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The Death of (too many) College Tennis ProgramsBy Marcia Frost, Examiner.com
There's a bug going around campuses and it's getting more and more difficult to stop. It's killing one of the most popular sports in the world at its very roots. No one can say it's caused by one thing. Some blame Title IX, others put the cause on lack of supporters and many just blame the recession. But the deaths were occurring even before the economy took a nosedive last year. It's a massive killing of college tennis programs going on and it needs to be stopped.
Between 1970 and 1980 there were only a half dozen college tennis programs eliminated in the United States. In 2008, there was double that number dropped in the one year and this year -- with half of 2009 remaining -- that number looks to get larger. The alarming fact is that it's the NCAA Division I programs -- the ones that should be the most popular with the most supporters -- which are beginning to be consistently hit by the cuts. Last year a number of Division I schools lost college tennis teams, including highly-touted Arizona State. And this year programs were cut at Indiana State and the University of Tennessee-Martin.
Amidst all this cancellation, there is one program that may emerge from its dark cloud. The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse has been given a unique chance to save its program. After the University announced it would be cutting men's tennis (and baseball), Coach Bill Hehli joined with his players and the teams' supporters to lobby the school's administration in an effort to save the program. Wisconsin-La Crosse came back with a unique option -- the team could survive if they supported themselves.
The Eagles will get to continue their team for the 2009-10 season as the last in which they are financially supported by the school. They must raise the funds to keep the program going for additional years -- or Spring 2009 will be their last in competition. The team's yearly budget is approximately $40,000, a mere fraction of what it costs to run a college football or basketball program.
As for the other programs lost or in jeopardy of leaving, there are things that can be done. Join the College Tennis Advocacy, a program fun jointly by the ITA (Intercollegiate Tennis Association) and the USTA Collegiate Committee to support college tennis. By becoming a member, you will receive information on programs that are being threatened with extinction as well as who to contact to help save them. Also, support whatever college tennis teams you wish -- whether it's an alma mater or the closest one. And remember that there is strength in numbers.
This summer, the ITA Summer Circuit will have events at college campuses around the country and September will begin a new season full of events to watch. Most of the dual matches are free to enjoy and schedules can be found at the websites of each university. National collegiate events can supply as much excitement and competition at Wimbledon and even though you probably won't get strawberries and cream, keep in mind that many at Wimbledon today came from college tennisso the same talent will be available for little or no cost. Don't let any more college tennis programs die. Go out and…
Catch a match!
Anyone who wishes to help Coach Hehli save Wisconsin-Lacrosse men's tennis can donate at the school's foundation website(MEN'S TENNIS MUST BE IN "OTHER" BOX) -- or contact Coach Hehli directly with fundraising ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org.