Demonstrations, threats of suits and panicked fund-raising are typically part of the landscape when a popular sports program at a college is being shuttered.
The Binghampton University wrestling program is no different, where a group of wrestlers said last month that they were contemplating legal action, while on another front demonstrating next to their famous alumni actor, Billy Baldwin.
News of the lawsuit threat surfaced when school president Lois B. DeFleur issued a press release revealing that an attorney representing the group “informed us that, should we refuse to reinstate the wrestling program, the group would begin litigation and a negative public relations campaign aimed at attacking not only our decision, but also the reputation of the University and its staff.”
This was a prime example of how business decisions in college athletics can turn ugly
Athletics Director Joel Thirerto endorsed a recommendation to cut the sport last fall
One former wrestler, Joe Marinucci, said the group “didn’t just come out and flatly threaten to sue the University. We” only applied pressure, he said, when the group was “stonewalled.”
Nevertheless, the university takes the threat of a lawsuit “very seriously,” Chris Ritter, associate vice president for communications and marketing, told the media.
As a second measure, the group is leveraging the presence of Hollywood actor and wrestling alumnus Billy Baldwin ’85. “If President DeFleur knew about the great sport of wrestling, she never would have made that decision,” Baldwin said at a press conference.