I’m going to let you in on a little secret – changing the match format is not going to save college tennis.
I applaud everyone’s outrage, pleading and contempt on the changes facing college tennis.
I also understand that the call to change the game before ‘administrators’ eliminate college tennis on campuses throughout the country comes from noble intents.
I just want to give everyone a reality check.
Do you really think having a few more fans or changing the format is going to keep some administrator from cutting your program when it comes down to money?
No. Not in a million years.
Let me ask another tough question.
When you rank tennis team’s status on your favorite campus, where does it land? Is it near the bottom to bottom-half?
Sure it does for most schools and 100 more fans are not going to help.
Do you really think television is going pay to show more matches?
Sure, the big conferences will have some matches shown as part of their bigger deals, but good tennis television production is expensive when done right. To attract any sort of viewership, the production would have to be on the level of other sports. Fans will not be flocking to watch this, so there won’t be a lot of earnings from this. Most of the time teams would be paying for this privilege.
Let me emphasize this by pointing out that very few non-Grand Slam ATP and WTA matches are even televised…. by the Tennis Channel.
The sad reality is that in a few years we may be lamenting the loss of several programs, mostly on the men’s side. I say this because they are not going to cut programs like rowing or equestrian, to name a few. These types of programs fulfill a need. Offering more scholarship than tennis, they are the counterbalance to the preponderance of men’s scholarships given by sports like football. This is just a fact of Title IX.
Go back to your list of sports on your campus. How many of the teams in the bottom tier are from sports like those, which have been added in the last 20 years to offset football scholarships? They aren’t going anywhere. Donors and the athletes themselves offset much of the cost for these sports.
Because of this, I suspect the per-athlete cost of services is also much less in those sports.
Tennis is not going to become revenue-positive with a simple change in format. Attendance isn’t going to do it. Television revenue isn’t coming.
If money gets tight, as we all expect it to real soon, the programs that will survive will be from big conferences and from savy athletic departments that have planned for the future.
How will they plan?
One way is by endowed athletic scholarships and programs. Taking less money away from the budget always helps and having it tied to a specific sport is the perfect way.
Winning helps. If your program is successful, then odds are it will be harder to cut. The problem with this is that by definition, this eliminates most programs, because is someone is winning, then someone is losing. It’s a zero-sum game.
I hate to say this but having fewer foreign players could help. I personally think having foreign players is good. College is a time when many kids get to really know people that are different from themselves.
That being said, if your team is all foreign, do you think an AD is going to think twice about cutting a bunch of kids from non-tax paying families?
I can ramble all night, but I think you get my point.
Create excitement within the stadium. I can assure you that what the Big 12 has in store for this year is NOTHING compared to being at a Georgia tennis match in the 80’s, let alone a Trinity match in the 70’s and 80’s when I was falling in love with college tennis.
Read what Erica Perkins Jasper and David Roditi (two ex-USTA coaches I might ad) say in the article about their ITA Awards.
One last word on the scoring.
You want excitement? Bring back the nine-point tiebreaker!