Last week Michigan's Bruce Berque sent me an email, which I posted here, detailing his objections to the changes in the warmups and changeover times that the NCAA Division I Tennis Committee has proposed.
I had heard through the grapevine that Stanford's legendary coach Dick Gould, now Director of Tennis there, had produced a paper citing the concerns he has about changing the format from the current Sweet 16 to the Super Regional/Final Four model that has been recommended by the committee. I emailed Gould asking him about it, and he sent me the document below, which I believe needs wider circulation than it has received.
POSITION PAPER – NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS FORMAT PROPOSAL
By Dick Gould, Stanford University (8/22/12)
PREFACE – This “Position Paper” is entirely personal and may or may not reflect the feelings of Stanford University and our athletic administration or even our coaches. It is based on the experience of hosting the NCAA Championships in 2006 and 2011, both of which attracted crowds unsurpassed in the history of the Championships, with the exception of the University of Georgia on occasion. Some observations/reactions to the “Format Proposal” follow:
1) SYNERGY – Having 32 teams at one site can cause some logistical challenges early on, (not insurmountable), BUT the synergy created by having this many competitors on site simultaneously is tremendous, and adds to the over-all “student-athlete experience.”
a) Based on the 2011 Championships, the loss of spectators for the Rounds of 16 & 32 totaled over 5,000, and for the Final Rounds on Sunday-Monday of a 3-day weekend another 2,500. This represents a loss of 38% of ticket revenue (over $75,000). We did NOT make budget in 2011, and shortening the days of the event (ticket sales) would only exasperate this problem!
b) Granted, some of this would be made up by decreased expenses, but NOT proportionate to the Ticket Revenue loss, including the loss of two weekend playing days for the Individual Championships.
c) There is a significantly lesser chance of the Host School making it to the semi-finals. The Round of 16 almost ensures that the Host men and/or women will be represented. This is critical for ticket sales and for momentum for the remainder of the Championships, almost regardless of how any home team would do after the Round of 16 or Quarter-finals.
- Initial press coverage is also based largely on “local” participation early on.
d) Expenses for Promotions and Marketing are more effectively spread over the days of a longer event – Press momentum has more time to build.
e) Based on the above, I personally would be VERY reluctant to submit a bid to host the Championships. (Please note that both for the 2006 and 2011 events, I was able to raise almost $1,000,000 for each Championships for things that would enhance the student-athlete experience (up-graded meals, enhanced player lounge, local advertising presence, an intercollegiate historical “Walkway of Champions” celebrating the rich history of collegiate tennis at the entrance to the event, Tech Improvements, and on and on. This was IN ADDITION to the normal NCAA Budget of our Athletic Department, which actually was in the Red).
3) GENERAL COMMENTS/REACTIONS TO PROPOSALS
a) ADDED WEEKEND OF PLAY (Rounds of 16 and Quarter-finals)
· This does not significantly decrease the number of days for the final 4 rounds of the Championships.
- It adds at least one additional day of travel for most teams and does not decrease the need of a day of practice prior to competition.
- It will be more difficult and costly for parents/friends/boosters to plan for travel – potentially two different sites less than 5 days in advance.
- 85% (based on a survey several years ago) of the schools in the country are on summer vacation, so the vast majority of participants are not missing more school.
- Our national junior boys championships require 12 days (girls – 10 days) at one site for competition for the finalists, plus practice days.
- For players who lose in the Round of 16 and must stay til the individual event begins, they must stay somewhere (85% of schools are out of session), and traveling back and forth is disruptive and not cheap. More practice sites can be made available IF it is deemed relevant.
· Disrupts many existing Conference Championships
b) DOES NOT PROVIDE MORE OPPORTUNITIES TO HOST
· Top 16 seeds have the opportunity to host the Round of 64 and 32.
- 90% of these teams advance to the Round of 16, which as top seeds, they would also host.
- Therefore this proposal does not significantly increase hosting opportunities the Championships
c) PRACTICE DAY AT FINAL SITE
· With the opportunity to practice only on Friday prior to the Championships, teams from other areas are placed at an extreme disadvantage, especially for the western schools coming East.
- Three hour time-difference going East is gigantic if playing after a single day of on-site practice.
- Acclimatization (heat/humidity) is impossible with only one day of practice. Health and Welfare of the athlete should be a concern!
d) DAY OF SEMI-FINALS
· Four matches must be played. Will two adjacent sites be used simultaneously? - If so, match play facility requirements are not reduced, and thus neither is
the opportunity to host.
- If not, play will finish late and maybe under lights, for which no practice has been allowed.
· What does the change in the Championships format have to do with ESPN and television?
- The heavy cost of TV is in the set-up, not an extra hour of competition. If showing the match were delayed by one hour, the match highlights could be edited into a two-hour show.
- GOOD streaming is the future of college tennis, NOT TV!!! Plus, access is international.