Tim Russell Named Head of ITA

I received the following announcement from the ITA (Intercollegiate Tennis Association) earlier today. I have a lot of thoughts to share regarding this latest action by the governing body of college tennis, but I’m going to keep them to myself . . . for now. My youngest child is graduating from high school next week, and I want to stay focused on the happy events in front of us. That said, please feel free to discuss your thoughts in the Comments section, and I will chime in as warranted. If you’d like to read my previous articles involving Dr. Russell, click here and here.

Dr. Timothy Russell has been appointed by the ITA Board of Directors as the new CEO of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association, with his role set to begin on July 1, 2015. A special appointed ITA Search Committee, chaired by David Benjamin, worked closely with a highly respected executive search firm, GSI Executive Search, to successfully complete an extensive selection process.

“The future of varsity tennis as a significant and forward-thinking college sport is bright, as is that of the ITA as an independent leader in the world of higher education and beyond. I am very excited to start working with the coaches and staff on behalf of the association and our student-athletes.”

Tim Russell

“Tim Russell’s passion, intellect, communication skills and his extensive experience with the ITA and the USTA make him the right choice to lead college tennis,” said Peter Smith, coach of the five-time NCAA Champion men’s tennis team at the University of Southern California. “It was obvious, not only to me, but to everyone involved in the interview process that Tim was the best choice for CEO. I am very excited to have him lead us through these challenging and changing times of the NCAA and college tennis in general.”

Dr. Russell has spent three decades as a distinguished educator at two major Division I schools (presently a Professor at Arizona State University and formerly at The Ohio State University) as well as at the University of Rochester, a leading Division III institution.

Steven Tepper, Dean of the Herberger Institute of Design and the Arts at Arizona State University, and long-time tennis player, remarked, “While ASU is losing an extraordinary member of our faculty, the ITA and college tennis are gaining an incredibly creative person who will advance your cause, build your community and imaginatively address the most pressing challenges facing tennis and other Olympic sports today.”

In addition to his academic achievements, Russell has also been a highly successful entrepreneur, with a leadership role in the development of two renowned American non-profit institutions. “These are unprecedented times for all of college sports. Moving forward will require leaders to think creatively and bring individuals together around a common goal. Tim Russell has excelled in both these areas throughout his career – inside and outside of the tennis world,” said Amy Perko, former member of the USTA’s Presidential Task Force on Tennis and Higher Education.

Sheila McInerney, head women’s tennis coach at Arizona State University and co-chair of the ITA Division I Operating Committee, said, “Tim Russell is an excellent choice as CEO of the ITA. Needless to say, filling David Benjamin’s shoes will be a tall order, but I believe Tim will do a fantastic job in moving the ITA forward. Tim comes in with a very good knowledge of the ITA and collegiate tennis, and he has a strong vision of what needs to be done to grow our product. Tim has a work ethic and passion for tennis, specifically collegiate tennis, second to none. I know he is determined to make sure that collegiate tennis continues to flourish under his leadership. I am excited to have Tim Russell in this leadership role for the ITA.”

Russell is also well known in the tennis world. He served as the USTA Collegiate Varsity Chair from 2007-2010, where he helped senior staff put together a strategic plan for the partnership of the USTA with the ITA and varsity collegiate tennis. From 2011-2012, Russell guided the USTA through major changes in the junior competitive tournament structure as USTA Junior Competition Chair, working to create a model that would lead to more and better American juniors for college coaches to recruit. He also served as a researcher and moderator for last year’s ITA Format Steering Committee.

“Tim knows and understands the ITA and the key issues facing college tennis, and will hit the ground running in providing a seamless transition,” retiring ITA Executive Director David A Benjamin said. “His work with boards of directors, strategic planning, fundraising and expertise in unifying large numbers of people around big causes will all be super assets for the ITA and college tennis. Our sport and coaches association will be in excellent hands moving forward over the years ahead.”

Russell has previously been inducted into the USTA Southwest Hall of Fame (November 2011) and the USTA Central Arizona Hall of Fame (April 2009), and will be inducted into the ITA Men’s Collegiate Tennis Hall of Fame later this month.

“I am humbled by this opportunity, and feel especially honored to succeed David Benjamin who has served the ITA and college tennis tirelessly throughout his career,” Russell said.

16 Comments on “Tim Russell Named Head of ITA”

  1. The ITA got this one right! They got a guy who loves college tennis and has the respect of all the Top collegiate coaches. He is an innovative thinker that can work with the USTA to help increase the visibility of college tennis as well as work with PD to develop better systems for getting more players into the professional pathway.

    As someone who has watched the Jr comp thing play out in the public blog arena, this guy got rolled under the bus. Anyone with any tennis DNA knows that committee had it right. They got bullied by 3 rich parents who had the interests of other rich kids ahead of what was best for the sport. So for you Lisa to say you will keep your comments to yourself is fine. Quite frankly you should continue to keep them to yourself. You don’t know this guy from a whole in the wall and are not well enough informed to make any educated comments to the contrary. Tim Russell will work tiressly on behalf of college tennis and probably a lot of the things he will do will help people like your son as well as help American players continue to be put as top priorities for college scholarships. So before you make biased uneducated comments why don’t you take some time to learn about what he is looking to set out to accomplish. I think you are going to look back at your pathetic comment above and realize you had things all wrong!

    Again, all you have to read is the first quote in the release. Peter Smith, 5x NCAA champion thinks this is right. If he thinks this is right than I think we should listen to him.

  2. When the “isn’t he great” article from the ITA itself lists perhaps the biggest debacle in junior tennis over the past 50-years as one of his best accomplishments, you know you’re in trouble”

    “From 2011-2012, Russell guided the USTA through major changes in the junior competitive tournament structure as USTA Junior Competition Chair, working to create a model that would lead to more and better American juniors for college coaches to recruit.”

    How is it a good thing to be at the forefront of an initiative that was rejected by 90% of your membership?

    I think the more apt endorsement is in the sentence that describes what he was really hired for:

    “His work with boards of directors, strategic planning, fundraising and expertise in unifying large numbers of people around big causes will all be super assets for the ITA and college tennis.”

    What I infer from this is that he is a politician who knows how to bring in donations for the ITA. It is telling that they put “college tennis” after ITA in the list of who will benefit from his competencies.

  3. I am wondering why there is not more of an outcry over what is going on with this announcement.

    “From 2011-2012, Russell guided the USTA through major changes in the junior competitive tournament structure as USTA Junior Competition Chair, working to create a model that would lead to more and better American juniors for college coaches to recruit.”

    “A model that would lead to more and better American juniors for college coaches to recruit”

    Was the ITA awake for the past few years as junior tournaments were slashed and cut?

  4. The ITA Got This One Right says –
    “They got bullied by 3 rich parents who had the interests of other rich kids ahead of what was best for the sport.”

    I am not a rich parent, nor are any of the other parents I know….

    How has the USTA helped out us? All I see are more expensive tournament fees.

    Has the USTA ever put a dollar into our sectional tournaments? NO.

    By paying a more expensive tournament fee, are there more refs to stop the cheating? NO.

    By making us play more sectionals than we ever wanted to –
    it cost the parents gas money and hotels.

    I have only ever seen the USTA at Easter Bowl. Never have seen McEnroe or Russell.

    =================================================
    The ITA Got This One Right says –
    “Tim Russell will work tiressly on behalf of college tennis and probably a lot of the things he will do will help people like your son ”

    Really? He has done nothing to help my son in junior tennis, but made our time more challenging.

    But, talk about sons…. Whose son has he helped? Hmmmmm……

    Well, it appears he has helped his OWN SON.

    BIG SURPRISE!

    Geoffrey Russell is currently Manager of Talent ID and Development for the United States Tennis Association. Russell’s responsibilities with USTA involve the establishment of Regional Training Centers throughout the country.

    From 2009 to 2010 Russell was the Managing Director of USTA Central Arizona, a 501 (c)(3) organization. USTA Central Arizona worked with a dozen school districts, helping them establish after school programming that led to junior team tennis and tournaments for players 10 and under.

    Prior to joining USTA Central Arizona, Russell was a mortgage broker for Morgan Financial, Inc. At Morgan Financial, Inc he was a top producer for the years 2008 and 2009.

    He played college tennis for William and Mary.

    You mean we couldn’t find one of the hundreds of players who are ranked or were ranked top 200 ATP to be the Manager of Talent ID for the USTA?

    Of course, they wouldn’t be as qualified as someone who played college tennis for William and Mary and then was a mortgage broker.

    Mortgage broker definitely trumps ATP player for finding tennis talent. Of course.

    This is the USTA after all where nepotism counts above having actual talent or experience for the job.

    1. Tennis5,

      How has Tim Russell helped his son? He doesn’t work for the USTA…..his son has been working there for over 5 years way before he was involved with JR Comp. have you ever met his son. He is one of the hardest working individuals I know and has made a huge difference in the sport of tennis. He doesn’t need Tim Russell to help him. His reputation speaks for itself based on the body of work he has put out there.

      If you know how the USTA WORKS you would know that national office is separate from the section office which is separate from the district office. USTA National gives all the sections close to 50 million dollars a year. So if they aren’t getting it done go complain to your district and section. The money they are getting is not being reinvested back into your events. Referees aren’t going to solve the cheating. They are part of the problem as there are not enough good ones out there and they end up causing more problems then help. You want cheaper tournament fees but want more referees. The referees are the tournament biggest expense. So what is it? Tournament fees or more refs? I would choose lower fees.

      You must have not been to the Easter bowl as your kid ist probably good enough. Last year I sat in the coaches reception at the Easter Bowl and heard Patrick Mcenroe
      address the coaches. And he was there for three days watching tennis with Jose Higueras. So please get your facts straight before you lie to this readership. Tim Russell was also at the girls 18 hard courts last year. I heard him talk to a group of coaches there. Again, your kid probably not good enough to ply in those events.

      Look forward to hearing back from you. Would love to hear from you about what you misrepresented up above. Maybe you can come back to everyone with honest truths.

  5. At this point, this is a positive step for US Tennis. I am familiar with the Russell’s and I like the direction they are taking US tennis for everyone…which includes coaches, junior players, parents and the USTA….I hope the momentum continues.

  6. Tennis5’s presumption about nepotism in the Russell/Russell dynamic, may not be conclusive, but the circumstances raise questions. I don’t have knowledge either way, but also paused when I saw that two family members both held significant positions in organizations that have great control over the destinies of our children all the way from the juniors, through college. It doesn’t mean that nepotism is in effect, but it is reminiscent of how politicians operate, and the ITA and USTA are both political creatures.

    That being said, I am inclined to rally to Tennis5’s defense based on the fact that he did not cast personal aspersions on ITA Tennis, but in response, ITA Tennis launched abusive ad hominem attacks against not Tennis5, but rather against his child. Hard to hold the moral high-ground when you slash at children to hurt the parent.

    1. Not sure how being a mortgage broker is related to tennis identification. But, the dad was a music guy, so go figure. It’s who you know in the tennis world, not what you know. These guys just line their pockets at the expense of junior players. What did McEnroe make a million dollars a year, one of his many jobs and he was never at one of my daughters tournaments. But, he was John’s brother, so I guess he should make a $$$$ load of money.

      1. Our sectional fees went up in the girl 16s, and there was no additional refs, In fact, I would say the cheating is worse sophomore year of high school. I have complained to our sectional head, and they tell us they have nothing to do with the tournaments, that they are funded by the clubs and tournament director. The tournament director says the court time is very expensive, and they can’t afford refs. All I know is I’m paying over a hundred dollars for a tournament and it is awful.

  7. Lisa, thanks for this update. Somehow, I missed this news item. Appears not to have been press worthy anywhere.

    Sorta of a strange choice though. Junior parents thought this guy was a disaster, and messed up the tournament structure beyond repair. Not sure how he should be promoted to another tennis job… Scratching my head here. Incompetence and bad judgment in the tennis world just seem to get you more money… Pathetic.

  8. I listened to Tim speak to many college coaches last summer in San Diego. I was not a fan of his after that and didn’t think he actually wanted to listen to any of the women’s coaches that were against the ITA’s format change. He in no way brought any one together on that concept and was quite full of himself. I don’t think this is a good hire at all for college tennis but will give him a chance to see how he does to “save” college tennis.

  9. Hi Women’s Coach,

    Agree. He has not made US Tennis better at all. If anything, he hurt it.
    It seems like US tennis will continue to get worse with these folks.

  10. Long-time reader, first-time comments. Lisa, thank you for creating this environment for us tennis fans. Also, thanks to everyone for their passion on the issues.

    I wanted to weigh in on this post, in particular, because I was a finalist for the position Dr. Russell got with the ITA. I did a Google search this morning, and this was one of the few public outlets that covered the news of the hiring which was odd to me.

    I’m writing this comment for only 2 reasons (neither of them is to evaluate Dr. Russell, since I do not know him personally): 1) I *hope* that everyone involved in college tennis – the ITA, parents, coaches, other governing bodies, etc. – have the same goals. Which is to grow the sport and promote it how it deserves to be promoted (and funded). I base this off my own college tennis experience as an ITA Arthur Ashe Award winner, and from what I know in the last 20 years in talking to parents, coaches and some influential people at the other tennis governing bodies. While there is a laundry list of items that go into making college tennis grow and be more “marketable” (I can rattle them off if you like), it would be a shame if the true mission of college tennis, and its responsibility to all involved especially in the US, got lost in red tape. Yes, it’s true, the almighty dollar does reign. But the true mission is to grow our sport across all divisions, men & women (and juniors), acknowledging tennis is a global sport; in other words: think globally, act locally (to steal someone else’s mantra); 2) that there is a lot more transparency in decision-making. Because, in this day and age, everything will come out eventually anyway – from votes, to legislation, to back-office meetings, to people being hired for certain jobs, to people snapping pictures with their iPhones – and I *hope* that the new ITA embraces this and knows what they’re doing in this regard.

    I wanted to thank Lisa and the readers of this blog. As I was prepping for my ITA interview process over many months late last year and early this year, I was on this blog though couldn’t comment. I wish I could have, and probably should have anyway in retrospect, about some of these issues. I think this is an important space for people, parents and coaches. I know for me, my parents sacrificed a great deal with virtually no help from any governing body until I got to college, and I think it is great you are all taking such an interest. Now that I’m a parent and not just a college tennis alum, I understand. 🙂 I’ve run my own marketing agency for 4 years now, and the ITA was practically the only “job” I would have left it for, so I’m pretty passionate about the issues too.

    Best of luck to you all, and let’s put our trust in the new leadership – CEO and now COO – that college tennis will grow in the years ahead, and for all the right reasons.

    Mike Sprouse

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