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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Chuck Kriese's Final Push to Retain Traditional Scoring for Division I College Tennis

I received this email yesterday from current Citadel and longtime Clemson men's head coach Chuck Kriese regarding format change, which he is not against, and scoring change, which he does object to.  Here is his document, in its entirety. I have included links to the Bloemendaal position paper and the list of NCAA Cabinet member emails addresses at the bottom of the post. 

‘A square peg in a round hole’ 

January 26, 2015

American College Tennis Coaches have been battling about scoring systems and formats for too many years. The Solution might be quite manageable if two fundamental points were considered:

1. Tennis is: ‘An individual sport that has some team opportunities; whereas, we have wrongfully approached tennis as ‘A team sport looking for individual opportunities.’ We have not made significant headway in either team or individual areas. We have therefore become a ‘Tweener’ as administrators do not see our relevance and player development has become secondary. Potential has been missed.
2. Scoring System and Format are two completely different issues - Each of these should be addressed with unique perspective and considered separately. The Scoring system is a world-wide sacred tradition of our sport and should be honored as such! Formats don’t need to be; Modifications are easily agreed upon.

“In matters of Principle, stand like a rock; In matters of method, flow with the stream” --Thomas Jefferson

It has always been about ‘Education vs. Entertainment’ - The Battle is between Education and Entertainment priority. Differences of perspective run much deeper than just a quick-fix to get more people in the stands. This is a great battle of the Ideologies between ‘traditions vs. trends.’

Catering to trends for the sake of mere excitement will not sustain interest nor promote the excellence that is sought for the longevity of our sport. It is only in the honoring of its heritage and its educational intangibles that will ultimately build interest that will last. Educators see the sport of tennis for its great depth and teaching opportunities. Another focus sees the potential to promote through trends of entertainment. These two ideologies do not have to be exclusive and can hopefully be inclusive. However, when both cannot be achieved, a decision has to be made! Each and every coach should have the right to interpret what the best approach for his/her school’s own interests and needs to be relevant. The recent overreach by USTA and ITA causes great concern. The heritage of tennis and time honored traditions of our sport need to be honored and protected. We ask them to do this first and foremost.

Opposing points of view have now come to a head as mandates and directives have been pushed by ITA. Transparency to their decision making process has come into question. It is known that the Power 5 conferences of the SEC, the ACC, the Big 10, the PAC 12 and the Big 12 (only 6 men’s teams are in the Big 12) now have conference TV stations. This provides great opportunity for these tennis programs.
Their priorities are quite different from those schools without such promotional tools.

The ITA has forcefully presumed the power to push forward a format and scoring system that is a widely different from the traditional/educational scoring system of tennis that has been used world-wide for years. Opposition to its implementation is large and continues to grow. The USTA has also been in knee-jerk mode in reaction to the loss of tennis popularity in the U.S.A. The USTA has also leveraged the ITA toward entertainment objectives of the abbreviated formats while attempting to persuade everyone that education will be a natural byproduct. In their overreach, both organizations have not honored the traditions of our sport! The mandates and directives to force abbreviated scoring systems forward are extremely dangerous to the core fundamentals of tennis. Both education and entertainment objectives are in danger of being dismantled in the process.

The disregard for the educational opportunity and the depth of our sport is troubling. Also wrong are the skewed results for multiple matches that experimental formats cause. Immediate parity which is not based on skill-set is a wrong approach for any sport if learning and longevity are the goals. It remains puzzling why a simple TV format for special televised matches could not be used as a compromise for all. This question should be asked.

“An unjust law is no law at all”--St. Augustine

There is absolutely no excuse for the ITA’s ongoing disregard for coaches and players points of view. A planned agenda has been pushed through. The ITA is a voluntary, dues paying, coaches organization. Their mission is to advise and serve coaches and to present recommendations to make a good learning environment for our players. It is their duty to listen to all concerns and points of views of all; especially when that view is different than theirs! They have acted inappropriately.

Please Consider:

• In 2012, nearly 10,000 signatures were expressed on-line against a format change that was initiated after 2012 NCAA Tournament scheduling problems. Time issues had nothing to do with scoring systems. There were simply too many teams being at the final site. The unprecedented pushback by players, coaches and fans was temporarily acknowledged; however, USTA/ITA morphed their approach and presented it again.

• In December 2013, the men coaches at the ITA convention voted 21-19 after 5 hours of discussion. The final vote favored keeping traditional scoring with simple adjustments for the 2014 winter season. This vote was ignored by ITA board and different course of action was drawn up in private meeting that same evening. That non-debated format was forced on teams and mandated to be used for the first 6 weeks of the 2014 season. Many skewed results occurred with impact to several teams and coaches.

• In ITA’s own poll of 2014 spring, 81% of college tennis players voted to not change singles and 85% voted to not change doubles. These votes were ignored. The significance of this poll was not acknowledged.

• One of the Top Players of college tennis conducted an independent petition of collegiate players in fall of 2014. There were 1347 signatures to oppose scoring changes. This was ignored.

• A petition was sent out to women’s coaches by a well-respected and veteran coach of 40+ years in late summer of 2014. In response, 194 women’s coaches voted to require ITA to have 2/3 majority to make fundamental changes that significantly impact collegiate tennis. The importance of this petition was opposed by ITA. This well-respected coach received strong criticism from ITA board members.

• An MDTA (Men's Division I Tennis Association) poll was conducted in summer of 2014. The vote was 67-11 in favor traditional scoring and to not change to abbreviated format. This vote was ignored.

• After tremendous pushback from coaches and players in summer of 2014, the NCAA cabinet tabled the ITA/USTA move to abbreviate the format. The ITA director sent out 3 emails within an 8-day period with directives to all coaches to use abbreviated format for fall events anyway.

• ITA has recently promoted that their coaches are unanimous for abbreviated scoring. This is an inaccurate assessment. It is based on ITA’s own board vote and their promotions. Multiple coaches were not involved and there were many abstentions to their board’s vote. ITA has recently sent out a latest directive to use abbreviated format for non-conference play. This goes against a long-standing procedure used for years in non-conference play: “When two coaches agree, they can choose to play an experimental format.” For 6 weeks in spring 2014; The fall 2014 and now in the spring of 2015, the ITA has treated their abbreviated format as the norm and traditional scoring as the novel. This is a slight-of-hand and should not be accepted. Their non-conference directive actually has taken it a step further.

• At this time, the results of the NCAA poll sent out by NCAA in the fall of 2014 have not been circulated.

As Coaches, we should note the following:

1. The ITA is a voluntary coaches organization! Expensive dues are required for their services. They are a reference for college tennis information and conduct tournaments and polls. Their power is implied. It is not absolute! Mandates should not be made by ITA and a minimum 2/3 support from coaches should be required for such fundamental changes in tennis legislation. ITA has acted inappropriately.

2. Just as the NCAA does not have the right nor the power to directly influence decisions made by the USTA, the USTA does not have the right nor power to directly influence the direction of NCAA sports and welfare of Student-Athletes who participate in the sport of tennis.

3. The USTA is a greatly respected organization that is of great service to our youth; however, their finances to the ITA and the pressure (presumed or actual) to push forward their own agendas is a wrong thing to do.

Here are suggestions to consider that will help to keep unity in our coaching ranks: (it is understood that all collegiate coaches have similar suggestions!)

1) Make a simply TV format for college tennis when someone actually does get on TV.

2) We could split our season into a ‘Team Season’ and an ‘Individual Season’. Our sport would again be a developmental situation for players and administrators would have two sports for the price of one. (See Coach Randy Bloemendaal’s position paper)

3) Format and scoring system are two completely different issues!!! Appropriate team format changes could easily be acceptable if traditional scoring is honored and not placed in jeopardy.

4) ITA needs to be completely transparent. They should honor and respect their position of being a service organization first and foremost. Politics and policy making should be secondary and only done when 2/3 majority of coaches agree on an action.

5) Although the USTA’s support of our collegiate programs is appreciated, they need to stay out of the legislative business of college tennis. They should not lobby for influence.

For the Love of our sport,

Chuck Kriese
Randy Bloemendaal
Gene Orlando

Bloemendaal position paper link
February 11 NCAA Cabinet meeting call to action link


Shawn said...

The integrity of college tennis as a training ground for the pros is ruined. What top juniors want to go to college now and play no-ad scoring and shortened matches?

Tennis5 said...

The USTA asserts that the new scoring system will make tennis more relevant and halt the cutting of Mens’ tennis teams.

When they cut the Maryland MENS tennis team was there an outcry? Uh.. Not really.
Maryland’s men’s team was 100% foreign.

The thinking goes if you have to cut a sport,
why not the sport with no cap on foreign players,
and the team that is made up of mostly of foreign players?

Keep the bad, throw away the good said...

By a longshot, the worse thing to me is clinch or clinch-clinch and abandoning matches. Even in doubles. With only 6 game sets, they should just play them out now.

The sad result is 90% of the time, the blowout matches are logged and the true battles are abandoned. Talk about lost opportunity for development. So sad. So you get a 6-1 win at two and three doubles and then abandon the great (but short) number one doubles locked at 4-4.

Likewise, you want some some great battles in singles, but only the routine 6-2,6-1 matches finish while the 7-6,2-2 war is abandoned.

Bottom line is that finally when players are even and you have a true test of will, character, stamina, mental toughness, etc, you will throw it away because the team match will be clinched by uncompetitive matches. Sad.

Likewise, it was sad and laughable to see a match about to clinch with two of the matches 5-1 in second, and the doomed teammates trying to out-stall each other to avoid taking the loss.

You said it said...

So true, battles are gone. And that does not prepare anyone to better their tennis, yet get to pros.

Em said...

I applaud coach Kriese for keeping the fight alive! I have never heard of another country deciding to change the scoring in a sport. (Maybe I am ignorant of such things.)I must say that high handed approach of USTA and ITA in recent years regarding junior, college and pro development decisions just boggle the mind and yet only from this post I realize that they don't actually even have the authority to make half of these decisions. Ask any junior tennis players how mad they get when tournament director changes the format to no add to speed things up. College players who worked so hard to get there are ignored and their coaches treated with disrespect? In Europe and around the world coach is a revered title and coaches are respected by parents and players.Yet here in US it seems to me that coach should be replaces with "instructor" and not just in a sense that they instruct players, often they are "instructed"where parents and ITA and USTA dictate them and demand they do as they are told. Baseball, for example, is incredibly slow sport, and one of the reasons the rest of the world is not fond of it, but I haven't heard of many changes to it so that we can make it more appealing to worldwide audiences?

Paul said...

Chuck sums it up very well. Is there some reason that college coaches don't create a different governing body than the ITA? Is there a reason that college coaches don't rebel by refusing to pay their dues to the ITA? Take a stand Division I coaches! Do something about the fact that a small minority are forcing you to bastardize the sport.

fan said...

Paul] I've always enjoyed your comments! Good to have you back. But Big 5 Conference coaches might want TV money? In the name of 'saving (Men's) college tennis'?
Sad times.

Steve Boussom said...

The point of not abandoning matches is the only issue where I believe every D1 men's coach should draw the line. Each young man playing for these various teams has put in years of training and deserves to be able to finish their respective match, no matter what.

Future is not bright said...

Format and no ad aside, I think the issue that Division I colleges are going to be facing over the next 10-20 years is justifying putting money into any sport outside of the major ones.
Personally I love athletics, enjoy college tennis, but in this day and age what is the point of putting significant money into swimming/golf/tennis/wrestling etc if it benefits a small amount of students and little to no people come out to watch them? I totally understand the benefits and impact playing a college sport has on one's life, but does that outweigh the financial considerations in play? If state's are proposing budget cuts to higher education (The Wisconsin Gov is proposing to cut $300 million over next 2 years) how can any sport survive that. Sad, but I fear for the smaller sports (regardless of what format is played).

fan said...

For me, I want that stolen 2 dbls games back. Ax sgls, not exciting and fast dbls gms. 8 gms & ad current format should be the Maginot line, period, no change needed. Applying clinch to dbls yet not on sgls is a travesty as well. Have to save the integrity of dbls! #savecollegedoubles

fan said...

Hellman(California) just got renovated. Other programs too, I don't think those will be axed.

Then how about non Big 5 conferences?

Well it's not like they have TV, unlike Big 5. If Big 5 gets tennis televised and receive TV money, will they give 'handouts' to those non Big 5 teams?

fan said...

I'm not even talking about the technical difficulty and expensiveness of covering 6 sgls matches at the same time!!
How about 3 dbls, how long will they focus on one match when the dbls pt could be decided in less than 30 minutes???!! It's really hilarious if you think about it lol!
First do webcam well!

fan said...

Coach Diaz replied to me via twitter that Cabinet conducted a poll and didn't publish? But I thought that Cabinet requested ITA to carry out the poll? Why should Cabinet do ITA's job? Did both conduct polls separately? Weird...??!!

Tennis5 said...

There are so many die hard tennis fans that would love to watch the matches on Live stream, but the college tennis facilities do not the cameras or access to that.
What if they did and also put advertising with it ( car commercials), would that bring in any money?

Huh said...

Andy Murray quote " I'd rather be happy losing in final than winning and be unhappy." Does that even make sense? Sounds like justifying loss. I've never heard of a single person in the world being unhappy when they win a tournament..unless they are clinically depressed in which they won't be happy doing anything.

George Opelka said...

Another valiant effort from Chuck Kriese, but petitions and pleas are not going to overpower political process. IMO, the only way to retain traditional scoring in Division 1 College Tennis is to call for an all out boycott...and I don't see that happening.