Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Education and Human Development

Committee Member

Dr. William Havice, Committee Chair

Committee Member

Dr. Tony Cawthon

Committee Member

Dr. Michael Godfrey

Committee Member

Dr. James Satterfield


NCAA Division I intercollegiate wrestling has lost more athletic teams to elimination since the early 1980's than any other intercollegiate sport (Irick, 2016). Research exploring reasons behind intercollegiate wrestling program elimination is scant and much of what does exist is part of a broader discussion regarding Title IX regulation. This study sought to understand factors that exclusively contributed to the elimination of NCAA Division I intercollegiate wrestling programs. As a qualitative study, an interpretive framework with phenomenological methods were used to research this topic. A total of nine participants, three NCAA Division I head wrestling coaches, three NCAA Division I athletic directors, and three intercollegiate wrestling stakeholders were interviewed to gain an understanding of their experiences pertaining to the elimination of NCAA Division I intercollegiate wrestling programs. Coaches and athletic directors interviewed each represented different institutions. Findings from these interviews revealed four key themes: - gender considerations; - financial considerations; - culture; and - complexity. Collectively, these themes provided a focused representation of factors that have resulted in NCAA Division I intercollegiate wrestling program elimination, and of participant experiences related to these factors. Results from this study suggested the decision to eliminate an NCAA Division I intercollegiate wrestling program was often full of complexities. While financial considerations were most frequently cited, the ultimate decision to eliminate intercollegiate wrestling was filled with interrelationships among numerous factors. Moreover, these factors varied from institution to institution. Continuing to support the growth of women's wrestling and advocating for women's intercollegiate wrestling to gain NCAA emerging sport status could benefit men's NCAA Division I intercollegiate wrestling. Additionally, the intercollegiate wrestling community should emphasize the strengthening and organizing of alumni groups that have a personal interest in supporting and solidifying the sport. Future studies should explore the impact of intercollegiate wrestling program elimination on first generation college students, and investigate further how administrative and campus culture play a role in the elimination of programs.