Michigan's Bruce Berque Makes Case Against NCAA D-I Changes Eliminating Warmups and Shortening Changeovers
I received this email from University of Michigan men's head coach Bruce Berque last night.
I am writing to you with my thoughts on the ongoing issue of the NCAA proposals for dual match format change at the NCAA Championships. Please feel free to share this with your readers. While the recent news that two significant proposals are now off the board is very welcome, I have to say that our players and I are still far from satisfied. It appears to me that it may have been assumed that the other three dual match format proposals were acceptable to players and coaches, since there was not a dramatic outcry about them. While it would not surprise me if some players and coaches are ok with the remaining three proposals, I am confident that many simply are not. While the proposals may seem relatively harmless at first, it is very important that we analyze the potential unintended consequences before we go forward with the changes.
For me, the most troubling of the three remaining proposals is the removal of a warm-up before singles. This could be a competitive disadvantage to the player who is first off the doubles court and faces an opponent who is last off the doubles court. The player who is first off could potentially "sit" for 30 minutes, and then have to face a fresh opponent. Clearly this would create a situation that is both unfair and unsafe to the player who is expected to serve at full speed with a cold arm. In my opinion this would be the equivalent of asking a baseball pitcher to throw at full speed with no warm up pitches after a long inning sitting in the dugout! For the record, I would also like to see the 3 minute warm up with the opponent be maintained for doubles. I don't see this to be an inconvenience for fans, as it is quite common for them to come a bit late anyway.
Taken together the remaining two proposals (shortened intermission and changeovers) create a situation in which players will be extremely challenged to hydrate, eat, receive coaching, and use the bathroom in the allotted time. A five minute intermission makes it almost impossible for players to leave the court, use the bathroom, eat and drink something, visit with a trainer (sometimes to decide if they are fit to stay in the lineup), and return to court without being penalized. Of course, any type of team meeting would be impossible unless all of the above activities are removed as options. I also think it is a mistake to assume that a 60 second changeover provides players with 60 seconds of rest. By the time a player gets to the bench there could easily be just 50 seconds left on the clock. "Time" is then called by the official (indicating that it is time to leave the bench and prepare for play) with 30 seconds remaining. That gives the player about 20 seconds to catch his breath, receive coaching, eat, drink, and towel off. Good luck players! And remember to grip all your rackets before you get to the court!
In a sport with no substitutions, no bathroom breaks, just one injury timeout, and a high incidence of match outcome impacting cramping, I just don't see the risk/reward balance tipping towards the reward.
Asking our players to rush around, and compromise their health and enjoyment of the game to shave minutes off a dual match seems absurd! What are we doing this for? And where is the data to support the premise that shortening matches will increase TV exposure and attendance? Wouldn't it make sense to have a statistic indicating the average length of a dual match before we make radical changes based on the premise that the matches are too long. I also agree with you that the match times the NCAA referred to in their release are way off from the norm.
Are we really expected to believe that these changes will improve the student athlete experience? What do the student athletes think? I also believe that the change to a final four final site, as opposed to a sweet 16 final site, will make the perceived need to shorten dual matches at the championship site irrelevant. In closing, I want to express my concern that these proposals were made with a questionable premise, questionable assumptions, and a complete lack of systematic input from players and coaches.
I do plan on sharing this e-mail with each member of the NCAA Championships/Sports Management Cabinet. I am happy to share the complete list of Cabinet member names and e-mail addresses to any Division I coach who wishes to join me in expressing his/her thoughts before a decision is made as to whether to institute the remaining NCAA Tennis Committee proposals. Division I players who would like to reach out to the cabinet can send a direct facebook message to either Evan King or Bob van Overbeek to request the full cabinet list.
Thanks for your time Colette!
University of Michigan