Capturing the nation's attention
In the big money world of Division I college athletics, only five championship sports actually make the NCAA money. Of course, the biggest is the Final Four, the NCAA Division I men's basketball tournament. Now 68 teams play their way to a championships. The venues are large and the volume of printed brackets and online office pools is astronomical.
The other championships that make the NCAA money are the College World Series, held annually in Omaha, the Frozen Four, the name for the NCAA Division I Men's Ice Hockey tournament, the NCAA Division I Men's Lacrosse championship – AND – to the surprise of many – the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championship.
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Before you say “but what about football,” did you know the NCAA actually does not award a trophy and present an actual championship for what's called the Football Bowl Subdivision? Oh, sure, there's a trophy, but the only NCAA logo on a Division I football trophy belongs to the winner of what's called the Football Championship Subdivision, formerly known as I-AA.
Semantics and officialness aside, wrestling has been a consistent moneymaker at the championships level for decades. Much of that has come from the move away from campus sites and into larger metropolitan areas and major league arenas. Or in the case in 2020, NFL Stadiums. Yes, Minneapolis' U.S. Bank Stadium, home of the Minnesota Vikings, is expected to draw over 40,000 fans across each of the six sessions in March of 2020. It's an indication that the health of wrestling has improved.
It's also a great spot to sell the sport of wrestling to curious college administrators. For people looking to start a Division I program in Arkansas, a sellout crowd at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland in March of 2018 was the perfect backdrop to make history.
Welcome to Rocked Up, the story of the foundation and formation of the first Division I college wrestling program in Arkansas, starting in November of 2019 at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. This is the fifth edition of this story. The first four set the table, because to tell the story of the Little Rock Trojans wrestling program, you had to start from the ground up – with the foundation of Arkansas high school wrestling, which didn't even exist 11 years ago.
Since the beginning, we've introduced you to high school coaches, wrestling leaders, athletic directors, financial benefactors as well as some of the pioneers within the state. Today, we meet one of the architects and one of the people who needed to say yes in order for this dream to actually become a reality – Little Rock Athletics Director Chasse Conque.
EPILOGUE: As this episode gets released in August of 2019, there was a personnel change between the time we had meetings with Conque for this project. In early August of 2019, Conque took a similar position at Division I Texas-Rio Grande Valley. While he's no longer at Little Rock, his fingerprints are still all over this move.
Rocked Up is a presentation of the Mat Talk Podcast Network and can be found on the web at GetRockedUp.com or at MatTalkOnline.com.
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