Wednesday, October 14, 2020

NCAA Announces Sites for Future Championships; USTA National Campus Lands Historic Assembly of All Divisions for 2023

photo courtesy USTA

After a lengthy delay while dealing with Covid-19 issues, the NCAA today finally revealed the sites for its national championships in the four years from 2023-2026, including those of Division I, Division II and Division III tennis.

I had heard there was a possibility that the NCAA Tennis Committee would consider moving all future championships to the USTA's National Campus in Lake Nona Florida, with the championships in all three divisions played there each May.  That did not happen, but a prototype of that format is on the schedule for 2023.  Today's release from the USTA:

ORLANDO, Fla., October 14, 2020 – The NCAA today announced that the USTA National Campus in Orlando, Fla., will host the 2023 NCAA Division I, II, and III Men’s and Women’s Tennis Championships as part of a hybrid bid proposed by the USTA to bring all NCAA tennis championships to a single site.

This will mark the first time in the history of any NCAA sport that one venue will host all six (DI-III M/W) divisional championships in a given year. The bid process was completed in conjunction with the Greater Orlando Sports Commission; university partners of UCF, Rollins College and Oglethorpe University (Ga.); and community partners of the City of Orlando and Orange County.

“Bringing all of these championships to one site will create a true celebration of college tennis, and we could not be more excited and honored that the USTA National Campus was selected to host this historic event,” said Craig Morris, Chief Executive, Community Tennis, USTA. “College tennis is incredibly important to the growth of tennis in this country, and we feel the Campus is the ideal location to showcase every level of college tennis like never before.”

Initial plans for hosting the 2023 events include potential junior tournaments and coaching programming, connecting various components of the USTA’s competitive pathway.

“We are pleased that the NCAA has selected the USTA National Campus to host the 2023 Men’s and Women’s Tennis Championships,” said Jason Siegel, President & CEO of the Greater Orlando Sports Commission. “We have the finest tennis facility in the world right here in our community, and we can’t wait to safely welcome the top teams and individuals in Division I, II and III tennis, as well as their coaches and families back to Orlando and Lake Nona to compete for NCAA championships.”

“Since our tennis teams play their home matches at the USTA National Campus, all of us at UCF are well aware that it’s unquestionably the best collegiate tennis facility in the country,” said UCF Vice President & Director of Athletics Danny White. “So it’s no surprise that the NCAA has elected to bring its national championships back to Orlando—and we look forward to joining with the USTA and the Greater Orlando Sports Commission to ensure these are elite events for the student-athletes, coaches and spectators.”

The USTA National Campus previously hosted the 2019 NCAA Division I Men’s and Women’s Tennis Championships, attracting nearly 12,000 fans over the 10-day event. Tennis Channel, which has a permanent production presence at the Campus, broadcast more than 50 hours of live coverage in 2019, a first for college tennis.

The Campus is scheduled to host the Division I championships again in 2021, as well as the Division III championships in 2022. In addition, Sanlando Park in nearby Seminole County, in conjunction with Rollins College, is scheduled to host the 2022 Division II championships, cementing Central Florida as the home of college tennis.

As mentioned above, the National Campus will serve as the site for the 2021 Division I and the 2022 Division II Championships, before hosting all three divisions in 2023. I assume the dates will be staggered in 2023, with each of the team championships played on the 12-court collegiate facility. The individual championships, which in the past have been held only for Division I and Division III, could expand to other courts on campus if necessary. Aside from the extremely annoying love bug insect infestation, the 2019 Division I championships in Lake Nona received good reviews from most in attendance, but they were extremely fortunate not to have any rain disrupting scheduling last year. There are only six indoor courts on the National Campus, and almost none elsewhere in the area, which could present a problem if there is persistent or regular rain.

The other sites announced are below. I'm including the 2021 and 2022 sites, which were determined several years ago. Oklahoma State, which was to host the Division I Championships this year, and Washington St. Louis, which was to host the Division III Championships this year, will host instead in 2024.

Division I 
2021: Central Florida, USTA National Campus 
2022: Illinois
2023: Central Florida, USTA National Campus
2024: Oklahoma State
2025: Baylor
2026: Georgia

Division II
2021: Pacific West, Surprise Arizona
2022: Rollins
2023: Rollins, USTA National Campus
2024: Rollins
2025: Rollins
2026: Pacific West

Division III
2021: Claremont-Mudd-Scripps
2022: Oglethorpe
2023: Oglethorpe, USTA National Campus
2024: Washington University, St. Louis
2025: Claremont-Mudd-Scripps
2026: University of the South

As far as the Division I selections go, Baylor was not on my list as likely to be selected, after the 2015 National Championships held there were plagued not only by rain and severe weather, but also by a local biker gang shooting that killed nine and led to scores of arrests. Baylor's outdoor facility is an excellent place to watch tennis, but many other schools have specifically constructed new facilities with the express purpose of bidding for these championships, and I would have liked to see the committee acknowledge one of those instead.

Having covered many NCAA championships in Athens Georgia, I was happy to see them return to the rotation, given the tradition and the support for tennis that the community is known for. I know they've recently completed a renovation of the outdoor facility, but I hope in the next five years they have the opportunity to fix their indoor court situation, which only has four courts. If I recall correctly, in three out of the four tournaments I covered there, rain was a regular disruption, and having only four indoor courts extended matches late into the night. Now with the new finals site format, including just eight teams, not 16, the pressure isn't as great, but two more indoor courts would be a welcome addition, not just for the NCAAs, but for regular season dual matches too.


fan said...

It's really too bad Southwest area including So. Cal isn't considered for a NCAA site any more. Because this region has perfect weather, no need for indoor courts in the first place. Heck even Stanford in 2011 had only a drizzle, a slight inconvenience. You would've thought Taube should be a Mecca for women tennis, considering Stanford's utter and sheer dominance.

My Eastern experience too is plagued with rain with or without tennis(Eastern NCAAs were veritable NTIs in recent years), and surely Mid-May in Florida should be extremely uncomfortable what with 90/90 and even bugs. Thank God for Playsight in this case of Orlando.

SeminoleG said...

So "we" want to expand community outreach. Increase visibility of college tennis in the local community. "We" need to connect college tennis to the playing public. "We" want to highlight college facilities yada, yada, yada.

BUT let's award the College Championships to..........