Thursday, February 3, 2011

Stanford Women, Virginia Men Stay at No. 1; Inside Tennis Talks with Paul Torricelli; Fahoum of Duke Has Unique Perspective on Middle East

The second rankings of the spring season were released by the ITA this afternoon, with the Stanford women and Virginia men retaining places at the top. There are, in fact, no changes at all among the Top 16 on the men's side. In the women's rankings, Notre Dame fell all the way from No. 4 to No. 12 on the basis of their home loss to Arkansas in the ITA Kick-off weekend final, while the Razorbacks moved up to 14 from their previous spot at 23. The University of Washington women rose to the 15th spot, after their Kick-off weekend wins over Texas and Florida State, both of whom fell out of the Top 16. There will be another team ranking next Tuesday, and on the 14th, there will be new individual rankings too. For the complete team rankings, see the ITA website.

The Virginia men are a fixture at the top of the college tennis rankings, and Liz Clarke, who is the tennis reporter for the Washington Post, wrote this article about the rise of the program and the role college tennis plays in development, not just of professional tennis players, but of balanced and mature young people.

Another recent interesting piece centered around college tennis is this Q and A with former Northwestern men's coach Paul Torricelli, who was inducted into the ITA Men's Hall of Fame in 2009. Torricelli, now back in the Bay Area working at a private club, spoke with Inside Tennis reporter Richard Osborn about finding the right school for each player, new USTA Chairman Jon Vegosen, college as a development option, international players on collegiate rosters, and coaching Todd Martin.

In his questions, Osborn seems stuck in 2006, with comments such as "the growing number of foreign-born athletes" and "our top players are often skipping college." I believe the international player count has been pretty steady over the past few years, and I'm not sure "often" is the word in the second phrase. Although Ryan Harrison, Jordan Cox and Denis Kudla did turn pro, Rhyne Williams, Chase Buchanan, Tennys Sandgren, Alex Domijan, Raymond Sarmiento, Evan King, Ryan Thacher, Devin Britton and Bradley Klahn did not. I also think that Osborn is wrong in maintaining that because tennis isn't a revenue sport, there's no pressure to win. He also gets Sam Querrey's choice of schools wrong (it was USC, not UCLA, that Querrey committed to before turning pro), but I don't want to nitpick. He does ask some good questions, and Torricelli gives some even better answers. Here's one exchange about international players.

IT: But there are still the Stanfords of the world who are still capable of grabbing the top Americans and not necessarily having to go beyond our borders for top talent.

PT: Right. But if you’re the coach at Mississippi State, a very good tennis program, SEC, arguably the best conference in the country, you CAN’T be competitive recruiting Americans. They’re not going to go to Starkville, Mississippi. They’re going to snub their noses at it. You may pick up a couple of guys, but you’re mostly going to have to do it internationally.

And for an inspiring story about one of those international athletes, check out this story in the Duke Chronicle about Nadine Fahoum, a senior transfer from Old Dominion. Growing up as an Arab in Israel, Fahoum went to a Jewish school and was was encouraged to see the conflict between the two cultures from both perspectives. Excelling at tennis led to more integration and ultimately, to a university in the United States. Looking beyond yourself and your comfort zone isn't easy; Fahoum is one example of the rewards of doing just that.


Frank said...

If coaches really made a concerted effort to recruit only American players, it would happen. That is not the case. If an American junior looks at a roster and finds zero Americans the general response is " forget this." So it's really a chicken and egg argument.

Jon in PBG said...

Frank, College coaches in all sports must sign the best players to win. In football 99% of the roster is American, in tennis more of the roster is foreign. The faculty is international and the student body is global which makes the college experience better. If Ryan Harrison and Jack Sock had gone to college, they would have been chased after by every college coach. The best players have to make the roster, not based on anything but tennis ability. Life is not fair, American white men have lots of advantages in the world, the fact that they may not get a college tennis scholarship is one tiny unfair thing in the grand scheme.

5.0 Player said...

Jon- I generally agree with you that we really can't blame the coaches for trying to recruit the best players in order to keep their jobs and that sometimes that means signing international players.

However, I do think that they should at least try to first make best efforts to recruit as many American players as possible. This is United States college tennis, not international college tennis. The colleges in foreign countries are not giving tennis scholarships to U.S. players and so we shouldn't be the only ones handing out such benefits.

The fault lies with the NCAA and the USTA who put no restrictions on the number of college scholarships that can be awarded to foreign players. So long as there are no restrictions many college coaches will continue to give most of their scholarships to foreign players.

Your slogan "life is not fair" can get more easily turned around to support the opposite point of view. Just because the colleges in other countries are not offering tennis scholarships to their citizens or our citizens shouldn't require the U.S. to make up for that and award scholarships to their citizens. If their own countries don't offer their players scholarships then I say that even if that is "unfair" then too bad...life is unfair. We shouldn't be the only country who are the suckers who subsidize the education and training of foreign players.

At a recent Olympics several of the U.S. college presidents and coaches watched many foreign athletes receive gold medals in swimming, track, diving, etc. for their countries after being trained on U.S. scholarships at U.S. colleges. They are asking, "what's wrong with this picture?!" The NCAA has to finally do something about this. Limit the number of foreign scholarships to less than 4 per team. This way foreign players won't be totally excluded but they won't take over U.S.college tennis like they have been allowed to do so far.

Dynasty? said...

UVA is certainly an elite program and is in the midst of a sensational run. Props to them. But not sure about the headline - a dynasty? They haven't reached an NCAA final yet. I think the only dynasty is out in Los Angeles right now.

Frank said...

Jon, What are you talking about? Global college experience due to the presence of foreign players? American white males? My comment had nothing to do with that.

Avidtns said...

The whole discussion between recruiting American vs Intl players should come down to a financial on:
1) These are tax dollars paid by people from those states for the most part (private schools that get no public funding can do as they please) Those dollars should go primarily to US kids
2) The latest study confirms that the value of this education is approximately $90K per year. Ask yourself, especially in these times, if you were had the option to spend $90K per year on either someone who has paid taxes into the system or someone who has not what would you do?
3) Certainly with the men only receiving 4.5 scholarships per year, or $405K, the majority should go to US kids. Women should be divided with only a certain percentage going to international players as well.
4) This is not all about winning. It's about where do we spend our tax dollars which we pay for the benifit of kids in the US.

tax cents said...

Avidtns I think overall you make a good arguement. You know your stuff. But your question on how we'd want $90K spent is kind of beside the point. I think the larger question is ask yourself how much of your OWN tax money goes to college tennis scholarships. 2 cents? Can anyone actually quantify how much of an individual's taxes go to these? Should I also be upset if my taxes go to lacrosse scholarships and I think it's a boring sport? I have kids who play tennis and it would be great if they got a college scholarship someday, but I have a hard time being that upset over an extremely small percentage of my yearly taxes going to say a South American who is a nice kid and a good student, looking to better his/her life, etc. Personally I don't feel any different if they are from Peru or from Pensacola. I'm much more upset about my taxes going to say the U.S. going to war on the premise WMDs existed in Iraq, etc.

The counter of this is that one should be upset that any money is being spent and that it all adds up. But seriously, we are literally talking about pocket change here.

That said, 5.0, Frank, et al make some good arguments. It is an interesting discussion.

getreal said...

Bottom line- without foreign players the level of college tennis would drop significantly. Bottom line - it's not the coaches fault more of the top recruits are not American. Perhaps these US kids who get passed over by better foreign athletes in tennis recruiting should have been focusing on a sport where they would have a better chance of being recruited based on their athletic ability vs the competition. Tennis is not the only college sport that recruits a lot of foreigners. Yea it would be great to see more americans on the top teams but we need more top American recruits.

Laura said...

I remember Jon Wertheim saying that he was all set to write a SI article on some team from a small college that was kicking butt in tennis. It was going to be a feel good story. Until he investigated and found the team were all foreign ringers. He decided not to do the piece.

I place most of the blame on the scummy NCAA coaches for killing college tennis in this country and reducing it to the status of rugby. They try to justify their sorry behavior by blaming American kids who are not "worldy" and "mature" like the 22 year old Europeans they recruit. Well then it's your failing for not polishing them NCAA coaches. That's YOUR job. That's what our American colleges are for. To develop young American minds and bodies. You are taking the easy way out by using the seedy foreign pipeline because you failed. Not the American kids. There is no excuse for not finding and recruiting American players. It's just laziness.

Guys like Torricelli make me want to puke. They killed college tennis. NCAA college tennis is a big scam and one day someone will force the NCAA to clean it up. Then we might get some real coaches instead of these clowns who use the pipeline. Just look at UVA's roster! It never ends.

Frank said...

Laura, Love the rant! Really, I'm not being sarcastic at all. Let me count the ways-scummy coaches. It all goes far beyond just the recruiting of foreign players.

getreal said...

Also their is a flip side coaches will cut a foreign player from a team in a NY sec, more so that they would a US player. Coaches also like foreign players several told me because they dont have to deal with US tennis parents. But what I dont understand is how both UVA and Texas A&M have so many good players in thier line-up if there are ony 4.5 scholarships? Any ideas anyone?

collegetennis said...

to everybody who is whining about us juniors not getting recruited by top programs for scholarships hey its the 21st century. its a global economy, competition is global from sports to everything else and if the us wants to compete the us needs to produce the best product and that applies to di college tennis players if your kid is not good enough than invest in a college fund or play another sport

5.0 Player said...

Collegetennis- You're missing the point. U.S. College is not a global organization. It's a U.S. organization.