INDIANAPOLIS — Bob Grant and the rest of the Wright State athletic administration had a little extra bounce in their step Tuesday inside the Indiana Farmers Coliseum.
And it wasn’t just about the outcome of the Raiders game against Northern Kentucky in the Horizon League championship game. The 72-71 win in front of a few thousand fans, mostly wearing Raider colors, and a national television audience was WSU’s first title game berth since 2019 when it lost to NKU.
As they say, revenge is sweet, especially when it results in an NCAA berth for the first time since the 2017-18 season.
But Tuesday was about more than revenge.
A year after that loss to NKU, WSU athletics was on the brink of relegation to Division II after cutting softball and men’s and women’s tennis teams as part of a plan for a $2 million reduction in the department’s operating budget. It put the university three under the required 14 sports to remain D-I and led WSU to request and obtain a waiver to operate in non-compliance for two full seasons.
Then the COVID shutdown wreaked havoc for a couple seasons, causing cancellations and postponements. So it’s not hard to tell why the HL title match was a game WSU needed to show off its brand and its resilience.
“This is always super important to the university,” Grant, the WSU athletics director said before the game. “We have a great ability for us to shine a positive light on everything Wright State. That’s ultra important for us.”
So is Coach Scott Nagy’s team and it’s success.
It’s like that at a lot of universities. Either football and/or men’s hoops help fund the other sports. But it’s not just about the money. It’s about the momentum.
The university now has some.
Grant said WSU will announce the addition of three sports in the next several weeks, bringing the program into compliance.
“We’re a Division-I university,” Grant said.
Grant also pointed out that since the Raiders started playing well on the court the last five years, other sports have upped their games. In that span, baseball has a pair of league titles, women’s basketball has three league titles and a win in the NCAA Tournament, and men’s soccer and golf and women’s volleyball each have a league title.
“Men’s basketball is the engine that drives us,” Grant said.
It doesn’t just drive other sports either.
After Tim Finke hit a three pointer to give the Raiders a 68-65 lead — completing a huge comeback with 4:02 left — I glanced over at the student section and saw a member of the dance team looking like she having a hard time containing her emotions.
A few minutes later, there were thousands of more tears of joy as the Raiders were cutting down the net.
And then there was Grant, who after some court-side hugs likely bounced all the way back to Greene County.
Contact Scott Halasz aty 937-502-4507.