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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Six Reasons I'm Disappointed in Bobby Bayliss' Open Letter

I just read my post from last August on why I'll no longer be traveling to cover Division I college tennis, and I suggest you read it if you are not familiar with my objections to no-ad scoring in tennis. Since I wrote that post, I have had dozens of in person discussions with Division I college tennis coaches when they are recruiting at junior tournaments, and nothing any of them has said has changed my mind about no-ad, although I have been swayed on the question as to whether a format change could help the sport on the Division I level.

I have published Bayliss' letter at his request, which he said would be "in the interest of fairness and full disclosure." I will add that I honored his request, knowing full well that under no circumstances would the ITA ever consider publishing my response or any other article that is against its format change.

I know I can't be convinced that this scoring change, which is essentially robbing the great sport of tennis of one of its most significant and potent features without any publicly available data to support its proponents claims, is the best solution to the issues facing Division I tennis. And that is what the ITA, in the form of its Operating Committee, has insisted on.  I do not wish to in any way diminish the great career that Bayliss has had and what his lifelong support of the game has contributed to Division I college tennis. But his letter disappoints me for several reasons:
  1. It is full of assumptions about the elimination of tennis and other non-revenue sports based on his reading of the tea leaves of the new governing structure of the NCAA. He may be right, but very few people in Division I sports can say with any confidence now how this is going to play out. 
  2. Relying on the input of 12 college athletic directors and administrators, input that has never been released in any formal document, in a sport that has 325 schools sponsoring Division I tennis is one obvious problem. The lack of reference to any input from prospective, current or former student athletes is another.
  3. Suggesting that people who don't agree with no-ad or the shortening of the doubles point just don't have the necessary information (he closed his email to me saying I need to be "better informed"), implying he has that requisite information, but then failing to share any specifics.
  4. Casting any disagreement with the changes as divisive, and opponents as villains attempting to thwart the ITA's heroic efforts. Trying to save a sport by changing it so drastically is guaranteed to alienate many. But the ITA has gone down that path, and despite disagreement with or skepticism of its premises by many coaches and student athletes and fans, the ITA continues to push a solution a majority do not want.  See the results of the survey of coaches and student athletes here.
  5. Calling open and passionate debate on an issue "dirty laundry" and attempting to suppress it in the name of a unanimity that doesn't exist. I agree Division I college tennis looks bad, but when the ITA takes such a radical and unyielding position, without building a consensus of student-athletes, coaches and fans, there is bound to be fallout. It is unavoidable if you live in a country or attend a school where freedom of expression and the exchange of ideas is sought and valued.
  6. His consistent failure to distinguish between college tennis and Division I college tennis. There are more than 800 college tennis programs in the United States who are not looking for format or scoring changes to keep them viable.
I will close with a quote from current ATP Player Council President Eric Butorac, who played his college tennis at Division III Gustavus Adolphus College (this quote was in reference to the first set of changes proposed by the NCAA tennis committee back in 2012. The full article is here)

"In professional sports, we are entertainment," he said. "We in doubles, we do ours strictly because we’re in the entertainment industry. That’s why we changed the format, to get more fans, to get more singles players playing doubles along with their singles.

"Now, I don’t think college needs to be in the entertainment industry, unless they’re going to generate income and massive fan bases, or get a massive ESPN contract to help fund the programs. If that’s the case, then let’s make it more of an entertainment industry. But if it’s not entertainment, let’s focus on the competition and the development of these guys for the future."


Scoring change is right way to go said...


Its pretty amazing to me you keep assuming college tennis won't be cut without a change. The new scoring system makes sense and keeps the matches within 3 hours. It also keeps fans at the matches past the doubles point and makes for very intense college matches. I have seen this evidence first hand.

You keep arguing for development of players. As far as I can tell basketball teams and football teams are trying to win games. If there players get better while doing that they get drafted. Does basketball play extra time when the score is decided? The answer is no.

Solution is simple
Night matches for all teams with lights aside from the exception of a sunday match. (College soccer is boring but they get a ton of fans because they wait until work day is done)

Keep the no ad scoring because it is exciting and entertaining.

Stop whining about scoring change.

Division 3 tennis is a complete joke. Please stop comparing that to Division 1 tennis.

Mareketing of sport needs to improve from coaches. Stop waiting for someone else to do it.

The college tennis community needs to understand to be relevant we have to appeal to fans. Right now with 4 hour matches we do not. This is the right change and will keep us exciting.

Colette Lewis said...

I am not whining. I am stating an opinion and a personal preference. I said very clearly where I stand back in August and moved on. Bobby Bayliss asked me to revisit this issue by publishing his letter, so to accommodate him, I did.

Rob Krajicek said...

Why do people insist on hiding behind fancy made up titles? Man up or shut up... I also can't believe someone is so disrespectful to non D-I tennis. College tennis is collrge tennis. Ask Eric. I didn't play college tennis at all, my son did. I played D-III basketball. But non D-I doesn't make it non competitive...

Anonymous said...

Colette -- why do keep omitting the most recent votes from the ITA Coaches Convention in Naples where over 80% of women's coaches supported the change to no-ad after playing it in the fall and where 100% percent of men's coaches supported the no-ad? ... Or the unanimous vote by the Operating Committee last week to continue with no-ad throughout the entire non-conference season? ... Or the fact that 15 out of 16 head coaches at National Team Indoors strongly supported the use of no-ad?

I have yet to speak with a coach, player, or fan that has participated in a dual match under the ITA no-ad format that didn't think it was more exciting and a better overall experience.

jjcbeme said...

College tennis does not look bad. Only the ITA looks bad. Now the ITA is crying college tennis looks bad because their other slanders (as Colette lists) have not worked.

That picture of Game Point with a ref... you realize 85% of D1 tennis matches have only 2 refs. Who's holding that sign.

Changing the format of D1 tennis will not enhance the sport. It will have people look down their noses as the sport since it 'apparently isn't good enough to play real tennis.'

1950's Senator McCarthy would be very proud of the bullying, name calling and accusing the ITA board is doing to defend an indefensible position.

1) Institute Super Regionals to fix the finals.

2) Make a single proposal (NoAD or shortened doubles) and survey te membership.

3) Then institute or move onto something supported.

This all or 'you are killing college tennis not supporting us blindly' practice is what is embarrassing.

jjcbeme said...

To anonymous:

There was no 'coaches' vote. There are 300+ D1 women's coaches. A total of 35 people were in a room where an unannounced vote was taken.

And in that meeting the ITA knowingly withheld the vote of the 31 conference committee the ITA formed this fall... 90% said 'do not touch doubles' and the ITA didn't like that answer so they didn't share it.

Stop pointing to a vote of a cocktail party of 35. It's a fake vote. How about you point out the 31 conferences could not come to any consensus except on one thing... and the ITA ignored that too.

jjcbeme said...

Last add, I have been to 10 matches so far this year and cannot find a single fan or player that didn't find the No AD and particularly the shortened dubs a mistake.

And everyone agrees the no warm up is just plain dumb.

witness said...

I got to witness the new format for the first time last week.and as a occasional college tennis spectator, I have to say I enjoyed it. Reasons. With a family it's hard to find the time for a 3 hour or plus match to watch to completion. The no ad scoring put added pressure on the players wich made for more excitement and I think that said pressure is great for the players. I've always thought that the better player wins in a best of three setter anyway. You see in the pros all the time. Big name player loses first two sets and then pulls out a five setter. What they did was outlast a player that outplayed them in two legit sets. So I believe pro tennis is way to long also for the general spectator. I want to see the best player on that day, not some stamina test. I live near madison wisconsin wear tennis is big and the Badgers still struggle to get big crowds. You will just never see it. The coach even buys pizza or subs for the fans at our meets to draw more in.

jjcbeme said...

I am watching Tennis Channel womens semi right now. There are no fans there either. Same issue with more than just tennis. Most women's hoops games are empty too.

PS: The change back from No Ad to Duece rules this week resulted in a net change of 15 minutes (essentially the break). Baseball, Football, Track and golf are all longer than college tennis.

We are mixing arguments.

JMWills said...

Couple of things - the one comparison that can NOT be made is between men's and women's D1 tennis. Women's tennis is going NOWHERE due to Title IX. They can choose to play best of five sets and athletics directors and conference commissioners will allow it. Thus the entire argument concerns the future of Mens D1 college tennis.
I disagree wholeheartedly with Collette's first bullet point that Coach Bayliss' open letter is "full of assumptions". There are no assumptions. The ADs and Conf Comm have made their thoughts well known. Do we just think that the extra costs that ARE about to be incurred by universities for the Cost of Attendance are not going to have ramifications to non-revenue sports? Please, let's not be naive.
It pains me that other Olympic sports draw exponentially more fans than does college tennis, but facts are facts. Something HAS to change. It is possible the scoring change won't lead to a single new fan, but we have to try something!!! The current model is not working. Unless I'm mistaken, the majority of men's coaches agree (remember the thoughts of the women's coaches are not relevant because their game and thus their jobs are not in jeopardy). As for the Student-Athletes? I'm sorry but their opinion does not nor should it matter. Of course they want to play regular scoring, but they are not privy to the same information that the coaches have.
College tennis is a beautiful thing, and as the father of a highly ranked high school freshman, I dream he will be able to participate at the highest collegiate level. If no-ad scoring helps ensure that dream comes true, I'm on board. And to those of you who believe I am taking the easy way out and succumbing to the "powers that be"….you're darn right because if we have learned anything in the past 20 years, it is that the ADs and Conf Comm will do whatever they damn well please.

Tennis5 said...

1) So... let's say that college football gets unionized and the players start getting a salary, is that the $ shortage Bayliss is referring to?

If we are going to stick with Title 9 which has long outlived it usefulness, then let the men sports subsidize the men teams, and the women sports subsidize the women teams.

2) Where are the fans? Well, as college tennis D1 is heavily foreign, maybe no one from their family or high school tennis team can fly here... And yeah, I am joking a bit. But, an American kid at the Junior US Open has all his friends and family and extended family there to watch and cheer him on.

3) Maybe, you might gain some new fans with this no ad tennis, but won't you lose some fans who hate the new format?

4) Friday/ Saturday Night games -
music, beer, food, popcorn,
Cheap ticket for a Saturday night date - $5.
Make some money off your beer sales.
There is your entertainment for a Saturday night.

5.0 Player said...

I totally agree with Collette. God bless you for having the guts to stand up to the ITA, NCAA and USTA incompetent bullies who have caused our kids untold and unnecessary misery over the past 10 years with their incompetence and dictatorial ways.

Bayliss' letter is a disgrace right out of Joe McCarthy's playbook.

He can’t rely on good direct arguments, so instead he relies on invisible forces which are pure speculation such as his certainty that there is a causal link between no-ad and the total elimination of college tennis. This is right out of propaganda 101 and he uses the well-worn technique called “false dilemma.” He sets up the scenario whereby the choice is No-Ad and his way or the demise of college tennis. If there was any clear evidence that this were true, then that would be a tough choice, but there is no reason to believe that this is an established dilemma. If it were true then why doesn’t the ITA, USTA or NCAA just spell this out with some evidence rather than claim that they are making these changes for other reasons.

The other false dilemma he sets up is that No-Ad will get college tennis on ESPN, but regular ad means no ESPN. Really?!! Show us the TV contract or any evidence of this, even one comment from one TV executive. Again, there is zero evidence of this causal link. It’s all a fairy tale in Bayliss’ and the ITA’s head.

Also, you have to love the use of the “invisible man” technique where he is the only one “in the know” about this “special, secret meeting” where “12 athletic directors and administrators” got together and gave their input. He is letting us in on this inside secret. Thanks coach!! He wants us to just blindly take his word for everything such as this. As Collette pointed out, how come there isn’t any formal document released about this meeting and what was said? In any case, the sport has 325 schools sponsoring Division I, so who cares what 12 hand-picked administrators said based upon his hearsay. This is similar to the way Dick Cheney planted a story about Sadam Hussein having WMD’s with a reporter at the New York Times and then went on the newtwork talk shows the the next day to site the New York Times story as his source for his claim that Sadam Hussein has WMD’s.

His third false dilemma is his certainty that arguing against him and his cronies about their pathetically poorly thought out policies will hurt college tennis. Yeah, I believe you. I’ll take your word for it. What a joke! How convenient for him, not self-serving advice to us at all!

SeminoleG said...

Maybe I'm missing the point. When I was in college in the mid 1980's no one watched most of the Non-Revenue sports, and as a recruiter I was on campus many years and didn't watch Non-revenue sports, and now with a Jr. that will go Div I and colleges having matches close to where I live and work…..I WILL NOT GO WATCH Non-Revenue sports.

Fans/Spectators is a smoke screen. TENNIS will be cut by some schools, you could have .05c wings, Free Beer and hooters girls. Not gonna make a difference. Sooooo why change the format for those that will be left?

I'm @ Delray open a few Top Players on Tour (friend lives close by and I know the organizers) LOOK at TENNIS CHANNEL its EMPTY! No one cares to watch the sport at the pro level, so why change college? Sony (Miami) Open we will go for first few days and stand will be 1/8th full.

Like I said let it DIE a peaceful death @ those schools that can't afford or see the value in Non-Revenue sports. Those left will be stronger for it.

Paul said...

Collete and others commenting above have summed it up well. These college coaches and ADs who believe they are right despite the fact that the large majority disagree with them are typical of many in college athletics. They are not the brightest bulbs in the closet and they push and drive kids to the breaking point just like they do this issue. These people don't care about what is good for the sport. They care about their own circumstances and their fear that they will lose their job because their ADs have scared them.

Butorac is a leader in professional tennis for a reason: he is a very bright and sensitive guy. He has seen all of college tennis and professional tennis. Listen to him.

Do not let the few rule the many in college tennis. Stand up and fight for what is right. If the big schools lose college tennis, so be it. The rest will hopefully focus on what is best for the kids and the sport. Quit the ITA if need be and start another organization. Refuse to pay dues. Or boycott as some have suggested.

There is good reason for the history of tennis scoring. Development of young persons who don't usually mature until their mid to late twenties is what is most important.

Thanks Collete!

tennisnut said...

If the no-ad scoring format is so bad, why then are coaches in the majority of power 5 conferences (perhaps as many as 4 of 5) pushing to continue to play no-ad scoring throughout the remainder of the regular season including conference play? This is not mandated by the ITA. Conference rules supersede ITA rules.

The answer is that those intimately involved with the game (coaches, players, etc.) actually prefer the no-ad format to regular scoring. It is more exciting, creates far more drama, and is better developmentally than regular scoring because it forces players to compete under more pressure.

The shortened format is great for college tennis and is being overwhelmingly supported by the top programs that have actually competed under it.

Lin said...

Tennis Nut - the ITA decided not to force Conference events to use no-ad and 6-game doubles. However, non-conference matched are required to use the new format. If you're a coach, would you want to have to worry about strategy and player line-up to accommodate two different formats, or would you default to the one that is mandated for non-conference regardless of your personal preference?

The ITA has set up a situation where they can now point to the "overwhelming" compliance with their championed format, just as you did. I would be much more interested in an anonymous vote of all D1 coaches, and another for the players. IF conducted by a reputable third-party polling organization, I would then fall in line. Until then, it's looks like a powerful minority implementing their initiative over the will of those who will have to live with it.

Eric Amend said...

Colette, thank-you for this insight and your wherewithal to tackle their false, and most depressing, initiative that has made me completely lose my passion for the college game. It's a total disgrace what they have done to college tennis and I applaud your merits for not wanting to cover the game we both enjoyed watching for so many years.

I played one year of No-Ad scoring when I was in college and it was excruciatingly frustrating as a player and I was ever so thankful that they got rid of it. There isn't anyone who can convince me that No-Ad is a better system, nor that college tennis needed to make this change in order to survive. Someone, somewhere, had an agenda and they railroaded it through.

why said...


Why is no ad scoring a detriment to college tennis?

I don't particulary like it but I don't see the logic against it.

Let's leave off doubles and concentrate just on singles.

1. You play best of 3 sets. Still can be a grind but clearly not as physical of a match but this is offset by pressure points and minimizing the impact of dominant servers.


2. In close matches playing a best of three sets...you in actuality can play the equivalent of 5 sets.

Is this tennis or a marathon contest? Endurance wins a lot of these matches and not necessarily tennis skill as the primary variable.

12 rounds or 15 rounds. 12 rounds makes a contest no less worthy than going 15 rounds in boxing.

If we play Eric and you beat me 7 out of 8 ad points..isn't that an indication of your superiority? Why do we need to play no ad to determine the final result?

Isn't the better play the one who wins the no-ad points? Who is the better player in your mind..the guy who wins the big points or the guy who just wears down his opponent after 2.5 hours?

Doesn't this demand more focus and attention to detail on points played during a game?

Less time and room to get sloppy during points in the match since a deuce point give you no time to relax.

Just my point of view. Give me the big selling point ad tennis and why this is essential to the sport of tennis.

Lin said...

Why - The no-Ad format removes a component of the game that makes tennis unique. When ads are in play, at deuce neither player can win the game on that point. With an ad, only one player can win on that point. Your shot selection, and level of aggressiveness is adjusted depending on the risk/reward inherent in the score.

With no-ad, either player can win on that point, which in my estimation, forces both players to play conservatively. I want to see the flow of strategy that ensues when only one player can win the game on a ad point, and the momentum can rock back-and-forth from deuce to ad multiple times in a single game. This makes some games key moments in a match. Haven't we all seen a long, hard fought game that means so much more to a the winning player because of the time and effort invested in the deuce/ad combat? With no-ad there is no momentum shift. One player WILL win on that point, so every game will have about the same impact on the match.

I don't want to lose that component of the sport. Especially when it only means a 10-20 minute time savings over a 3-set match.

jjcbeme said...

Men's tennis went to let scoring because they couldn't control the chating.

Same thing has already begun at No-AD..

Lastly, the ONLY real research done to date is the athletic/coach survey.

How much does NoAd really shorten the day? Will 15 minutes really save college tennis?

Only 4-5 conferences have their own TV networks. Will 20 college tennis matches on hardly available networks 'save college tennis?'

The 'we must all be unified or be the enemy' argument is offensive.

Every one of Coach Bayliss' points were subjective opinion with no research, do not address the NCAA's issue with the 32 team finals, and have intentionally not been processed through the membership. It's all opinion leading to what has been a dart board of reasons it's needed (student welfare, create more fans, save college tennis with budget cuts coming, and the largely unspoken TV argument).

Ironically, had the ITA listened to the coaches on not messing with doubles, they may have gotten all this through.

Now their arrogance is so broad that they just told the schools to play two different formats the rest of the year. NEVER HAS AN ORGANIZING BODY told teams play this format today and that format in the playoffs.

That alone should prove how out of control the ITA are right now.

Chuck said...

A quick response to three topics herein:
1) anyone who questions Bobby Bayliss's
Integrity is an idiot
2) why are Baylor's European players
"Unconscionable" and Oklahoma's not
Grow up Welcome to the 21st century
In college tennis
3) Of course it is the programs who have commited the $ for facilities , Coaches salaries,
And support that are most concerned about the future.By the way, did I mention winning?

russ said...

Steve Tignor gives a very short history of the introduction of the tiebreak. Those of you who oppose no-ad I put in a similar boat as those who ridiculed the set tiebreaker. Anyone out there who supports going back to endless deuce games?


Amen said...

@ Chuck - one word "Amen."

@ Jon Wertheim - if having a roster of international players is "unconscionable" then what say you of a SPORTS magazine that treats women as nothing more than sex objects every February. Wozniacki got more coverage in SI for appearing in a swimsuit than she did for making the US Open final.