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Monday, September 16, 2013

Another Stab at College Tennis Format Change: USTA's College Match Days Move Doubles Last and Only if Match Tied




Below is the letter sent to schools who have agreed to host the 20 College Match Days being marketed by the USTA in the 2014 dual match season.

I heard about this USTA Advisory Group for the first time at the US Open, talking about it with many Division I men's college coaches. Until I received a copy of this letter, I was not sure what the motives or actual changes would be, but this letter explains them, although it is careful to talk about the format changes in terms of "experiments" and "testing." There are several reasons I was taken aback by this initiative, including, in no particular order:

  • Bypassing the Intercollegiate Tennis Association for a "fresh perspective" is patronizing and arrogant
  • Doubles, an exceptional product at the NCAA Division I level, is completely marginalized by this format
  • Doubles provides the most likely pathway to professional tennis for college players, yet it is being de-emphasized. The Bryan brothers would never have played doubles in a dual match at Stanford under this format
  • A belief in the importance of television in raising the profile of college tennis is outdated in the live streaming culture we now inhabit
  • I'm skeptical of selling out a sport's format in a search for casual fans

I know we are all suffering from "change fatigue" at both the junior and collegiate levels after the past two years of upheaval. I sincerely hope I don't come across as anti-experiment or anti-change--I think I can be against these specific changes, and not against change. I can see the argument for no-ad scoring in doubles, since that is the format in ITF and ATP/WTA play, and I would like to see if that (and the elimination of warmups) would change the 3 hour and 20 minute average match time cited.

I'm annoyed by the survey, which mentions the 100,000 surveys sent (I didn't get one; I don't fit the 20-mile radius criteria), but not the number returned. If I were asked the ideal length of a college football game, I would surely say three hours or less, but I don't expect my desires in that regard would or should lead to a change in the way the game is structured. Football games are routinely 3 hours and 30 minutes long, and yet who is doing surveys or calling for change there?

College tennis contains some of the brightest, most innovative people I know. They love the sport, teach it well and appreciate its best qualities. Let those people, not "Advisory Groups," diagnose and treat the problems they detect. They know best.

September 10, 2013

In January 2013, the United States Tennis Association (USTA) created a Youth & Collegiate Tennis Division. This was a bold step for the national governing body for tennis, and includes a significant investment in resources toward junior and collegiate varsity play.  The USTA believes that collegiate varsity tennis has a tremendous impact – from an aspirational perspective – on youth tennis and on the sport as a whole.

The NCAA Division I Men’s and Women’s Tennis Committee report of July 2012 referenced “the fragile state of college tennis.”  A contributing factor to this “fragile state” is the staggering number (138) of college tennis programs that have been dropped since 2003.  The USTA is especially concerned with the viability, sustainability, and growth of the sport at the varsity collegiate level.

As part of the investment in youth and collegiate tennis, the USTA piloted the College MatchDay concept in 2013 with four matches in an effort to improve and shine a spotlight on men’s and women’s college tennis across the United States.  Each of the four matches benefited from considerable marketing and exposure, and the attendance was also positively impacted.  The USTA is willing to financially support another 20 College MatchDays (10 men’s and 10 women’s) during the 2014 spring season, and will work with a broadcast partner to televise these matches nationally.  The USTA hopes that College MatchDay can be used as a vehicle to try new formats that may improve the collegiate dual match experience for student-athletes, fans, and television viewers.    

The USTA created an Advisory Group in May 2013.  This group includes NCAA Division I Athletic Directors (see Appendix A) from a variety of conferences and regions across the country, as well as representatives from the NCAA. 

Historically the USTA has worked closely with the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA).  However, due to the fact that the ITA has been actively engaged in these debates on format changes for a number of years, the USTA chose to not have the ITA at these initial Advisory Group meetings in order to assure a fresh perspective.  The USTA fully intends to continue to work in partnership with the ITA moving forward. 

In preparation for these Advisory Group meetings, a survey was sent to approximately 100,000 USTA members who live within a 20-mile radius of a top-50 ranked men’s and/or women’s Division I tennis program in July 2013. The vast majority (91.1%) of respondents indicated that the ideal length of a dual-match should be three hours or less – far shorter than the current average match length of 3 hours and 40 minutes[1]. Furthermore, 62.8% indicated that matches should last less than 2.5 hours. The ITA also studied approximately 1,500 Division I men’s and women’s matches from the 2013 spring season and the average match length was approximately 3 hours and 20 minutes.  Executives from digital and broadcast media outlets indicated that the ideal match length should fall between 2.5 and 3 hours.

Having met multiple times over the course of the summer, the Advisory Group carefully reviewed each aspect of college tennis and suggested three primary areas of focus while keeping the student-athlete experience as the main priority:
1)     Increasing the number of fans attending college tennis matches;
2)     Increasing local and national media coverage of college tennis;
3)     Highlighting singles competition in the dual match format.

For many years, the ITA and NCAA have been looking at ways to address both time and length challenges facing both college dual matches and the NCAA tennis championships.  With this as a guiding principle, the Advisory Group unanimously recommended (the margin was unanimous; neither the USTA nor the NCAA voted) that the following be piloted during the 2014 College MatchDays. 
·       Singles first. The singles matches will come first; numbers 1-6 singles will be played to start each team dual match.  The integrity of singles will remain the same.  They will be best-of-three sets, worth one point each toward the team result in the dual match.  As is currently the case, four points are required to win the team match.
·       Doubles tie-breakers. In the case of a (3-3) tie after the singles results, then three doubles matches would be played using 10-point super tie-breakers to decide the outcome.  This would create college tennis’ version of “overtime.” The team that wins at least two of the three doubles matches receives the decisive point and wins the match.
·       “Clinch” format. Once four points have been reached (“clinching” the match), the remaining matches shall not be completed.
·       Team warm-up. Players will be expected to warm-up with their own team prior to the scheduled match time and will not warm-up against their opponent before the first point is played.

Furthermore, the consensus of the Advisory Group was that the possibility of a “split season” should also be explored.  This is independent from the College MatchDay recommendations.  Specifically, a split season might entail:
·       Establishing NCAA Singles and Doubles Championships at the end of the fall season
·       Modifying the year-end NCAA Championships to include team competition only
·       Adjusting the NCAA Team Championship schedule to allow for a weekend (and/or Monday) final

Any format changes require testing and experimentation.  The USTA and the College Tennis Advisory Group suggest that these proposed changes to the dual match be “piloted” during the College MatchDay events scheduled for 2014 and look forward to receiving meaningful feedback from all stakeholders.  Further exploration of the “split season” idea is also recommended. 

Subsequent to the Advisory Group meetings, the ITA met with several key Division I men’s and women’s college coaches who were attending the 2013 US Open and USTA semi-annual meetings to also discuss some potential match formats that are time-sensitive.  The ITA and this group of coaches suggested that the 2013 fall season and first several months of the 2014 season be used to experiment with an alternative time-sensitive match format.  The specific format that the ITA – and this group of coaches – recommends will be widely communicated in short order. 




Appendix A
Athletic Directory Advisory Group Roster
Name
Title
School
Conference
Jon Oliver
Executive Associate AD
University of Virginia
ACC
Marcy Girton
Chief of Staff for Athletics
Texas A&M University
SEC
Ian McCaw
Director of Athletics
Baylor University
Big 12
Greg McGarity
Director of Athletics
University of Georgia
SEC
Mike Thomas
Director of Athletics
University of Illinois
Big Ten
Cary Groth
(Former) Director of Athletics
University of Nevada, Reno
Mountain West
Tim Cass
Deputy Athletic Director
University of New Mexico
Mountain West
Thomas Beckett
September 10, 2013





[1] As reported at the 2013 NCAA Team Championships.  These matches were “clinch / clinch” format, so as soon as doubles was decided, play paused; as soon as the fourth point was won during singles, the match ended.




45 comments:

Alex Guthrie said...

With that split season format, players on not as good of teams wouldn't have as much motivation for the spring. Blaz Rola wasn't even with his team in the fall, so he wouldn't have even won his title. The format now is excellent, and shouldn't be changed. These officials are more concerned on change than the actual tennis. Disappointment.

Mal Taam said...

Ridiculous.

Nothing else in tennis (Pro or otherwise) compares to College Doubles. I actually prefer to watch doubles over the singles. The crowd and the teams/teammates cheering each other on cannot be found in any other aspect of the game. Energy and emotions are high and is usually a great way to start off the Dual.

Tony said...

Another example of people who know nothing (or not enough) about tennis trying to make changes just to make changes. Not allowing players to warm up with their opponents? That's going to save all of five minutes. Give me a break.

Unknown said...

typical group think that accomplishes nothing. Beyond pathetic.

European Monk said...

USTA has done such a great job in the Junior Tennis Game.... :))) ..... they are expanding into the Collegiate Game...... :(( "it's the end of the game (world)..as we know it...and I feel fine...." R.E.M.

Bill K. said...

Of the 138 college programs that have been canned, how many were men's programs that were done in by Title IX? What does the USTA have to do with NCAA Tennis in the first place? They have done such an excellent job with Player Development I suppose it's only natural for them to get involved with determining what the NCAA does with...oops sorry, to...tennis. Will Patrick McEnroe now be the new Commissioner of College Tennis? If TV time is the ultimate goal, let's make everyone play "real" tennis...serve and volley.

ITA Tennis Official said...

I'm really surprised the USTA is attempting to muck up college tennis. As a USTA certified official, the USTA has repeatedly informed us officiating that ITA officials must be distanced from the USTA, to the point where we have been banned by the USTA from wearing USTA officials gear while working ITA events. This is just one more example of the USTA's arrogance!!!

Mal Taam said...

Hi, me again.

I've had time to reread the article and her are some more thoughts:

- In my opinion, the ideal length of a match does not deter a person from attending a match. Is the Advisory Group trying to use the logic that if people think that the match is too long, that they won't attend a FREE event? FREE is FREE. An attendee can arrive late and leave early and still witness some excellent tennis.

- TV: Forget about it. I can't believe people think there is a market to watch Dual Matches. Oh sure, maybe if there favorite team is playing, but even though I'm a huge tennis fan, I still won't watch Virginia play UCLA. Hardly anyone watches pro tennis (compared to football and basketball), why do the powers that be really think people want to watch amateurs play?

- Doubles as a tie breaker. To shorten matches, I'd rather go to No-Ad scoring than deleting doubles.

- Team Warm Up: Petty idea.

Not the Midas touch. said...

Oh my.... How many different ways can one organization actually mess up tennis in the US?

My son just escaped junior tennis with all those ridiculous cuts to go to college tennis where the USTA will try to mess that up too?

Barry - NJ said...

IT'S IN THE MAIL.......

Colette, a letter questionaire was also sent to thousands of junior parents asking their opinions, and that is how all the national junior cuts came to be.....

Now, I have never found one person who got this letter, but that is the USTA's story and they appear to be sticking to it.

Shut the door now! said...

Keep the USTA out of college tennis! The ITA and college tennis coaches (not the random ADs chosen for this pathetic group) need to stand their ground. USTA spits on college tennis - it has for years and most recently with the denial of the WC for the USC girls dubs champions. If you wanted USTA assistance 10 years ago and still going on today, you cannot indicate you are even considering college. There goes your WCs and any other help. Keep USTA evil out of college tennis! College coaches unite and don't let them in, please, for the sake of the game and players everywhere. Tell them where to put their bogus pre-constructed surveys.

Maia Magill said...

This is the most OUTRAGEOUS thing I have ever read in my entire life. You watch the US Open, and all they do is complain about the lack of American tennis players, and instead of trying to expand and promote the sport, they are MAKING IT SMALLER! If these rules are implemented, they might as well cut the number of players IN HALF. What are they even trying to accomplish now? They want to make the matches shorter??? Is there anyone in the world who would rather watch a short blowout 0,0 win over a 7 hour 5 setter? No one in their right minds. So guess what! USTA isn't in their right mind!

As a future college tennis player I am outraged and concerned. I plan to go into college to develop so I can go on and play pro tennis. How am I supposed to do that when my matches are being cut short because my teammates finish before me? REALLY GREAT JOB ENCOURAGING PRO DEVELOPMENT USTA!!!

In conclusion, I cannot imagine anyone who wants to support the development of American tennis players to approve these asinine rules. Completed Disgusted.

Mike G said...

DOUBLES first as is
What of Doubles emphasis in Jrs
Team play? Zonals, CTC?

too much support for doubles first as that's where the match warms up sizes up with much team spirit

What about giving a point for each doubles victory?
increase the importance of doubles
not decrease

Eeyore said...

Hope this enlightens potential college players to make them realize college tennis is no longer a stepping stone to playing pro tennis. Hasn't been in a long time. Can't wait to see how the coaches spin this while recruiting possible players.

Rob Nunnery said...

Treat Huey/Dom Inglot. College helped develop them into top 50 ATP doubles players playing for Grand Slam titles.

So many reasons this shouldn't happen...

marcoforehand said...

Others have said it but I want to join in. Keep the USTA out of college tennis.
The doubles point provides an early climatic moment within the construct of a team match, that adds to the entertainment value.A fan who doesn't enjoy that is not a fan.
Tailoring your event to the demands of broadcast tv is as backward thinking as it sounds.

Any prolonged contact I have had with the USTA has ended in a negative impression.I love tennis but when it came time to renew my membership, after 25 years, after raising three tournament players,who played collegiate tennis as well, and continue to play,I made the decision not to renew. It was the only action that made sense to me.

Colette Lewis said...

@Rob Nunnery
I have an article on Inglot and Huey coming up for Tennis Recruiting Network this week and I asked for their comments on this change. They don't like it.

USTA not welcome here said...

College doubles is the heart of the match, it brings the team and fans together. USTA stay away from doubles and college tennis, do not sink this like you have everything junior tennis. Two years ago I saw ESPNU broadcast first rounds of girls softball for 6 hours over the final of the NCAA tennis Championships. The Finals for goodness sake. Let live stream handle tennis broadcast for the fans that can can watch it during the various times college tennis runs. Look at a USTA pro broadcast (including US Open) and see the empty seats in the stadium till the last couple rounds. Fix your own problems USTA, stay out of our backyard.

Stand your ground said...

I hope college coaches come together to fight off any influence of the USTA. Boycott these 20 match play days - schools shouldn't host them particularly if the hidden agenda is to influence a change to the college format. College Coaches Unite! Don't let USTA in - it is a virus that spreads and destroys.

Wally said...

Just wait until the USTA starts pushing their DIVERSITY program onto the collegiate ranks. Next thing you know, they will say there are not enough Foreign coaches in the U.S. to coach all the foreign players over here.

Bud said...

Has anyone formally asked the USTA why, in their opinion, they have a right to influence college tennis? Knowing how the USTA operates, they are only interested in the bottom line, so they must be thinking they will get a windfall of cash somewhere out of the deal. Or is this another revenue venture to get the ITA to pay to play on the mostly vacant courts at the BJ King tennis courts throughout the year.

Martyn Collins said...

Ya'll don't get that slowly but surely college tennis is going away without USTA money and intervention. Tennis is a luxury, non revenue sport at the college level. Those who govern the sports fate at the college level ARE NOT tennis people. In fact most are business/education/sports executives with a bottomline perspective.

Moreover, the venom expressed by the patrons of college tennis, as expressed in the posts eventually will lead to the continued shrinking of the game in college.

All those concerned I would hope could find better more effective ways to communicate than simple hate toward the USTA.

Trent said...

How many self sustaining tennis programs are there in the country? How many recreational players ever talk about college tennis? I would just leave it alone and stream it to the interested parties. Tennis is a third tier sport at most colleges. I think one of the major issues is Tennis is not a team sport. What percentage of students knows who the number tennis player at their school is? The USTA should leave college tennis alone.

Mike G said...

The ITA apparently hasn't agreed either to doubles at the end if necessary on college match days. According to an ITA administrator in phone conversation...at this point college match days will have doubles first shortened to a 6 game set with one add after first 40 deuce then no add on next deuce in that game if occurred. The ITA administrator said the ITA totally gets the importance of doubles, having it first and its being a pathway to the pros.

College Fan said...

The doubles "point" is consistently the most exciiting, fan friendly portion of a college match. 20 years ago, when the ITA changed the match format to doubles first, because rarely were matches reaching doubles. The vast majority of matches ended in singles . In the NCAAs this year, the top men's teams would have only played doubles in the semis and finals.

What sort of system ignores one aspect of the game (doubles) for the top teams for pretty much the entire season? Last year, using the singles first idea, National Champ UVa, would have played doubles in only one regular season match vs Duke.

What type of sport brings in a crucial component (doubles) only in the semis/finals (again this applies to the National Title contenders)? These teams would have little match practice in pressure situations.

College Fan said...

Also, we know that college tennis has seen a resurgence in recent years, at least in preparing players for the pro tour.

John Isner NCAA Doubles Champ, Kevin Anderson NCAA Doubles Champ, Robert Farah NCAA Doubles Champ, Somdev Devvarman/Treat Huey year end ranked #2 as Seniors. Dom Inglot NCAA Champ, Bradley Klahn NCAA doubles runner up, Blaz Rola NCAA Doubles Champ.
Stevie Johnson & Farah were likely the favorites in 2010 before Farah had to withdraw b/c of his ankle. They finished season end #2. JP Smith finished season end #1 in doubles in 2011.

Yes, most of these guys were also top singles players, but I'm sure they would say that their doubles play made them better, more well rounded players.

And you could make another list of all the currently high ranked pro doubles players who played in college.

Nice try but so untrue.... said...

College tennis is not going away without USTA intervention, that is just USTA propaganda. People won't fall for that anymore, the public has had it with USTA after watching them destroy American and junior tennis for years. Hating them is the only choice because they can't be reasoned with. They are a wannabee dictatorship out of control. I hope ITA and college coaches everywhere stand up to them and keep them out of the college game.

Martyn Collins said...

Nice try but so untrue.... said...
College tennis is not going away without USTA intervention, that is just USTA propaganda.

I'm not USTA. USTA has been trying to stay out of college tennis for decades. People have been complaining for over a decade that USTA needed to get involved to rectify the opportunities for jr's to make teams due to international player recruitment. Collectively, tennis parents and juniors can't have it both ways.

Moreover, the trend says yes, college tennis is dying. Over a hundred programs gone over the last 5 to 10 years. To not understand the facts here is fatal to any other planning one may make in this game.

Everyone of the commenters, you include fail to address the revenue issue. The most common response is that doubles is the most exciting part of the college tennis format and that the fans love it. One question: where is the money?

As for hating the USTA, go ahead, see how far it get you.

David Bradbury said...

If you do not believe that the matches are too long with an average length of 3 hours and 40 minutes, then the changes make absolutely no sense.

However, I think that is way too long for any college sport. IF your
goal is to have more fans attend, maybe watch it on TV, or on the internet via streaming, the matches need to be shorter. People are just too busy to spend that much time watching college tennis or any sport for that matter. If you add in travel time it is along day for fans. I think the players and coaches will be opposed to any changes, as they just want to play tennis and the more the better.

The longest sport seems to be FB at just over 3 hours, but that counts lots of TV advertising time and a 20 minute halftime. Basketball is just over 2 hours and it also has TV advertising time. Baseball seems to be about 2.75 hours, but I have no actual data on that. LAX and soccer are about 2 hours.

I have attended a lot of dual matches over the years and many NCAA's tennis championships (6 in row) and they are just too long, both the individual matches and the NCAA event itself. If it is hot as is customary at the NCAA's then it is just brutal to watch as there is rarely any shade. On the first four days the matches start
at 9 AM and often do not end until midnight. Also playing the
individual event right after the team event can result in 12 or so
days of both singes and doubles for the best players on the best teams in May, when it is usually hot. If you are in the individual event and on a team that loses in the round of 16 you have to hang around for 4 days or so or go home and then come back. This makes no sense to me, but it has always been that way.

I kind of like moving the individual event to the fall. I gather the All American would just become the NCAA championship.

I expect that I will be the only person that actually thinks these are wise changes. However, I do not think these changes will make tennis suddenly a more heavily attended event to any significant degree or that it will get on TV much more often. More matches may end up being streamed. The one thing that may possibly get college tennis on TV is the immense growth in the need for programming by not only ESPN, but also Fox, NBC, and CBS and the B1G, SEC, ACC etc. networks.

The doubles de-emphasis is a kind of a shame, as I like to watch
doubles, but playing doubles first does make the matches about one
hour to an hour and a half longer. The only other way to reduce the time of the matches would be to go to "no ad" scoring in singles and doubles or have a super TB for the 3rd set in singles. If those are the only three ways to shorten the matches, I agree with the doubles changes.

Stopping the matches when they are clinched also makes sense to me,
because no one cares after that anyway.

I will repeat that if you think the length of the matches are not a
problem, then no changes are needed. However that is the issue here. Also the article states that advisory group of AD's, etc. made these recommendations and the USTA and ITA did not vote one way or the other.

Not buying that at all said...

The 4.5 scholarships is what hurt tennis programs over the last decade. Is USTA gonna fix that? What is the great powerful Oz that is USTA doing that is going to fix the revenue issue? Sorry, no sale on USTA, it is just a big dummy behind the curtain.

No one in college tennis is asking for USTA's help, that includes junior parents, college players and college coaches. USTA is stirring this up to take focus off their failing pro and junior programs.

Jeff's College Tennis Fix said...

I just wanted to say that I fully disagree with the proposed changes. However, I do believe that NCAA tennis has some flaws. Here's an outside the box idea that some former college players were discussing recently.

Problem: Not all matches have the same importance. Some players have a tendency to start tanking a match if they're losing early. Let's face it. A player who plays #1 can lose to a top ranked player and yet the player who plays lower in the lineup has all the pressure to win because theoretically they are playing a worse player.

The fix: Time it like a basketball or football game. 4 30-minute quarters. Coaches get 1 or 2 timeouts each half. Players still play regular tennis scoring, but every game counts. It will teach college players to fight for every game like Rafa Nadal. The winning team is the won the wins the most games overall.

As for doubles: Keep the format the same. It's played first. Anyone that has been to a college match knows that this is the most fan-friendly part of a dual match (until they adopt my idea).

Where are the flaws in this idea?
It could work for tv. It could bring on some more casual fans and it would perhaps teach a better fighting mentality. But I'm not even sure why I wrote this because it would never be considered.

Have a nice day everyone

Coach Mike said...

1.) Title IX has created a situation where there are twice as many female athletes in the NCAA as male. I love that more females are playing sports than ever before, but punishing males is unacceptable. Are females twice as physically active and competitive as males?
2.) Foreign tennis players take up over 80% of the U.S. college tennis spots. What do our juniors have to work toward? Connors, McEnroe, Smith, Ashe, and many more all played at least one year of college before turning pro. It was the farm system for the U.S.
3.) 4.5 scholarships - reduced for men due to Title IX again.
4.) The USTA takes the top jr. players away from their top U.S. coaches. They should be supporting these coaches, not competing with them.
I could go on. The match format is not the problem. And what is with this advisory committee having non-tennis people on it. That is suicide.

Steve Smith said...

There are so many areas to address within the recommended changes. Doubles would be on the top of my list. To me, the art of doubles is becoming a forgotten art. It will one day become a totally lost art if decisions like the one in the proposal are implemented.

Certainly down the road men and women will be playing on the same college tennis team. Money will be the deciding factor. As a result of this change colleges and universities will only have one coaching staff. Budgets will be lowered significantly. I am not proposing this idea. I am not supporting this idea. I am just predicting this idea.

Therefore, there will be less jobs for college coaches. There will also be less spots for players. The one positive is some institutions will bring back men playing intercollegiate tennis.

The men and women being together at the NCAA national championships was the first step in this evolution. The change of men and women competing as a team will take place in swimming and track and field. It will work in any sport where one performs as an individual. It will not happen in football or baseball.

What will the format be? Who knows? But doubles would be saved. Mixed doubles could be added. Singles would be honored. It is never a good thing when the process results in less jobs and less participants. I think of all the tennis pros I have trained. They used to get a salary, benefits and a percentage of their lessons. Today there usually is no salary and no benefits. I do not want to be doom and gloom but I think college tennis will also one day face similar economics.

The very elite junior players will not consider college tennis. They will skip the step of college tennis and go straight to trying to make it on the pro circuit. The change will eliminate the stories of late bloomers like James Blake and John Isner. Tennis kids, overall, desperately need to be on a team to learn and improve life skills. Plus enjoy the experience of a lifetime.

Based on the fact that most teams have facilities with six courts, I would foresee two singles, three doubles and one mixed. So, you would have only five players of each gender playing. The total of points to win has to equal an odd number. So, the mixed will only be worth one point and the others will be worth two. This format dos not have enough singles. It would be thrown out. So, the authorities would add singles and all matches would be pro sets. Will golfers only play thirteen holes?

I am not for this. I would like to see the current format remain with only a few changes. I strongly dislike No Ad. The doubles should be played to 10 instead of 8. Better yet doubles should be played with two No Ad sets to 4 with a seven point tiebreaker played at 4 all. A split set in the doubles would be decided with a ten point tiebreaker. Then doubles is not a sprint and the outcome would not be decided on only one break.

From the proposal Colette posted: Singles first. No, no, no! Doubles used only to break a 3 all tie. No, no, no! And doubles only played as a match tiebreaker. No, no no!

Sorry for the sad predication. I hope I am wrong and college tennis does not change. But no matter what happens, anybody and everybody connected with tennis needs to fight for the importance of doubles.

Thank you for your time, Steve Smith

non-tennis person said...

Reality
1-if boys want the best chance at a scholarship. Play football with 85 spots

2- girls, by law, have more sports to choose from and tennis is one

3-some "non tennis " people are smart

4- some tennis people are not

5- few will watch college tennis on tv no matter what changes are made. Forget it

6- few who forego college tennis will succeed

7-the current format works fine with six courts

8-most sports are nonrevenue. So what. Tennis likely costs less than baseball and softball and they are not going anywhere either

9-the Americans would get more scholarships if they were better players and learned how to behave and be coached

10- nobody has a right to a scholarship. The schools decide that and tennis is a worldwide sport.

Martyn Collins said...

To Jeff College Tennis Fix - you are a tennis visionary. Truly out of the box with your eye on the ball. Way to think!

Scott Treibly said...

The goal behind change is to raise the profile of college tennis. Other college sports have made changes and are now reaping the benefits. College tennis is a tier III sport within athletic departments and at the moment college bowling is more popular. The formats that the ITA and USTA have put forward are simply an experiment until they have arrived at the most "beneficial" format.

Tennis is a year around sport and top players should be playing events all the rest of the year using the same format as professional tennis. But the spring season is the “team season” and teams need to play inside a three hour window so it will provide more opportunities for media and fan exposure. This helps college tennis and players benefit from playing in better environments (maybe on TV too). More exposure for college tennis will move the sport forward, bring bigger budgets and hopefully more pay for coaches. Finally, partnering with the USTA provides so many opportunities to leverage resources.

Scott Treibly

A Time Limit? said...

Scott--

This is exactly what is wrong with this issue, it is being raised by coaches who want bigger salaries.

This should be what is best for the Student-Athlete.

Tennis has NEVER been about time. Matches do not need to stay within a 3 hour time limit! Give me a break for TV.

Lets promote the game better. Advertise around campus. You lost credibility with the bowling comment.

A 10 point breaker is used on the Tour BUT THEY PLAY 2 SETS BEFORE THE TIEBREAKER. It is NOT the same. Tell the Bryans they will play a Tour Final playing only 15 points. Good Luck with that.

SAVE COLLEGE TENNIS said...

Scott--

First of all, ask USTA Director of Coaching Jose Higueras what his thoughts of college tennis as a pathway for pro tennis. Ask most of the cUSTA oaching staff's thoughts are thoughts are?

USTA does not care about college tennis. They do not practice doubles in Boca, they do not promote the net game, transition play, look how all their players play, ALL baseliners. 2 crosscourt / 1 down-the-line is the only drill they do.

The NCAA and ITA are big enough to help college tennis. They need advertisers, not decrease the tennis opportunities.

Getting rid of doubles is TERRIBLE!!!!!!!

Just saying said...

Is a repackaged product for time, fans, TV, etc. truly the same sport played by the pros? It seems like you have to make a choice. Provide a packaged product or prepare players for the professional level.

How many complete singles matches will the top players play over the course of the season? Who knows, but it's guaranteed to be noticeably less than present. How are you going to even rank players with a dramatically reduced sample size of results?

What about WTT? said...

What about adopting a World Team Tennis format? Maybe keep it men-only and women-only, and have two doubles matches followed by 3 singles matches.

I don't have any statistics on WTT match time, but I would think it would be shorter. By having only one match on at a time, the entire crowd's focus would be on 4 players or 2 players and the decisions they make. You could put on multiple matches at the same time, which would have the added "benefit" of shortening the total time. That being said, I think the defocusing of the crowd in the current format is one of the barriers to getting the 'casual fan' interested.

I don't think the quick, WTT first to 5 format provides the best preparation for the pro ranks, however.

If they want to generate revenue I have a few additional thoughts:

(1) Put ads on an internet-accessible livestream during changeovers & all around the page, and invest in high quality HD camera infrastructure for the major D1 programs that lack it. This will attract the existing core market + allow it an easy avenue to grow due to the accessibility via internet. Make sure smartphones and tablets can easily access the streams.

(2) Move all the matches to the nighttime, preferably towards the end of the week or weekend, so people with classes/work could actually watch.

(3) Make and distribute (with ads) 'highlight packages' that post-edit and shorten the time between points & cut out uninteresting points. So a two hour match turns into a 10 minute video of all the interesting points. The key is that it can't be a 30 second Sportscenter highlight package; nor a 30 minute highlight package. It has to be in the 10-15 minute range.

Have you guys seen those 'highlight package' videos of pro matches on youtube? They're great recaps. Example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OfRBlS1POTY

(5) Try to get 'big events' on TV. Maybe condense them through editing so they have a nice fast pace (see #4).

I think the 'downtime' in tennis between points is one of the key reasons it doesn't have a bigger market in the US. Soccer has a similar problem with just a few goals scored/match. Yet the youth participation in club / league soccer is so high!

/rant

Kevin Ware said...

"The Bryan brothers would never have played doubles in a dual match at Stanford under this format"
Lover them or hate them, they are American tennis success right now along with Serena. THAT pretty much sums up every reason to scrap this idea right now.

Future College Player said...

For what it's worth, I think a good option would be to play both doubles AND singles 2 out of 3 sets to 4.

Some advantages would be:
Both doubles and singles would be played.
1. It would limit the time the match is on court if it is a blowout (ex. 4-0, 4-0).
2. It would limit the more boring parts of a normal set. (Namely, the first few games [like 1-1, 2-1], and at the end when one player has a big lead [like 4-0 or 5-1].) Instead, more moments would seem consequential. The excitement of winning a set would happen more frequently, but at the same time no lead would seem insurmountable.
3. It could make doubles more exciting to watch- a team that has a slow start has a better chance of coming back than in an 8 game pro set- hence, more drama for the fans. (It is easy to lose interest in a match where a team goes up 5-0 in a pro set- but 4-0, 1-0 can still be anybody's game.) Also, there would be more doubles played- which I believe fans tend to like. They even may be more likely to stay after doubles is over, because it doesn't seem like such an eternity before something significant happens (namely, a singles match ends).
4. It would shorten the dual match time overall- especially for the spectators who do not want to stick around for the single 3+ hour match after all the others are over. There will still be very close, very exciting matches that will be more viewer friendly because they are shorter.

As for the players, they would get to experience both doubles and singles. They would still get to play a lot of tennis overall. More doubles would enhance the team aspect. Also, I think the players would appreciate the integrity of the ad points and set format- since there are ad's and no 10-pt tiebreakers in the pro's.

I especially think this system is better than the 10-pt tiebreak system because it seems like both sets can drag on before reaching a conclusion- then, a tiebreaker goes so fast. A 2 out of 3 set to 4 system would distribute the drama fairly evenly throughout the match.

I don't know if this has already been proposed; I realize there could be a lot of objections against shortened sets. However, if it was considered, I think it could be a nice compromise among maintaining the integrity of the sport, including both singles and doubles, and integrating the wishes of the people who want the matches to be shorter! :)

JB said...

Several of the articles on here which I have read keep referring to the fact that 138 or so colleges have dropped their tennis program. I remember reading in the comments section that also during this time something like 130 schools have added tennis. I think Collete wrote about a program that added tennis this week. College tennis is not dying like Martyn above wants you to think. It's gaining in popularity.

Charlie Fancutt said...

Similar to college football I personally find college tennis very entertaining to watch. It is also to me up there with Wimbledon or having tennis in the Olympics as one of the most wonderful and valuable assets that tennis has in the world. Not least of which is because it is the only junior development pathway in the tennis world that insists young players MUST stay at school and study. Sadly it is only college tennis who puts the futures of these young men and women first by protecting them from the fact that 99.999% will inevitably fail the lottery of making it on the pro tour and without an education will be left with nothing to fall back on. Plus for these four post junior years parents are saved the massive costs of coaching and travelling to pursue the pro tour. Instead many players can see by their performances at college after four years that they would simply be wasting their money.

So to me the USTA and even the ITF, ATP and WTA should be doing everything they can to make college tennis even more successful and more appealing to budding young champions. (Wildcards for top college performers are certainly a good idea)

Anyway to the article, here (as someone who's nephew will soon be joining a college program) are my thoughts.

1. The doubles should stay at the start and stay at the 8 game Pro set. It is a very entertaining and often nail biting opening. 8 games allows for some ebbs and flows and any shorter from this already short version would be terrible.

2. If you want shorter I would happily vote for the singles to be a super tie-break decider if it goes one set all. Why? Because a) if a match goes to a third set you are guaranteed quite an exciting finish rather than a boring 6-2 set you sometimes get and b) this would mean the matches would tend to finish at a similar time, which would make the event more 'teamy'. Too often there are two or perhaps just one match, often between the number 6 players, that just drags on forever.

3. I like the idea of the individual nationals very late in the Fall (somewhere you can play outdoors) and the team finals being the grand finale. I always thought the individual should be before the team event.

4. I would also like to see the girls and guys play at the same venue so it would have the feel of a Grand Slam event and because although the guys and girls attend the same colleges, they sadly never or almost never, compete alongside each other. I would also strongly vote for mixed doubles to be added as I think it is a fascinating and exciting event. This would expose and penaiize schools who have cut the mens program. Give All American status to the good performers and to make it extra special give a US Open mixed wildcard to the winners. To use this mixed doubles event to make the nationals more inclusive (and thus enhanced) and to recognize that mixed doubles is quite unpredictable, you could also just make it only one team per college from the top 64 eligible (those who have a mens and women's program) colleges based on combined team rankings.

Paling Asik said...

The ITA apparently hasn't agreed either to doubles at the end if necessary on college match days.