Noel Dean says he is passionate about academics, football and wrestling.
He’s in the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame. His sons and nephews have attended Ivy League schools and wrestled. He has built solid wrestling and football programs at Lowell High School. He has turned out academic and athletic All-Americans.
And this week, he let Eastern Michigan football coach Chris Creighton know he isn’t welcome inside his building anymore. It’s not that he doesn’t like Creighton. It’s because EMU delivered a gut punch on Tuesday when it eliminated wrestling, men’s swimming and diving, softball and women’s tennis without any discourse.
In part of an email sent to Creighton, which was printed by Michigangrappler.com, Dean wrote:
“Chris, I have to do what is right for the state of Michigan. As you know, I have coached high school football in the state of Michigan for the past 27 years. I have great respect for you as a coach and a person. You are just under the wrong leadership at the wrong time. …
“EMU’s Athletic director Scott Wetherbee giving kudos to the team 2 days before giving them the axe. What kind of person does that? … You are a good man, but you may be at the wrong institution.’ “
The head coaches of the four programs being cut were told about the move in individual meetings Monday night with Wetherbee. Assistant coaches were told during a 7 a.m. meeting Tuesday morning. Athletes were told during a 7:30 a.m. meeting with Wetherbee and Eastern Michigan President James Smith.
Creighton, hired before the 2014 season, coached Eastern Michigan to just its second bowl appearance in program history in 2016. The Eagles, who also played in the 1987 California Bowl, finished 5-7 last season, including its first victory over a Power-5 school (a 16-13 win over Rutgers on Sept. 9).
“I received the email from Coach this morning,” said Creighton, who has not had any Lowell players on his roster in four years at EMU. “I’ve been in meetings and haven’t had a chance to look at it. I’d like to talk to him first before making a comment.”
Dean said Thursday he was appalled the wrestling program was shut down only two days after Sa’Derian Perry was named an All-American in the 141-pound weight class, the first since 1999 at EMU.
Kyle Springer (149), Zac Carson (165), Kayne MacCallum (184) and heavyweight Gage Hutchinson all made it to the NCAA tournament.
“It’s just a punch in the gut to those families and students who made a commitment to Eastern,” Dean told the Free Press. “Here’s a program that is successful and you do this to the kids and the parents without any discourse…There’s probably a lot of topics that surround this topic? First off how do you celebrate like you do their first All-American in 20 years and pretend like everything is great, then come in and give kids a sucker punch?
“I can’t support adults who treat kids like that.”
Eastern Michigan, based in Ypsilanti and facing steep budget shortfalls, will drop the four sports programs at the end of the school year. The moves, announced Tuesday in a news release, come as EMU eliminates other positions in order to make up a projected deficit of $4.5 million to $5.5 million for the 2018 fiscal year. Forty-two other positions are being eliminated and 17 layoffs are being made.
Eastern Michigan now will have 17 sports, including seven for men and 10 for women. NCAA rules will allow EMU’s affected players with remaining eligibility to transfer without having to sit out a year.
“The student-athletes affected by this are our priority,” Eastern Michigan president James Smith said Tuesday. “We will honor all athletics scholarships for the students should they decide to remain at Eastern to complete their degrees, which we hope they will.”
Todd Cheney, a 1998 graduate at EMU and wrestling coach at Hartland, is telling his athletes not to attend the school until they re-evaluate its decision.
“After the decision made by the administration, I’m telling them to seek a different school, especially when it comes to my athletes,” Cheney said. “That’s disappointing because it’s a school I graduated from. I’ve been bragging about it over the last decade because of the great changes they’ve made. They’ve come so far, now the fact that they’ve made this decision without consulting anyone other than just themselves….Maybe try to find an outside-the-box solution to it.
“It’s tough for me to recommend a school that isn’t working together with others to make decisions like this.”
Keith Weiand is a wrestling coach in the L’Anse Creuse school district. He wrestled at EMU and said the sport was an integral part of his life.
“They finally get it right by hiring Dave Bolyard, one of the best young coaches in the sport,” said Weiand. “The opportunity to wrestle in college could change a kids life. It did mine.”