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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Coach Jenny Hilt-Costello Responds to Open Letter of Bobby Bayliss

Last night I received an email from Jenny Hilt-Costello, the women's coach at Long Beach State, containing this response to Bobby Bayliss' Open Letter to College Tennis Fans published on Zootennis last week. It provides a perspective I believe the ITA has been too quick to dismiss.

A Response to Coach Bayliss’ February 17 letter and the ITA Arguments

To the College Tennis Community:

The recent letter from Coach Bayliss, which was published on ZooTennis, put a new voice to the same arguments the ITA has put forward throughout the three attempts to radically change the college tennis playing format. While Coach Bayliss is a respected head coach, his letter is filled with subjective reasoning as to why the proposed changes are needed.

His letter also included the same ITA rhetoric: (1) that opposition to their proposed changes is harmful to the sport and (2) that it should be the role of every head coach to simply accept the proposals made by a small committee lacking proper process and willfully ignoring what legitimate input it did receive.

Factually, this is what we know:

1) The NCAA Tennis Committee has requested that the length of the tennis championship at the final sight be addressed. The 32 team tournament (16 men/16 women) is extremely cumbersome to operate and often first round matches have ‘started’ as late as 11pm when delayed by weather or high competitive preceding matches. (Having served on the NCAA Committee, I can attest to this issue). The ITA was asked to investigate modifying the Championships at the final sight to avoid the excessively long days early in the tournament.

2) The ITA has proposed and forwarded to the NCAA on three occasions (2012, Fall 2014, Spring 2015) dramatic format changes that have been repeatedly tabled by the NCAA for failing to properly include the stakeholders (coaches, student-athletes) and for lack of support amongst those stakeholders.

3) The NCAA conducted an online survey of coaches and student-athletes the summer of 2014. The results, only recently published by ZooTennis, were overwhelmingly against the dramatic format changes (No-Ad, shortened doubles, no warm ups). Over 80% of male and female student-athletes are opposed. Over 70% of D1 women’s coaches are opposed. The ITA has never shared this survey publicly.

4) Following the fall 2014 NCAA tabling of their proposal, the ITA created the ‘Women’s Scoring Format Committee’ with a representative from each conference. Three conference calls were held. During those calls, no consensus was reached in support of any specific proposed change. However, there was overwhelming consensus in opposition to any change to the doubles format. The ITA never shared those results.

5) At the lightly attended ITA Convention this past December, the ITA announced that a 12-person ‘Athletic Director’s Committee’ had been created by the ITA during fall 2014. This committee of handpicked AD’s, retired AD’s and some other athletic administrators presented a report mirroring all previous ITA recommendations and justifications put forth in support of their dramatic format proposals. (It should be noted that this was an USTA/ITA created committee rather than a NCAA committee. When D1 coaches surveyed their own AD’s, the existence of this ITA AD’s committee was largely unknown to them).

6) During the ITA Convention D1 Coaches Roundtable this past December 2014, the ITA did not surface any information from the Women’s Scoring Format Committee nor the NCAA athlete/coaches survey. The ITA did, however, talk at length about the recommendations of the previously unknown ITA AD’s committee.

7) During the same meeting, the ITA opted to conduct an unannounced ‘vote’ of those present regarding their proposed format changes. With a total of 34 D1 coaches present, the vote was 25-0-9 in support. A total of 34 present out 500 Division 1 men’s and women’s coaches were included. Of those few in attendance and voting, many are the ITA committee members. This vote has since been used by the ITA as justification that support exists for their proposals.

8) Following the NCAA again tabling the ITA format changes on February 11th, the ITA has now instructed D1 programs that 2015 college tennis is to be played using different formats depending on conference rules. The NCAA tournament will be played using 2014 ‘traditional’ format yet the ITA has mandated the new format for non-conference matches unless both coaches agree otherwise. Thus athletes are now playing one set of rules in some non-conference matches than they will in others. Imagine college baseball being told to play 3 balls on Tuesday but 4 balls on Thursday?

Throughout this process, the ITA has presented a dart board of justifications as to why dramatic change is needed immediately. Since 2012, justifications have ranged from: (1) student-athlete welfare due to length of matches, (2) building fan interest in lieu of real marketing, (3) saving college tennis programs facing cuts due to the shift of money toward basketball/football, (4) a shortened format will result is TV coverage that will massively grow college tennis interest, (5) possibly saving college tennis as a whole because the format changes will make tennis more ‘relevant’ on campus. Not one of these justifications has been presented with any research or objective statistical support.

The most recent push, as also forwarded by Coach Bayliss, is that failure to support the ITA proposal is treason and is “doing damage, perhaps irrevocably, to our great game.” After three failed attempts, the ITA is now resorting to intimidation and name calling.

Rather than getting into subjective name calling or accusations, I present these closing points:

• The NCAA request for a change to the 32 team finals has not been addressed by the ITA. Mirroring the baseball format of 4-team regional, a 2-team super regional match and then 16 teams (8/8) at the finals would satisfactorily address the NCAA’s issue without ‘any’ need to change the traditional scoring format.

• The ITA has continually ignored/buried all opposing information to their proposal. To date, the NCAA has made no statement that college tennis is in danger. The ITA needs to stick to facts, present factually supported arguments and stop with the scare tactics and bullying of coaches in opposition.

• The ITA needs to conduct proper process where significant format changes are proposed. Sell your case, properly poll athletes/coaches/conferences and propose one change at a time. Perhaps there might be support of some change that could improve college tennis. A step by step process needs to be conducted and the stakeholders need to decide; not the ITA Committee unilaterally.

• Men’s Tennis and Women’s Tennis do not have to play the same format. There is already precedent for different variations as men’s tennis plays ‘lets’ while women don’t. At the professional level, men play 3 of 5 sets at the majors while the women play 2 of 3. The ITA has received no NCAA mandate requiring both genders to play the same formats.

We all want a strong future for the great sport of college tennis. College tennis needs leadership that will represent the sport, the coaches, and the athletes in a transparent and inclusive manner. The stakeholders are college tennis. The ITA committee is not.
Jenny Hilt-Costello
Head Coach
Long Beach State


Ace said...

I really wish they would do a survey of coaches and student-athletes now. I have talked to a number of them, men and women, and after playing the no-ad, most of them like it.

That could end this whole tempest in a teapot

Lisa S said...

Thank you for posting this response, Colette. I would also encourage those interested to listen to this week's ParentingAces podcast with coaches from Lenoir Rhyne, LA Tech, Sam Houston, as well as other interested stakeholders. They express similar concerns to the ones stated above. The podcast is online at www.parentingaces.com/radio-show.

jjcbeme said...

To Ace: You may be right. If the ITA did a new poll asking just about No-Ad 'maybe' it would be welcomed now. So do a poll. Pretty easy to get the answer.

I will bet my house that 90% of athletes and coaches would still object to shortened doubles and no warm ups.

own it said...

That's amazing coincidence that a lot of these points were made by jjcbeme in the comments section a few days ago.

jjcbeme said...

Not same person but thank you for noticing. I do know coach.

Brian said...

I have spoken to a lot of young men playing D1 and these are the comments.

1) Hate no ad, hate shortened doubles matches.
2) Like the no warmup as they would rather warmup with their team.
3) Feel the clinch clinch rule and no ad is ruining their own development towards becoming a pro.
4) Feel they can not speak freely as they don't know where their coach stands on the issues.

Big Mike said...

Leave it to a Women's coach from a no-name school to raise a stink. Wow, that wasn't expected now was it?

Parent of Student Athlete said...

Nice letter Coach Hilt-Costello! Way to expose and slam the incompetent fascists on the ITA Committee, including Bayliss.

Ask all not a few said...

When people talk to players and get the opinion that "most" of them feel this way or that way, they have to remember they are probably talking to a subset that is likely to have similar opinions - same team, same level player, etc. A player on a top 5 team may fell differently than a top 20, 30, or beyond team. And how their coach feels is likely how they will feel when asked. They have to. Without a comprehensive survey/poll, no one is able to say "most" think anything.

Paul said...

The problem is clear: The ITA is not representing the views and interests of the players and coaches in Division I tennis. What is the answer?

I am not familiar with how the ITA is setup, but it seems there needs to be a significant change:
- Elect new governing members of the ITA
- Start a new ITA
- Stop paying dues to the ITA

Jenny sounds like a very intelligent, well-reasoned person. I would like to hear her thoughts on the solution to these problems.

Frankly, Division I college tennis has become very disappointing.

DaveKB said...

I am just a long time male fan, but have played tennis for over 60 years mostly at 4.5 and now 4.0 level.

If college tennis is really about the players and coaches, the women should change nothing and it sure seems like that is the opinion of almost all involved in women's tennis. Due to Title IX no women's tennis team will ever be eliminated and that is also why they get 8 full or 'head count' scholarships and the men get 4.5 scholarships.

No offense intended, but other than family and close friends, attendance at women's matches must be less than 50 people. A close women's tennis match lasts around 5 hours and 4 hour singles matches are not uncommon. From this fan's viewpoint I have zero interest in watching any 5 hour sporting event, not even counting the time that it takes to get there and back. Admittedly using 'no ad' to shorten women's matches is unlikely to attract many new fans, but maybe some will start showing up. My recommendation for the women is to play a 'one ad' format and 8 game pros sets in doubles. There should be a clinch rule in doubles, but not in singles dual matches. You have to have 'clinch, clinch' at the NCAA's and NTI or they will never end.

I have been to the last 7 NCAA championships and watched parts of them. No human, except Collette :), can stay for the roughly 12 to 14 hours that it takes to play the four days of 16 and QF days. If it rains then it can take 18 or more hours due to a lack of enough indoor courts. Attendance in general is bad at the NCAA's, but noticeably worse when the women play.

Men's tennis is different in that there are fewer Power 5 and D1 men's teams. I think the Big 12 has 12 women's teams and only 6 men's teams due to Title IX and the 85 full FB scholarships. I have not looked it up, but it is similar in the PAC 12. I think the ACC has 15 women's teams and 11 men's teams with one (BC) playing with no scholarships.

Some D1 men's teams have been eliminated. Maryland did this 3 years ago. Maybe the huge new TV money in the Power 5 conferences from football makes any more cutting unlikely, but at the rest of D1 I think many teams are in jeopardy, because when a cut has to made it will among men's sports like golf, wrestling, swimming, track and field, and tennis.

The big time D1 men's coaches generally seem to believe that if the matches last around 3 hours that more fans will come out to watch and their matches will get on TV via the conference networks or on ESPNU or ESPN3. They may be right, but I doubt significant numbers of fans or TV viewers will start watching. I watch some of the live streaming that exists now, but it has its problems.

Doubles is kind of weird, because pro doubles rarely gets on TV and it also draws few fans at pro tournaments. College doubles seems to be very popular and the players enjoy it, but many fans watch doubles and then go home or maybe stay for the first set of singles, which takes about 2 hours.

As to the NCAA's I propose two solutions.

1) Separate the men and women venues. This frees up more courts for the 16's and QF rounds.

2) Have a Final 8 (not 16) at the NCAA's by playing three matches at the regionals.

Brian said...

As a fan who watches tennis, my favorite part in college tennis is doubles. Now, it is over in the blink of an eye. I hate watching no ad. The back and forth with the deuce point is the best part of tennis.
So, they will probably lose the few valuable fans with this new format.

I just don't think they will pick up new fans. Who are they? Someone who has never watch tennis before, and will enjoy this butchering of the sport?

playing it said...

As a freshman mens D1 player who doesn't like no ad, shouldn't i have a vote too. The usta messed up my last two years as a junior, and now this is a mess in college. This is not good for development either with my match ending in the middle bc i grinded out the points. and not good mentally to stop in the middle.

Cory said...

Colette, thanks for keeping the discussion alive. Even with our FB page, the ITA wouldn't listen.

Keep playing strong said...

To playing it - just so you know, I hear and feel your pain. Many of us do. All these "adults" are really messing with tennis - your sport and what has probably been your life for years - with no regard for you, the player. After years of training for the game of tennis, they change the rules. I am so sympathetic to the players like you, caught in the eye of this hurricane since juniors and still just spinning around. Parents feel so helpless to do anything - in juniors no one in the USTA listened and we are so far removed from the college system. I wish we could help, we count on people like Colette to keep the issue alive. I hope it helps you to know there are many that understand it from your perspective, we just have no power to do anything about it. On behalf of all the people that should say it but never will, I am sorry this has happened to your tennis.

Unknown said...

I believe that we are losing sight of the players and the actual matches they are playing. As a player and a coach I never dreamed that myself or my players would ever just stop playing our respective match because the overall team match was decided. Tennis is an individual sport and the matches should all be played out, regardless of team score. Incentive to battle and fight when down needs to matter.

Lin said...

Big Mike - My kid plays for a top 20 D1 program, and the coach is an avid opponent to the ITA's changes. Does that meet your standard, or does it have to be a top 5 program? I hope you have a kid named Mike, or are you personifying a trait that may be less than you wish?

fan said...

DaveKB; At IW, doubles matches are jam packed. And as a WNCAA fan, I respectfully disagree on your view. Just leave WNCAA alone please, change whatever you want on the Mens lol.

Just saying said...

ATP Doubles plays TWO sets of rules. At the majors, pros use regular scoring. They play no-Ad (and a Match TB) in the other events, the "regular season." I think it's ironic that pro doubles is used as the example for "no AD" when at the most important events of the year, Men's Doubles eschews No-Ad & and plays matches the full 2 out of three (and longer at Wimbledon).

They play real tennis when it really matters

fan said...

Just saying, exactly. From John McEnroe's gaffe about no need to play doubles, and this conspiracy on the ITA's part, they are going all out to destroy doubles. When doubles is the most fan friendly!! It's really hilarious and pitiful at the same time!

Tennis Player said...

Doubles is truly what most fans enjoy the most and come to watch. Doubles is so exciting to both "non-tennis" players and tennis players and creates the boisterous/rowdy atmosphere! Getting rid of doubles is just plain stupid if they really want to attract a bigger fan base especially with the students and "non-tennis playing" fan.

Kudos to Jenny Hilt-Costello the women's coach at Long Beach State for stating the facts. I wish ITA would post it as well since they posted Bayliss--haha. Hopefully, NCAA and AD will read it as well.

Coach said...

There is a lot of wrong information in this thread. I'll go through and clarify some, as well as add additional thoughts:

1. Singles matches are played to completion unless both coaches agree to stop once the team result has been clinched. This is an ITA rule.

2. The men's coaches in the Power 5 conferences continuously support the new "ITA format". SEC, Big 12, and Pac 12 all voted to play their conference regular season matches under the new rules despite the fact that the NCAA tournament will played under regular scoring. The vast majority of ACC and Big 10 coaches also support the new format (no-ad, 6 game doubles sets, etc), but can't play during their regular seasons because of conference policies during the school year (ie. format must be established prior to the school year starting and can't be changed mid-year).

3. Over the last 2 years, 15 of 16 coaches at the Men's National Indoor Championships each year have voted in favor of adopting the new rules/scoring format and strongly believe that it's best for college tennis.

4. The "survey" results that opponents of the new format refer to are well over a year old and were taken when none of the women players actually played no-ad scoring. Ace is correct in advocating for a new survey. It is my strong opinion that the majority of coaches/players who have now actually played under the new rules indeed support them and believe that they are a superior product. The basis for my opinion can be found in points 2 and 3 above.

5. Several of the outspoken top coaches who were against this new format (Brian Boland, John Roddick, Ty Tucker, etc) have all changed their views and now support the new format through their vote on the issue at National Team Indoors. There is a very, very select few coaches who actually still endorse the old format.

Every sport gains its visibility from the top 5% of programs. And what is best for the highest level of the sport is ultimately what's best for everyone when it comes to scholarship availability, program funding, tv exposure, etc.

It's unfortunate that there are some standing in the way of what is clearly desired by the vast majority of the top programs in the country (at least on the men's side).

Federer Up said...

This site has just become a vehicle for complainers.....the only time Collette can get comments is when she posts controversial topics...all of her good reporting goes unnoticed on the site. When coaches like Peter Smith and Manny Diaz support the format ( based on all the "expert" comments on this website- as the top programs have the most to lose with the new formats) we should all listen as they have been able to develop players within the system. What is to bad is that all of the people who comment on this website (all 10 people) never give solutions. They just complain. Parenting Aces and ZooTennis have just become a site for the small majority to create controversy.......

Cory said...

To "Coach".... is this more "the way it is". No one wanted shortened doubles, and no one wants it today, but of course, we are all wrong.

playing it said...

It is tiring when everyone is speaking for the players, but the players. We don't want no ad. It is not welcome.

Colette Lewis said...

Could you please explain your comments regarding the survey, saying it is over a year old?
On Sept 9, 2014, less than six months ago, the Championships Cabinet tabled the format change recommended by the ITA, suggesting "another survey be sent to membership and that it originate from the NCAA Division I men's and women's tennis committee."
Was this not the survey used in the January conference call?

Coach said...

Colette: my understanding is that the survey results used in the January conference call was from last year. Regardless, even if it was from this past fall, the women wouldn't have played dual-matches under the new ITA format. Those started in January.

DaveKB said...

I support a compromise. Play 'one ad' instead of 'no ad' tennis. Surely there must be data on how often games goes to deuce and to two deuces. My guess from playing tennis over a lifetime is that only 10% to 15% of games go to one deuce and 5% to 10% go to two deuces. In one sided matches there are very few deuces

I think the NCAA will become OK with any scoring format that shortens the interminable length and long days at the NCAA's team event in the round of 16 and the QF's. You can also separate the men and women and thus have double the number of courts available, but this seems to be unpopular.

I think the best solution is to play three rounds at the regionals from Friday through Sunday and then play a Final 8 also from Friday through Sunday at the NCAA's. If you want people to watch do not have the semis and finals on a Monday and Tuesday afternoon. Most fans still have to work.

The teams seeded from 11 to 16 almost always get destroyed by the 1 through 6 seeds, so it is pointless that they have to travel all the way to the NCAA's.

If there are only 8 teams or you separate the men and women many more teams could host and hotel issues, often complicated by graduation, would be reduced. I even like letting the top seed remaining to be able to host the Final 8. This would work best if you separated the men and women so each top seed gets to host. Barring upsets the crowds would be better.

Copper Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, the Westerns, and the Texas Open and Boy's 18 's Nationals in March. said...

To the Federer poster, we were also considered "whiners" and "complainers" when the USTA took away Copper Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, the Westerns, and the Texas Open and Boy's 18 's Nationals in March. All of those events were 128 draws and all had doubles. THEY STILL HAVE NOT BEEN REPLACED. . Sorry that everyone just doesn't say how wonderful the USTA and ITA are for you... They cut 5 national tournaments with 128 draw out of the schedule permanently, and all we got was a 32 person team event that is a JOKE with the worst players in it. No one plays it who is good.
Beyond pathetic what they did to the tournament system.

Dan - GA said...

Doubles is the biggest draw for the fans, why would they cut it.

Brian said...

Also could add Southern Open to the list of 128 national tournaments that they took away and did not replace.

Domer said...

Notre Dame vs Illinois…Bayliss would be so proud…nice stack, Sach! Protect those rankings:)

Cory said...

People are complaining on blogs because the powers to be are tone deaf to any issues that don't benefit their PD players. Out of frustration, folks turn to the internet.

Shawn said...

Shortening doubles is a mistake every which way for player development. Probably the most excitement at the matches. Not sure what the ITA is thinking, but this doesn't help player development.