After long and careful study, BYU has decided to phase out the 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 championship.”
“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.
“We are especially grateful to coaches Makoto Sakamoto and Mark Schultz and their staffs, who have guided these programs under increasingly challenging circumstances.”
A report out last fall in the NCAA News Digest says men’s gymnastics and wrestling are undergoing significant decreases in NCAA Division I sponsorship. The number of men’s gymnastics teams nationwide fell from 41 in 1992–93 to 27 in 1997–98. Skousen said that in making the decision, 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 decided to eliminate men’s gymnastics, wrestling, and men’s swimming.
BYU plans to phase out the two teams over a one-year period, meaning all incoming seniors will be able to complete their eligibility at BYU. For underclassmen BYU will either facilitate transfers to other schools or continue financial assistance for athletes who choose to stay. Under specific NCAA legislation, athletes who transfer will immediately be eligible to compete.
“We realize that we are going to lose some fine athletes and coaches who have made great contributions,” Skousen said. “We will do everything possible to help them pursue their dreams.”