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Monday, June 8, 2015

Larry Ellison, Mark Hurd and Oracle's Role in Saving US Tennis, with College Tennis a Prime Beneficiary

During the NCAAs last month, the Intercollegiate Tennis Association announced a partnership with Oracle Corporation, a Fortune 500 computer technology company. Along with the ITA's rankings and the annual awards luncheon at the US Open now being sponsored by the company, there's a new fall tournament, starting this year at the Malibu Racquet Club.

The small private club, purchased in 2007 by Oracle's chairman Larry Ellison, an enthusiastic player who owns the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, will host the tournament September 18-20. The men's and women's draws, with 16 players in singles and eight teams in doubles, will be filled based on preseason rankings, with spots for returning Indoor champions if still eligible, although they would probably be highly ranked anyway.  The tentative selection process and schedule for the tournament:


1 defending NCAA Champion
1 USTA/ITA NIIC Champion
12 highest ranked singles player from year end rankings
1 Oracle WC

defending NCAA Champion
defending NIIC champion
top 4 ranked teams
1 Oracle WC

1 round Friday
2 singles rounds on Saturday

Finals on Sunday

The complete ITA release on this new partnership and tournament is available here.

Ellison is well known for his involvement with tennis at the highest level, but Oracle co-CEO Mark Hurd is also a staunch supporter of the collegiate version of the sport, with the Baylor University Tennis Center named after him. Hurd, who attended Baylor on a tennis scholarship, graduating in 1979, was instrumental in the Collegiate Challenge men's team event that has been held the past two years in Indian Wells.

Both Ellison and Hurd have been the subject of recent articles on Bloomburg.com.  The article on Hurd is titled "Oracle's Mark Hurd Wants to Revitalize American Tennis by Starting With Schools," and focuses on his belief that US college tennis can serve as the sport's minor league farm system.  The final paragraph implies that the Malibu tournament is just one of two tournaments Oracle will be sponsoring in the future, although the second is most likely the Collegiate Challenge.

Next year, Oracle will back a pair of college tournaments and plans to create a series of pro American tournaments with spots reserved for promising college players. Hurd and Ellison have formed deep ties with the game’s elite, including Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, in the quest to inject fresh life into the American game and produce some superstars. “We are looking at all sorts of things,” says Hurd. “We are doing everything we can to help the sport.”

In the article on Ellison, titled "Larry Ellison is Spending a Fortune to Save American Tennis," there's more on the possible new US circuit.

A new American circuit might start with a midlevel pro tournament in Los Angeles that would take place a couple of weeks before Indian Wells. Then, leading up to both events, there would be a series of 8 to 12 minor-league tennis tournaments played throughout the U.S. College players would be allotted a set number of slots in these tournaments to provide a tryout of sorts. "Either Oracle is going to sponsor it, or I am going to do it,” Ellison promises. He and Haas may also go in together on a junior tennis academy in California.

It's rare enough for one mainstream news article to mention college tennis, let alone two, so that in itself is a positive in raising the profile of the sport.  The ITA has always operated on a shoestring budget, relying heavily on member dues and the USTA for funding, so a deep-pocketed corporate sponsor with a genuine attachment to the game is a welcome development.  If Ellison and Hurd can do for college tennis what they've done for Indian Wells, now that would be something to see.


Chuckie said...

If Hurd wants to support American tennis, maybe he should pick a school with American players. Baylor won't even play the Natuonal Anthem before matches.

Tony said...

@Chuckie are you following anything that is going on with what Hurd is doing? Your commentime shows that you are highly uninformed. The guy went to Baylor and therefore donated money back to his alma mater. What the present-day coach does with the team is his business. Hurd is donating a ton of money to help fund several new college tournaments to help continue to give it's players (domestic and foreign) more opportunities to compete. The operative words being "college tennis".