Sunday, January 19, 2014

Chuck Kreise Explains His Opposition to Division I Format Changes

Chuck Kreise, a member of the ITA Collegiate Hall of Fame, longtime men's head coach at Clemson Univeristy and current head coach at The Citadel, does not support the experimental format changes voted on at last month's ITA Coaches Convention in Naples, Florida.  He has given me permission to publish his thoughts on the format changes and the vote leading to them.

           The Vote of 21-19’                                                by chuck kriese

The Scoring System of tennis is one of its most sacred heirlooms.  The fluctuation of pressures from one lead to the next is why tennis dwarfs other racquet sports in comparison.  The tennis player must not only become adept in skill-sets of physical performance, but the scoring forces him/her to develop good abilities in mental and emotional aspects as well.  The intrigue and drama of the game happen largely because of the implications of rapidly changing momentum swings enhanced by a scoring system established over 100 years ago.

The ITA (Intercollegiate Tennis Association) had its annual convention and coaches meeting in December.  The hottest and the most pressing topic of 2013-14 has become ‘Collegiate Dual-match Formats and Scoring Systems.’  The overused talking point being promoted this year is: ‘College tennis will not survive unless dual match format starts and finishes under 3 hours.”  Interestingly, this same issue was also the hot topic in the spring of 2012 a collegiate committee had randomly injected a radical system destined to drastically change college tennis’ long-used traditional format. There had been obvious scheduling problems at the 2012 NCAA tournament as 32 teams (16 men and 16 women’s) had to play late into the night making the event looked much less than professional. 


The college committee reacted to long days of tennis at the NCAA event by trying to push forward a deviation from the normal format.   The new dual match proposal in summer of 2012 was met with 10,000-plus signatures of protest from around the country.  An internet site had been set up by tennis student-athletes in protest. Tennis coaches, players and college tennis supporters expressed serious disapproval.  To slow down the fire-storm, the committee tabled their idea and waited.  The movement continued this summer as a joint USTA/college group introduced a ‘morphed’ version of what they had tried to do a year earlier.

 Prior to 2006, men and women’s teams played at different sites.  A 51-2 vote by men’s coaches in 2005 wanted to keep it that way, but the board pushed forward an agenda to combine all men and women’s teams to be the same site anyway.  Scheduling before that move was always a challenge, but it was never a great issue as the unique needs of both groups were handled well.

Multiple collegiate coaches believe that the 3-hour time limit for college match is a talking-point and a potential ‘Ruse.’  It is primarily based on entertainment objectives with little regard for player development issues.  ‘Brian Boland, coach of the National Championship Virginia Cavaliers stated at the ITA meeting, “The real problem is not the time, but more it is that there were too many moving parts at our NCAA championships with 32 teams to take care of.”  “It has created a logistical nightmare.”  In agreement are traditional coaches who believe that the educational aspects of tennis are a more important part of the college game.  Those coaches disdain the abbreviated and bastardized formats for scoring.  To not use traditional scoring drastically deemphasizes important elements of work ethic, conditioning and important learning aspects that only come from tough matches.

The December meeting of the ITA brought the fight between ‘Education vs. Entertainment’ to the floor.  After nearly 5 hours of debate and heated emotions of philosophical divisions, the board members eliminated all options but two from the black-board and gave the men’s coaches a choice and a vote.  Both were designed to shorten the matches and no-other option would be acceptable for the first one third of the season of 2014. .  There was never an agreement of the coaches in the room that ‘Time’ was the true reason for the problems of college tennis’.  That early talking- point and need to shorten the match seemed to have become as an assumption of truth. 

The two formats were presented.  The First format was that singles matches would be 2 out of 3 sets with traditional scoring.  However, a tie-breaker would be played at 5-5 instead of 6-6.  The doubles would only be a 6 game set instead of a pro-set.  The Second proposed format was that the players would play full singles matches and a pro-set for doubles.  However, the abbreviated system of no-ad would be used.   The vote was made.  Coaches voted to protect the integrity of traditional tennis scoring with a 21-19 vote in favor of using regular scoring with TB’s at 5-5 instead of 6-6.   A vote had been made, and most left the room feeling that a small victory had been won in the preservation of a scoring system that would not diminish the game. 

The board of directors met for a separate meeting later that day to finalize the matter.   It was decided that the vote taken in the afternoon was too close to call, and there was definitely not a mandate for either system.  In a turn-of-events, the decision made by the board was that it should therefore be allowable for another format to be promoted as the solution.  As if an election between two political candidates was too close to call, an outside candidate was put into place.  The format decided on to be played for the first six weeks of the season would therefore be abbreviated sets with TBs at 5 and the use of No-ad scoring. Arguably, this new option actually took the worst aspect of the first two proposals and pushed them into play.   The mandate to be put into place had never been debated by the general coaching body nor had been brought up as an alternative in the coaches meeting. 

The great game of tennis should be protected and not be compromised by political agenda.  College tennis is one of the most important developmental tools that our country has for our youngsters to hone their skills and develop important leadership abilities.  It is simplistic at best to conclude that the saving of a few minutes in a tennis match is worth all that is lost by the dismantling of its scoring system.      

13 comments:

Collegefan said...

The most fun in watching a tennis match is doubles. I just wish they would leave that alone. Period.

Tennis dad said...

A note to Chuck Kreise,

The biggest threat to American junior tennis is that stupid tie breaker instead of a 3rd set........
Then, we act surprised when Americans can't compete on the bigger stage.


Fan also said...

Agree with college fan. Doubles is the most exciting.

College fan said...

Congrats to Huey and Inglot for reaching the Aussie Quarters. They barely got by Farah and his partner in the 1st round Nice to see the "old system" has produced numerous successful pros on the doubles tour.

Tennisguy said...

Thanks to Chuck Kreise for explaining why the ITA decided to bastardize the game with the scoring changes. Sounds like a typical bureaucracy where the leaders can't see the forest through the trees. Hopefully they will change the scoring back to how it has been done for decades. Somehow college tennis has done well despite traditional scoring. Just change the men and women to different locations for the NCAA tournament. ITA: Please don't ruin the game of tennis by continuing with these foolish changes!

DaveKB said...

Clearly some feel adamantly that no changes in scoring or format should ever be made. Those inside the college game, mostly coaches and players, where time is of no importance basically like it the way it is.

I think that the scoring system is definitely not responsible for the drama of tennis. In fact with serving being so dominant these days, the outcome of over 80% of the games is predetermined. If you have a really good serve then even more so.

From time to time there is a singles match between evenly matched player that is very dramatic, but IMO this rarely happens and often it may be between two #4's or #5's where
sadly few care about the outcome.


Serving is not as determinative in the women's game with less power on serves and where I expect holding serve percentage is in the 60% to 65% range.

If time or length of the matches is not the driving force, what else could it be? There must be some hope or belief that college tennis or at least high end college tennis will be able to get on cable TV or one of the networks like the SEC network. Very few people will watch a 3 hour tennis match, unless the score is very close and I think almost no one will watch a 4.5 hour match, even die hard fans.

Very few people attend live college tennis matches and especially dual matches against non competitive teams where the outcome is already known.

The NCAA tourney time issue is easily solvable by separating the men or women or just cut the final weekend to three day and only have quarters, semis, and finals.

I have no problem with a 3 hour tennis match, but I am clearly in a minority. As far as a training ground for the ATP tour, basically with rare exceptions, the players are just not good enough and we all know it. If you are good enough a 3 hour match length will not stop you form having a pro career.

former wta pro said...

I agree wholeheartedly w Coach Kriese. This move is completely detrimental to developing players to their highest potential. Now gone are the days when you could use college as a place to fine tune your game for the pros... No way anymore. College is not even a place anymore to be able to tread water and keep the level you had going in. Sad.

SAVE COLLEGE TENNIS said...

Its truly SAD to see mens singles scores 6-5, 5-6. What scoring is that? The college committee is making a mockery of the tennis game.

Leave the fundamentals of the game alone. Leave the integrity of the game alone.

Over 80% of the college coaches are AGAINST this new format.

Stop messing with the scoring. It is disgusting.

MarTennis said...

I going to cut straight to the chase. I accept Coach Kriese arguments in toto. That said, I now am of the opinion undoubtedly that we as tennis fans and I guses generally smart people are unrealistic and spoiled rotten to the core. In the face of open hostility from ADs across America to our sport, the opposition has no money but plenty of snarkiness. College tennis will continue to die, because half of you will oppose the USTA becoming involved eventually and the other half will insist that the money will be there to support Division 1 and 2 men's and women's tennis.

If you want the ITA out of tennis, then you are very behind the curve. You'll need many foundations raising hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions, see UCLA recent gift. Without that model, where money is raised specifically for the sport you want to keep out of club level, forget it. See University of Cal baseball. Start raising money NOW. The end is near. Also, Lacrosse is not a savior. #savecollegetennis

MarTennis said...

College tennis is going to raise millions of dollars to support itself or the format is going to change so that the sport can be included in regional sports networks and leagues networks, ie, Pac 12 Network. If it can't be packaged with the other sports, commoditized and sold. ADs will cut. Address that in whatever urgent steps parents, college coaches and other interested niche entities decide to pursue.

Yu Sing said...

WE HAD EXPERIENCED THE MOST EXCITING SUPER TIEBREAKERS DOUBLES OF OUR LIVES OVER THE LAST WEEKEND AT THE UNIVERSITY OF NEW MEXICO DOME WHEN UC IRVINE & TEXAS A&M CC HAD TO PLAY TWO SUPER TIEBREKERS IN DOUBLES TO DECIDE TWO SEPARATE MATCHES WHEN BOTH MATCHES WERE TIED AT 3-3.
THE MOST EXCITING PART WAS WHEN DOUBLES IN BOTH MATCHES WERE ALSO TIED AT 1-1.
THE DOME WAS ROCKING AND ALL 6 TEAMS' PLAYERS AND COACHES AND THE LOBOS FANS THERE ENJOYED THAT QUICK 5 MINUTES OF DOUBLES SUPER TIEBREAKERS.
MEN, THAT'S WHAT COLLEGE IS ALL ABOUT BUT YOU HAVE TO WAIT FOR THE 3-3 IN SINGLES BEFORE YOU CAN EXPERIENCE IT BECAUSE ALL THREE DOUBLES START AT THE SAME TIME WITHOUT ANY WARM-UPS RIGHT AFTER SINGLES.
IT WAS ONLY 2 OUT 12 MATCHES NEED THE DOUBLES TO DECIDE THE OUTCOME OR ELSE THE FORMAT WAS PRETTY BORING AND SOME TIMES VERY LOPSIDED.
SOME OF THE MATCHES WENT OVER 3 HOURS BECAUSE YOU HAVE TO WIN 4 OUT OF 6.

Tennis guy said...

Who is on the Board that made the changes?

J.P. Weber said...

Just a real quick note to add to the mix here:

I am not on the inside where I can know for sure what is happening. But I do believe David Benjamin and UNM Athletic Director Tim Cass et al. worked to create a "false crisis". (I would be remiss if I did not also say I think Tim Cass is one of the best and smartest tennis coaches I have ever met. He left tennis coaching to get into a position of an Athletic Director in order to help collegiate tennis.) If collegiate tennis is ever on TV it will be a very few select group of teams. I would ask both Coach Cass and DaveKB (Davis Benjamin--I presume) if they had not watched WTT and seen how it is played with a system that is even more bastardized and noticed the lack of viewership? They have every bell and whistle you can imagine but I would not spend a dime to watch that. I would and do however take kids every year to UGA to watch the matches there. And to shorten the scoring system to what it is now diminishes the event more than makes it relative. The failure to get fans to college tennis matches rests on the shoulders of the coaches and the AD's. When Coach Cass was at UNM he got fans cause he worked at that objective specifically. He built an indoor center and he created a fan base. There are few coaches like him across the country who recognize the need to do this. But also, there are few AD's who require it of their coaches to do. We also attend Georgia Tech matches. Might as well watch paint dry and you would have a better time. But the coaches there are not spending the same kind of time and effort in developing fans.

Another important point to be emphasized was the vote and how that went down. The Scarpa system was voted in with acclamation from the coaches. This system was not. It was taken up as a "false crisis" by a select few and pushed forward. It should not have been done in this manner but it was. There was enormous opposition to the change as Coach Kriese mentioned in his article. But this select few set out to "win". They were not going to be defeated and it did not matter--by hook or crook--they had to have their way.

Kudos to Coach Kriese for writing and trying to save college tennis and all tennis from these shenanigans.

Tennis officials all across the USA are changing the scoring formats at all different levels. Stop changing the formats of tennis scoring across the board. It is not really doing much to help the game in any way shape or form in my opinion. In collegiate tennis it is not going to improve upon the Scarpa system.