made," said BYU Advancement Vice President K. Fred Skousen. "Across the country, fewer schools are sponsoring men's gymnastics and wrestling teams. The trend is particularly apparent in our new Mountain West Conference, where even before BYU's decision there were not enough teams in wrestling and men's gymnastics to conduct an NCAA qualifying conference championship."
BYU plans to phase out the two sports programs over a one year period, meaning all incoming seniors will be able to complete their eligibility at BYU during the 1999-2000 school year.
For all underclassmen, BYU will either facilitate transfers to other schools or continue financial assistance for those athletes who choose to stay at the university. Under specific NCAA legislation, all transferring athletes will become immediately eligible to compete at the new university.
"While BYU must put its emphasis on those teams that can compete in conference championship competition, we realize that we are going to lose some fine athletes and coaches who have made great contributions to the university," said Skousen. "We will do everything possible to help them pursue their dreams."
"This has been particularly painful for me," said Athletic Director Rondo Fehlberg. "We have done everything we could do to preserve these two unique sports, which have had such strong traditions on our campus. As a former wrestler my heart goes out to these athletes and their families and supporters."
While a student at BYU, Fehlberg was a three-time WAC champion and NCAA All American. "We are especially grateful to Coaches Sakamoto and Schultz and their staffs who have guided these programs under increasingly challenging circumstances," Fehlberg continued.
Skousen said that in making the decision to phase out men's gymnastics and wrestling, BYU and other Mountain West Conference schools evaluated the strengths and stated objectives of the new conference. As a result, the University of New Mexico has also announced its decision to eliminate wrestling, men's gymnastics and men's swimming.
A report out this fall in the NCAA News Digest names men's gymnastics and wrestling as two sports undergoing significant decreases in NCAA Division I sponsorship. For instance, the number of men's gymnastics teams fell from 41 in 1992-93 to 27 in 1997 98.
"In our inaugural season, the Mountain West Conference will conduct championships in 19 sports and in all but two of those sports, the sponsorship level is between 75 and 100 percent," Mountain West Conference Commissioner Craig Thompson said. "It is clear that the institutions are focusing the majority of their resources on conference championship sports."