John Roddick Leaving Oklahoma to Become Director of Tennis and Men's Coach at University of Central Florida
After seven years as head coach of the University of Oklahoma, John Roddick is leaving Norman to become Director of Tennis and men's coach at the University of Central Florida.
The University of Central Florida is in the American Athletic Conference, which includes, among its strong tennis schools, South Florida, Tulsa, Tulane and Memphis. But it is not one of the Power 5 conferences, so leaving the Big 12 for a mid major is a move bound to surprise those who follow college tennis closely.
I spoke to Roddick this evening, after the UCF announcement, and he explained that being a part of the USTA's new Home of American Tennis in Lake Nona, where UCF will play their home matches, was a significant factor.
"At the end of the day, I'm a tennis coach, and I think we're going to be able to provide an opportunity for the elite players in our country, and some from around the world, but I really want to focus on trying to get the elite players from our country to buy into what we can do there," said Roddick. "The unique opportunity they're going to have to play pro events right in their back yard, not even in their back yard, but in their home. It will just open up so many doors on dates and things like that, just the technicalities of our job."
"UCF is a very innovative school, from an academic standpoint. They offer a lot of online things, do a lot of progressive things, and they want to provide the student-athletes with the best options for them, for whatever their goals are. I think with them having that mindset, it's going to be something that a lot of tennis players are going to want to take advantage of."
Roddick mentioned the televising of matches, the opportunity to train with pros based at the USTA's 100-court facility and the access to all the training and conditioning options, which will include Playsight technology on all courts. As a former top international junior who was on the fence about turning pro or going to college, the former Georgia Bulldog believes he would have been attracted to the options that UCF will be able to offer in conjunction with the USTA.
I asked if building a program was the motive for the change, as he made an immediate impact when taking the job at Oklahoma, and with three consecutive appearances in the NCAA finals the past three years and a National Indoor Championship in 2015, Roddick has taken the program to the top Division 1 level in a remarkably short time.
"To be honest, I don't look at it as building or not building. Each year you want to put the best team you can out there. Then the next year you want to have a better team and a better team. I don't look back on OU and think all I did was build. We were able to get to the [NCAA] quarters my first year, be a top 20 team the next year, and then from that point forward we were one of the national elite teams for the most part. So I don't look at it as building, I look at it as an opportunity."
"I haven't spoken yet with team members at Central Florida, I do that tomorrow probably, but I have to see where we're at and make sure the guys there want to work hard. I'm not in a hurry to do it fast. I think it's a great opportunity for kids and I'm the tennis coach, so as long as they want to work hard and do the right things in tennis, on and off the court, and keep their grades up, then they have an opportunity there. I know it's going to take some time and we'll just do it one step at a time. I don't look at it as building or anything like that. You just want to help tennis players get better at the sport they want to play, and I just want to keep putting a better team out there every year."
The announcement from the University of Oklahoma is here.