Building Your College Tennis Program
Chapter 5: "S.O.S": Saving Our Sport
Since 2003, the Intercollegiate Tennis Association has documented more than 90 varsity tennis programs as having been dropped in all collegiate divisions (NCAA I, II & III, NAIA and Junior College). Surprisingly, the number of men's and women's programs dropped appears to be equalizing.
No program is 100 % safe from elimination. It is critical that every varsity tennis coach take the proactive steps outlined in Chapters 1 - 4 of the Building Your Program section of the ITA web site to help ensure the future of his/her varsity tennis program.
There may come a time, however, when a varsity tennis coach learns that his/her varsity tennis program is in jeopardy. The earlier a coach can become aware of imminent danger the better. Two ITA member coaches who found their programs facing a possible termination offer the following advice:
1. Stay knowledgeable about Title IX and your institution's compliance
2. Don't be afraid to question your administration when you know things are not going in the right direction relative to Title IX compliance.
3. Get your head out of the sand. Be aware of the direction that your whole athletic department seems to be taking. Look for clues (statewide budget cuts to higher education; a large payout over the release of prominent coaches and/or administrators; athletic department operating at a budget deficit; new administrators with a history of dropping programs at other institutions, etc.)
4. Stay connected to your community. Do not let tennis courts (indoor and outdoor) be removed anywhere in your community without a replacement plan. The concept of building community ties and giving back to the community are critical to the survival of tennis programs around the country.
At the 2008 USTA Semi-Annual Meeting in Naples, Florida, Donna Shalala, President of the University of Miami told the audience that making varsity tennis (and tennis, in general) relevant to the general student body on your campus is a very important factor. Donna stated that tuition driven institutions will base decisions according to the will of the student body. If football were to be dropped at the University of Miami, Shalala surmises that there would be a student revolt. If varsity tennis were to be dropped, she would expect unhappy tennis players, their parents and some alumni, but not too many students would express opposition.
Don't think that you and your program can fly under the radar. Don't rest on past accomplishments. Be innovative.
Oftentimes, the coach is the last to know that his/her program is being terminated. Past experience has shown us that many coaches only find out once the decision has been made. This is a very difficult scenario to overcome, but it can be overcome and it has been overcome by other programs. The following are suggestions to help you navigate this difficult situation based upon the experience of other coaches who have been in this position and saved their programs from termination.
It is important to remember that this is a local issue. However, you have nationwide resources available to you to help bring the situation to a positive resolution.
What you should do:
1. Inform the ITA of your situation as soon as possible (preferably before the final decision has been made)
2. Contact your USTA Section's collegiate coordinator
3. Communicate with your tennis and general alumni
4. Form a core group to serve as the brain trust to direct the campaign. It is likely that this core group will do the majority of the leg work.
5. Communicate with your current team members and their parents
6. Reach out to influential members of your community
7. Reach out to your booster club members
8. Conduct research about the financial situation of your athletic department. Know the relationship of your team budget to the overall athletic department budget.
9. Ask for and try to schedule meetings with your university administration (President, Board of Trustees/Regents, Athletic Department, etc.)
10. Find contact information (name, mailing address, phone number, email address) for all decision-makers relative to this issue and provide this to the ITA, your boosters, members of the community.
11. Seek media coverage about the issue
What the ITA can do
1. The ITA will write a letter of support to the President, Board of Trustees/Regents, Athletic Department)
2. The ITA will inform the College Tennis Advocacy Network
3. The ITA will provide a representative(s) to attend key meetings, whenever possible.
4. The ITA will help to identify influential people who might be able to help.
5. The ITA will help to bring media attention to the situation.
What the USTA can do
1. The USTA Collegiate Committee will write a letter of support to the President, Board of Trustees/Regents, Athletic Department)
2. The USTA Section will assist with your local campaign
3. The USTA will provide a representative(s) to attend key meetings, whenever possible.
4. The USTA will help to identify influential people who might be able to help.
5. The USTA may be able to provide some stop-gap, emergency funding.