Dear Stanford wrestlers, coaches, alumni, families and friends,
Before we dive fully into our update, please note the details of our August 19 Zoom call found at the bottom of this message. You are all cordially invited.
We are at a critical point of our campaign to retain the program, one that deserves a look back at where we started and how far we’ve come, so that we can move forward with intention and complete alignment. This is a lengthy, but necessary letter, so please bear with us.
The announcement on July 8th stunned us all, and we should all, first and foremost, commend the coaching staff for their tremendous response. Jason, Ray, and Alex immediately triaged the situation and have been working tirelessly: doing their day jobs, assuaging concerns of distressed athletes and their parents, gathering data and bird-dogging intel, downloading this advisory board on everything from the politics of the university and athletic department to historic data on team diversity and GPAs, and doing a lot of our heavy-lifting committee work themselves. All while their jobs are under threat.
As an advisory board we self-organized into committees to address key verticals. We co-chairs were tasked with making sense of the crosscurrents of news, hard data, opinions, speculation and ideas related to what, precisely, we should do—collectively and individually—to reverse the university's decision. We are not trying to put on a good show as a final send off to our team, we are trying to permanently protect Stanford Wrestling. In that vein, many questions needed to be answered, or at least explored, before our strategic path could be formed.
The first question we all asked ourselves was "Why?" And as we formed hypotheses on the why—not just the why disclosed in the announcement, but all of the unsaid whys that may lie lurking—we looked at who was involved in making the decision, and how. We set about gathering as much data as we could. The more information we can get on the who, how, and why, the better chance we have of convincing the right people to change their minds.
Here is what we know:
The Athletic Department has no interest in overturning any part of their decision with regard to wrestling or the other 10 sports. Therefore, we have no incentive to engage in presenting a strategy for their blessing. Our next conversation with them will be when we’ve raised an endowment. Even then, we will need to identify and leverage influence from above AD Muir (DAPER, BOT, President, Stanford Fund) and execute a compelling media campaign to win public support.
We have intentionally chosen to “play nice”, sticking to addressing the published reasons for eliminating the program; keeping the tone of our statements positive, and; not engaging in public, antagonistic rhetoric. Our message is one of disappointment and sadness, but not anger and indignation (yet). This posture will shift, but only after we’ve built a case so strong that the AD looks objectively unreasonable for not retaining the program.
University leadership is facing unprecedented pressures dealing with COVID-19 and the financial and operational chaos it has created. We should expect that reinstating the wrestling program is not high on their list of near-term priorities regardless of the merits of our proposal. With this in mind, we should choose wisely when, to whom, and how we present our solutions. Our time will come, and we will be ready.
We must control our own destiny. There are benefits to coordinating our efforts with those fighting to reinstate the other 10 programs, and we are doing so as appropriate. The story of multiple programs raising substantial endowments is compelling to a national audience, beyond the boundaries of our individual sports. However, we cannot control others’ fundraising efforts or strategies, and their merits/claims for retaining varsity status may not align with our own.
Nothing short of fully endowing the program will give us a chance of retaining the program. Therefore, efforts to survive on a lower budget or cover the next few seasons will not work. The number is $30 million, which endows the current operating budget and scholarships while adding women’s wrestling. We will ask for signed commitments ASAP, with funds to be collected upon confirmation that the program will remain intact. We will of course need an acceptable infrastructure in place to house and manage the endowment. Pledges can be paid all at once or by instalments over up to five years. We encourage all donors to maximize the size of their gift first, and to shorten the payment period where possible second.
Our proposal must include the addition of women’s wrestling, either as a standalone program or in a co-ed format. Any chance at reinstatement depends on financial self-sufficiency and Title IX compliance. Developing women’s wrestling at Stanford a) is the right thing to do and is where the world is going, b) extends the reach and appeal of our fundraising efforts, and c) builds a long-term moat around the program in the event other women's sports are cut in the future.
So that we are all in alignment, the strategy is clear: we will raise $30M to endow men’s and women’s wrestling at Stanford. We will do so while building a robust network of influencers across as many leverage points as possible. And we will set the precedent for the sustainable long-term financing model for Stanford Athletics.
What comes next? On Wednesday, August 19th (details below), the co-chairs will host an all-hands Zoom call. We will outline our strategy, take questions, and provide instructions on how everyone can contribute to the effort. Many of you have volunteered to assist in fundraising, communications and influence efforts, and we will provide clear guidance on how you can help.
In her testimonial to Stanford Wrestling, Patricia wrote, “Wrestling takes all comers, and, if you choose wrestling, it will take everything you are ... Wrestling, at its very core, only requires a willingness to be stripped down to rubble and to rebuild.” We were stripped down to rubble on July 8th and have spent the last five weeks devising our plan. It’s time to rebuild.