A Twitter campaign, an online petition and a rallying cry that has brought the tennis community together is what #SaveCollegeTennis is all about.
If you haven't heard, the NCAA is about to change the format for men and women's college singles matches to a two out of three sets, with the third set being a first player to 10, super tiebreak.
At noon on Saturday, a campaign to get #SaveCollegeTennis trending on Twitter appeared to be working with tweets from current and former college tennis players, coaches, tennis fans and supporters of college athletics from all over the world.
As I wrote on my blog yesterday:
Making the third set of singles matches a super-tiebreak, match tiebreak or whatever you want to call it turns college tennis into World Team Tennis, minus the loud music in between points and the multi-colored courts. (No offense to Billie Jean King and her WTT, as there is a place for her organization in our sport)
Not only would players like Steve Johnson and John Isner not have stayed four years at their respective institutions, many other players would've bypassed college altogether with this rule in place. This hurts the development of many players who aren't ready for the rigors and the great unknown of the pro tours. If there is one player the committee should've talked to before thinking about these changes, they could've talked to Isner. Look at what college did for him.
One of the great things about college tennis at all levels is that it is an endurance test. Matches can go on long, but sometimes they go quickly as well. Yes, they are student athletes, but they are also supposed to be young athletes that can play all day.
It's about singles, doubles and at some events, it would be fun to see mixed be thrown in as well.
Let's add to college tennis, not take away from it.
One of the most successful coaches in college tennis, Manny Diaz, the men's coach at the University of Georgia released a statement at about 12:30 pm on Saturday.
Statement From University of Georgia Men’s Tennis Head Coach Manuel Diaz
August 18, 2012
“I firmly believe that the members of the NCAA Tennis Committee - many of whom I call friends - have the best intentions to help grow our game and generate additional interest in it. Unfortunately, they may have acted a little too quickly, and most people feel that we may be losing the integrity of our sport. My hope is that the committee will evaluate and gauge the sentiment that has now surfaced regarding their decisions, and I truly believe we can come to a compromise.
“Most of our matches last between three and three and a half hours. Our fans are very diverse. Some come for singles and some come for doubles, and the diehards stay the duration. Our sport was never intended to be packaged as a one-hour primetime TV sport. Tennis tests you in many ways. It’s a sport where you have to have strength, agility, endurance, perseverance, and the ability to make adjustments.
“Regarding the Final Four concept that has been approved, we studied that a few years ago but felt like we were robbing so many student-athletes from the experience and benefit of reaching the final site. I agree that our event is long, and I would be a proponent for having an individual part of our season in the fall and a team season in the spring. I would eliminate the singles and doubles portion of the championship following the team tournament, assuring the student-athletes do not spend 12 days at the final site if they are playing the duration of the tournament.
“In regards to the no warm-up with an opponent and a 60-second changeover, the amount of time saved from that would be extremely minute. Student-athletes won’t have the benefit of their coaches being able to get their attention and make final points regarding opponents.
“Ultimately I believe that the committee will do the right thing and help us retain the integrity of the sport. I have confidence that they will take more time to listen to the groundswell of support for our game.”
Here is a link to the entire report:
Here is the Facebook page where you can join the fight to save college tennis.
It's a bit of a surprise to me that tweets and retweets are coming in from representatives of all sports.
The NCAA in recent years has been more about taking away than promoting.
Maybe taking a stand like this will make the NCAA realize that sports like tennis have a passionate and devoted following, and these athletes work as hard or harder than revenue sport student-athletes at most institutions.
This might just actually work.