I’d be willing to bet that, for most of our kids, college tennis is the goal. Maybe not The Dream, but definitely The Goal. But what will college tennis look like by the time our kids get there? For my kid, that’s only one year from now. Let’s take a look at what’s there as of today and what’s coming down the pike . . .
- Right now, as a result of Title IX, a fully-funded Division I women’s tennis team has 8 scholarships to distribute; a fully-funded men’s team has 4 1/2. That means, if you’re the parent of a tennis-playing-boy, the likelihood that he’ll get a full ride to college is pretty much zero – if he’s a top 20 player, the odds go up, but, otherwise, he may or may not get a small percentage of the overall cost to attend. Given that most private and out-of-state tuitions are now topping $50,000 PER YEAR, your ROI for the years of lessons, drills, equipment, tournaments, etc. is pretty negligible. And, let’s not forget that our children are competing against players from the international tennis community for those few coveted spots and scholarship dollars. At present, in Divisions I, II, and III, there is no limit on the number of international players who can be on a team or receive scholarship money. Junior colleges, on the other hand, limit the number of non-Americans to 1/4 of the team’s allotment of scholarship players.
- The current scoring system for a college dual match (a match played against another college team) is as follows: (1) Teams simultaneously play three lines of doubles matches that are played as an 8-game pro-set with a 7-point tiebreaker at 7-all. Whichever school wins 2 of the 3 matches earns 1 point in the overall dual match score. All three matches are played to completion. (2) Teams simultaneously play 6 lines of singles matches, 2 out of 3 sets with a 7-point tiebreaker at 6-all. Each match win earns 1 point in the overall dual match score. In men’s matches, there are no service lets – if a serve touches the net and lands inside the service box, it is considered in play. Whichever school accumulates 4 points overall (3 singles points plus the doubles point OR 4 singles points) wins the dual match. All six singles matches are played to completion except during tournaments where it is clinch/clinch. At the end of the dual match season (which occurs during the Spring semester), the top 64 teams compete in the NCAA tournament for a spot in the coveted Sweet 16 in May and a chance to be National Champions.
- Last year, the ITA and NCAA agreed to test out a format during the Fall (individual) season and the National Indoor Tournament (held in February before the start of the dual match season) which used no-ad scoring. The decision to test the format came out of discussions between the ITA, USTA, and NCAA on ways to shorten the overall match time in order to increase fan support and, supposedly, to increase the chances of garnering television contracts. I watched several of the matches on livestreaming – I was not impressed. After the Men’s Indoor Tournament, a player poll was conducted regarding the scoring experiment. The result: 80% of players who played singles in the tournament were against no-ad scoring and 85% of players who played doubles were against it. I would call that an overwhelming mandate opposing no-ad!
- Now, ITA has announced the use of no-ad scoring in all matches during the Fall and Spring seasons (click here to read the announcement), and is hoping for it to be approved for use during the NCAA tournament as well. The stated reason for this scoring change is to get more fans in the stands for the matches in order to help the teams become self-funding (tennis is a non-revenue sport in Division I). Several women’s DI coaches, led by Indiana University’s Lin Loring, have signed a petition opposing the process by which no-ad was adopted (click here to read more on this topic from ZooTennis). On the men’s side, The Citadel’s head coach, Chuck Kriese, has taken the lead role (click on the link below to read Coach Kriese’s letter).
On Monday, August 11th, I will devote the ParentingAces radio show (the podcast is now online and posted below) to a discussion of these changes and their potential impact on both college tennis and junior tennis. Bill Mountford, USTA’s Director of Junior Tournaments, flat out told me during the 2014 NCAA Tournament that however the scoring system goes in college tennis, junior tournaments are likely follow, so this thing has great implications for all of us. While I haven’t had a chance to speak with Bill directly since the ITA announcement, I did get a voicemail from him last night saying that USTA is considering experimenting with no-ad scoring in entry- and intermediate-level tournaments in the name of shortening events. I urge you to tune in at Noon ET on Monday and/or to listen to the recorded podcast which will be online later that day.
As of now, none of these organizations has asked for input from the players themselves which is in direct opposition to NCAA’s recent actions putting student-athlete welfare front and center. To quote NCAA President Mark Emmert, “Today, the student-athlete voice is an essential part of our processes. Who better to consult on student-athlete welfare than student-athletes?”
We Tennis Parents need to understand what’s happening and to voice our opinion – either individually or as a group – to the ITA, USTA, and NCAA. I’m hoping we can help effect a change and that our governing bodies will fulfill their stated purpose of preserving and growing the beautiful game of college tennis while standing up for the student-athletes who make it possible. To that end, I encourage each of you to contact Mark Emmert, NCAA President, via telephone at 317/917-6222 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org and to add your thoughts in the Comments below. Maybe a parent petition is in order as well? It’s time to rally. Together, we can save college tennis.
Coach Chuck Kriese’s Men’s Division I Tennis Association (MDTA) update letter (Click link to read)
NCAA President’s letter – Spring 2014 (Click link to read)