Friday, June 26, 2020

My Interview with Iowa's Blue Chip Recruit Alexa Noel; NCAA D-I Dead Period Extended Through August; TIU Bans Former Tulsa Player for Seven Years; Saving College Tennis

Earlier this month I had an opportunity to talk with 2019 Wimbledon girls finalist Alexa Noel about her decision to join the Iowa Hawkeyes this fall and the result is this Tennis Recruiting Network article.

When speaking with Noel and Iowa head coach Sasha Schmid, I learned that all this came together in the past few months, with Noel shifting gears after the pandemic shutdown continued month after month. The 17-year-old from New Jersey had won her first ITF World Tennis Tournament this year, and was expecting to play only pro events to build her WTA ranking, although she told me she might have played a junior slam this summer. When all that went out the window, Noel got in touch with Schmid, who had attended University of Iowa at roughly the same time as Noel's mother Juree. A chance to play, which she didn't feel was likely this fall on the Pro Circuit, a chance to make a real difference in a program, and her family connections in Iowa led Noel to sign with the Hawkeyes.

Noel has never been on the Iowa campus, and she was unable to take a visit prior to committing due to the dead period the NCAA has imposed since canceling competition in March. Although current student-athletes have begun returning to campuses this month, prospective student-athletes are not allowed to visit, and there has been no in-person recruiting allowed in any sport. Yesterday the NCAA again extended that dead period, which is usually only a few weeks each year, through the end of August. Division I college coaches are not allowed to attend tournaments or practices or make home visits. The USTA had already ruled against allowing college coaches at the August 16s and 18s National Championships when it announced the sites on June 15th; this NCAA announcement makes that ruling moot.

The Tennis Integrity Unit announced today that Majed Kilani has been banned from tennis for seven years and fined $7000 after being convicted of match fixing at a Futures event in Egypt in 2016. The 23-year from Tunisia, who played at the University of Tulsa from 2015-2019, has a current ATP rank of 804. The full TIU release is here.

Lisa Stone at Parenting Aces has been following the demise of college tennis programs closely this past few months, and she has written an important post that explores in detail the issues confronting the sport. She also provides a link to a recent roundtable discussion on college tennis' problems that features reporter Andy Katz, ITA CEO Tim Russell and the USTA's Tim Cass.