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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

NCAA Division I Committee Removes Recommendation for Third Set Tiebreaker and Six-Game Doubles; Other Proposed Changes Remain

The rumors that the NCAA Division-I tennis committee would rescind their recommendation to play third-set tiebreakers and one-set doubles in dual matches started circulating yesterday, and this afternoon, the NCAA posted a statement on their website confirming it.

The committee had considered a “super tiebreaker” for singles matches (first player to 10 points in the third set, (sic) and playing one six-game set in doubles with a tiebreaker at sixall (sic) instead of playing one eight-game pro set, but subsequent reaction caused committee members to revisit the proposals.

This is good news. It retains the integrity of the sport and assures the highest level of competition for Division-I college tennis. The committee should be congratulated for not obstinately insisting this was necessary and escalating the battle to the Championship Cabinet meeting next month.

In my eyes, the wording of this reconsideration is unfortunate however, as it makes no reference to the student-athletes, instead laying the reversal at the feet of the ITA and USTA.  We all consider the ITA and the USTA to be important in the realm of college tennis (all the coaches on the committee are members of the former), but the student-athletes themselves are college tennis.  And if, for political reasons, the ITA and USTA felt they had to pick their battles carefully in opposing so many diverse changes, does this mean they "support" the reduced changeover times and no warmups?

The committee has yet to produce any evidence for the statement "It is not uncommon for dual matches to last four or five hours," which is not my experience as a frequent spectator at the highest level of Division I tennis. Matches that long are rare, but when a match does approach that length, it is an instant classic--to be savored, not shortened.

Moving to a Final Four, instead of the Sweet 16 format now in place is also still in the proposal, and again I don't see the value in this from a financial or academic standpoint. The college tennis festival that exists now at the combined men's and women's championship will be hard to replicate with only four teams, and what is to be gained from this change eludes me.

But perhaps this change will have the effect of strengthening the prestige and participation in the Team Indoor Championships, which are run by the ITA in February and have a similar format to the NCAAs, with 16 teams playing on one site after a weekend of "regionals," although admittedly, it's not both genders at the same site. The chance an upset loss in the quarterfinals at a SuperRegional may keep a team from the biggest stage might make the guarantee of all the best in one place at one time more attractive.

Any coaches or players interested in getting the contact information of the committee members of the Championship and Sports Management Cabinet who will decide on these remaining proposals can receive them by emailing Bruce Berque at the University of Michigan, or they can use a facebook message to contact Evan King or Bob van Overbeek, the organizers of the Facebook group page opposing the changes.

For the complete release, see ncaa.org.


Matt said...

Agree 100%! Match times are hard to come by, but I noticed that Florida posts the match times in its boxscores for all home dual matches. So, I took the liberty to run some numbers. Assuming on average a 15 minute break after doubles & for singles warmup, below are the totals for 2012. Note that all but 2 (a staggering 92%) would have been clinched in 3 hours or less had play been stopped when the doubles point and singles match were clinched. These numbers might look different for teams that are on average more evenly matched with their opponents, but I think this is plenty enough data to realize that the committee's assertion of 4+ hour matches is a bunch of hooey.

Florida Women 2012 Match Times
TROY: 1:53* (2:17)
UCF: 1:50* (2:29)
USF: 2:36* (3:21)
FSU: 1:59* (2:25)
VAND: 2:47* (3:37)
KY: 2:14* (3:03)
DUKE: 2:51* (3:15)
ALA: 2:33* (3:29)
ARK: 2:12* (3:00)
LSU: 2:25* (3:10)
SC ST: 1:33
WSU: 2:20

Florida Men 2012 Match Times
UNM: 2:24* (3:17)
WF: 2:43* (3:33)
FSU: 2:50* (3:42)
ILL: 2:43* (3:24)
USF: 1:56* (2:42)
TENN: 2:10* (2:53)
UGA: 3:35* (3:41)
MSU: 3:27* (4:03)
AUB: 2:55* (3:36)
ALA: 2:33* (3:28)
S CAR: 3:00* (3:18)
HARV: 2:40

() Total Match Time
* Match Time discounting play after the doubles point and/or team match were clinched

Austin said...

I am in favor of reducing the final site to the quarterfinals. The opening weekend teams can play at regional sites on fri/sat/sun, with winners advancing to the final site. I think that would make it more prestigious.

As far as the long match times go, they are getting that info from the final site. Matches seem to run long and the following matches rarely start on time. This has certainly been a pattern for quite awhile. I also think they take too much time between doubles and singles. Should not go back to the locker room. Maybe take a 5min break, have a 3min warmup and get singles going.