Monday, December 15, 2014

ITA Division I Operating Committee Votes to Continue Support of No-ad Format

At the ITA convention this past weekend, the decision to retain the format previously approved for college tennis this summer--no-ad for singles and doubles, with three doubles matches decided by one six-game set, and six singles matches with best two out of three sets--was approved by the ITA Operating Committee.

It appears the originally approved clinch/clinch rule, which would leave singles matches unfinished when a team reaches four points, has been amended to require completion of all singles matches, although conference rules still take precedence.

Although the NCAA is barely mentioned in the release below, they hold the keys to the format played at the spring championships in May, and when tabling this format the first time back in September, they asked the NCAA Tennis Committee to provide more input from student-athletes, who were to be surveyed on the format issue. I have not heard if that survey has been completed and provided to the NCAA Championships Cabinet, which is meeting in February to decide whether to approve the format change for the 2015 Championships.

Since the ITA announcement, I have spoken with dozens of college coaches and others about the format change. I have tried to keep an open mind, but I am unconvinced that no-ad will in any way enhance college tennis. I believe the win-by-two scoring in tennis is fundamental to its integrity and that adopting no-ad will deemphasize many of the physical and mental factors that make tennis so compelling. It favors one style of tennis over another, and presumes that it will shorten matches, although no hard data to support that has been released.

As I said back in August, I will not travel to cover this format, as I personally do not enjoy watching it, and as an independent journalist, I have the freedom to make that decision. Although I am not optimistic, I hope the no-ad proponents will find the casual fans they are looking for with this change. But this avid fan is saying goodbye to Division I tennis.

The full ITA release is below:

Shortened Format Strongly Supported at 2014 ITA Coaches Convention
No-ad scoring, 6-game doubles set highlight decision

NAPLES, FL (Dec. 15) - The ITA Division I Operating Committee moved to re-submit its dual match format proposal to the NCAA Division I Tennis Committee for the 2015 NCAA Division I Team Championships during its final meeting of 2014 on Saturday, Dec. 13. This decisive vote (25 yes, 0 no, 9 abstentions) - supported by the USTA and the USTA's Athletic Directors Advisory Council - is a powerful indication of the group's commitment to adopt creative and innovative measures to enhance the sport of tennis during this time of seismic change in collegiate athletics.

In addition the ITA Operating Committee voted 26-8 in favor of playing the shortened format during the 2015 ITA Kick-Off Weekend and 2015 ITA Division I National Men's and Women's Team Indoor Championships. Also, the Committee voted to adopt (30 yes, 0 no, 4 abstentions) the shortened format for all non-conference dual match competition with all singles matches being played to completion (doubles will remain "clinch"). It should be noted that NCAA conference rules supersede ITA rules, and therefore any conference can decide to not play the ITA format if it should so wish.

The ITA shortened format:
  • No-ad scoring in singles and doubles.
  • Three doubles matches played, each match one set to 6, with a tie-break at 6-all.
  • Followed (after a brief intermission; time TBD) by six singles matches, each match 2 out of 3 sets, with tie-breaks at 6-all.
  • No warm-up with opponents (in doubles and in singles)
The ITA Operating Committee felt that it was very important for Division I men and women's tennis to play with the same format - one that would enhance the student-athlete experience, be more fan-friendly, be more exciting and make college tennis more relevant.  And in this quickly changing landscape, the Committee also agreed to continue to monitor the pulse of the membership in looking ahead to the future.

"Over the past several years the ITA Division I member coaches have engaged in a vigorous and dynamic dialogue about format and best ways to grow and promote the sport of college tennis," said David Benjamin, ITA Executive Director. "We are very proud of the way in which all of our coaches of men's and women's tennis programs - from widely diverse institutions - have managed to work together and present a unified front on such a complicated and critical issue."

"We are supportive of the format recommendation made by the ITA Division I Operating Committee," said Virgil Christian Jr., USTA Senior Director, Market/Facility Development & Collegiate Tennis. "The collegiate coaches have navigated through a thorough and comprehensive process to reach this point. This is a critical first step in continuing to increase the relevance of college tennis on campuses across the country."

The NCAA Division I Tennis Committee will teleconference on Tuesday, January 6th to review the ITA shortened format proposal for possible implementation in the 2015 NCAA Team Championship. If endorsed by the Tennis Committee, it will be put forward to the NCAA Division I Championships/Sports Management Cabinet for its approval.

ITA Operating Committee co-Chair Sheila McInerney knows college tennis is on a long-term plan to become more fan-friendly and exciting.

"Coming out of the ITA Convention, the men's and women's Operating Committees are excited to play the new scoring format," McInerney said. "We feel this shorter and more exciting format will benefit college tennis and are hopeful the NCAA Tennis Committee will endorse this format for the upcoming 2015 NCAA Team Championship."

Boise State head men's tennis coach Greg Patton is filled with hope for the future of college tennis.

"I think it's a dynamic step in the future that is going to dramatically and positively impact the growth of tennis in this country," Patton said. "Tennis could be in the top five [of college sports] if we do it right and we're trying to take steps to do it. We can't keep on being satisfied with the product that we're giving. We want to make sure it's exciting and timely. If we can keep it into a certain time frame, it's going to be really incredibly compelling and incredibly attractive to people. It's hopefully going to attract a lot of kids to the sport."


Anonymous said...

Just damn. The matches I saw this fall were marginally shorter. The points were longer as many played more conservatively.

Just say NO to No-Ad said...

Love that you are holding your stance Collette - you go girl!!

wi tennis said...

Colette, College tennis is the most exciting tennis in the world! No-ad won't change that. In fact, it might make it more exciting! You're going to miss out! The support for change in the scoring was overwhelming, not a few rogue coaches or just the committee. The people listed on Lin Loring's letter are definitely not in agreement with him any more.

KB said...

wi tennis,
Can you show me where the "support for change in the scoring was overwhelming"? The data I have continued to hear & see was overwhelmingly against that change!

wi tennis said...

I was in the meeting with all of the coaches.

T-ball is for 5 year olds said...

When are they going to shorten the most boring college sport of all - baseball?

Are the people in support of this the ones with out of shape kids hoping for an undeserved win based on a little luck versus skill and endurance?

This is t-ball tennis except the kids are all grown up. Maybe they can hand out participation ribbons at every match and go for ice cream afterwards.

With you Colette! said...

".....that adopting no-ad will deemphasize many of the physical and mental factors that make tennis so compelling." BINGO Colette, well said.

Those voting the change through have just devalued the great game of tennis.

If they push this at the NCAA Championships, that will another sad day for college tennis. USC will not only go down as the most winning tennis program in history, but they may also be in the history books for being the last team to win the NCAAs when real tennis was played in college.

What? Where? When? said...

"The meeting with all of the coaches" is a little vague. Was there such a meeting? One with ALL the coaches? Really? Most of the coaches I have seen named in this crusade at the ITA meetings represent a bunch of low level D1 schools, their players probably need shorter matches. Somebody is selling, but I'm not buying.

wi tennis said...

The Division 1 Roundtable meeting from 9:30-2 on Saturday December 13, 2014.


It was just before the Division 1 Operating Committees met from 4-6.

Most coaches present were from big schools. Mid-majors can't afford the trip generally. I don't think that it is possible to get all coaches together, but I feel it was a good sampling. Perhaps 150-175 coaches from D-1 men's and women's programs.

On the women's side there was the head coach from: Florida, Alabama, Vanderbilt, Georgia, Kentucky, Miss St, Missouri, Tenn, Florida St, Duke, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, Northwestern, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Ohio State, Purdue, Iowa State, Oklahoma, Arizona St, South Florida, SMU, DePaul, Denver. That's all I can think of off the top of my head.

Also, the assistants for Baylor and South Carolina were there. As well as, many mid-majors.

The men's side was similar. Mostly big schools. I hope this helps to explain.

Lin said...

I see repeated language in the ITA’s press release stating the theme of this creating a “shorter and more exciting format” which will then “be more fan-friendly, be more exciting and make college tennis more relevant”. However, I have not yet heard of any analysis that supports these statements.

If they are right, I would wholeheartedly support the change, but my personal belief is that the one-set, 6-game, no-ad format for doubles might as well be a coin flip. And no-ad in singles takes the thrill out of saving/winning games when down the ad. This is akin to making a tiebreak first to 7 by one – and yes, I know that wouldn’t happen, because the first to serve will always win if not broken in the first 13 points played. No-ad removes the opportunity for an exciting momentum shift.

People I have spoken to, say that they do not notice any significant time savings from a no-ad format, so the “shorter format” argument seems inaccurate.

Tennis fans are fans because they like tennis. Changing the scoring will not magically gain a new audience. I would wager that 95% of all tennis fans actually play(ed) tennis so arguments that he current scoring system is confusing, and simplifying it to no-ad will make tennis more attractive is illogical. The other 5% of fans are either family of tennis players, or just appreciate the incredible physicality and variety of the sport. No one says “I don’t watch tennis because the scoring is confusing”.

And seeking the holy grail of TV exposure and maybe even revenue, is a pipe dream. How many schools can afford the cost of televising 6 courts, and staffing the tech support and commentators needed to engage a broad viewing audience? So that leaves it up to the networks. Good luck. They could never sell enough advertising to justify the expense. Outside of the Tennis Channel, there is no TV coverage of any event other than the Slams. If Masters 1,000 events, and World Tour Finals aren’t profitable, who in their right mind thinks college tennis would be?

Since NCAA conference rules supersede ITA rules, and therefore any conference can decide to not play the ITA format if it should so wish, I am hopeful that there will be voices of opposition at the The NCAA Division I Tennis Committee teleconference on Tuesday, January 6th to review the ITA shortened format proposal for possible implementation in the 2015 NCAA Team Championship.

If you agree with the ITA, then please disregard the above. If you do not agree with the ITA, then please sway whomever you can, that could influence the discussion toward maintaining the previous scoring format.

rem said...

The most ridiculous thing about the format that the ITA adopted is the fact that they are going to play the singles matches out after the match has been clinched. They say that they are going to no-add and one set in doubles to shorten the matches, and then they do something absolutely ridiculous by playing out the matches. The whole thing is a travesty for college tennis. We have been sold a bill of goods by the ITA leadership.

question for all the no ad posters said...

Collette - I respect and tend to agree with your views on no ad scoring in general but the ITA clearly feels under pressure from their AD's to make the sport more relevant on campus or continue to lose programs. Do you accept there is some truth to this and if so what is your solution if not a shortened format. It's all well and good to complain about these changes but what are the other options. More and more money is heading to the revenue sports and there will be more and more pressure on the non revenue sport. Yes I would much prefer full scoring but not if the cost is continued attrition of college teams.

wi tennis said...

Lin, You are very aware that the ITA collected data from last fall and this fall. Length of matches, etc. Using hearsay as your argument and lying about the fact that there is analysis is not acceptable. Please give people the facts whether you agree or not.

You saw how many D-1 Women’s Head Coaches in the room this past Saturday (at the ITA D-1 Roundtable Meetings) raised their hand when posed the question: “Do matches need to be shortened?” I believe it was 65 out of 70.

Here’s more info for those who want to see all sides: http://www.itatennis.com/Assets/ita_assets/pdf/Rules/2014+ITA+Division+I+Dual+Meet+$!26+Fall+Scoring+Format+FAQ.pdf

For those who don't know, the ITA Operating Committee is made up of almost all coaches. Why would coaches want to ruin college tennis? It's their jobs at stake.

The world is gray, not black and white. The new scoring may work. It may not. But, the sky is not falling because of no-ad. I assure you that. It's still just kids playing a game. Under regular scoring, 1 or 2 players every 5 years have been good enough to earn an ATP pension, which means you have to be in the top 100 for 250 weeks. (5 years) That's not going to change. There is even less for the WTA.

Colette Lewis said...

There were other possibilities--simultaneous, doubles last, others I've recently heard--that were preferable, in my opinion, to no-ad. I have yet to see any hard data available to the public about the length of matches with/without no-ad, which is crucial to what the 65 out of 70 coaches you cite care about.

Colette Lewis said...

Sorry if I attributed your comments incorrectly. I see the 65 of 70 was from wi, not you

Joe said...

Tennis isn't the only sport experiencing time management pain and suffering.


Bad marketing said...

Tennis in the U.S. overall, whether pro or college level, has done a terrible job at marketing the sport. Shortening a match won't change a thing, people either want to come or they don't - better marketing of the matches/sport is the issue, not the length of them. Promotion works. Here is their current marketing message..."You will love tennis, it is shorter now!" Epic fail.

3 options said...

There were basically 3 options on the table, doubles first, singles first or simultaneous. Yes there is pressure being put on the coaches and it is being put on by our bosses! College athletics has turned into big business and if you are not relevant you will be out of business. Division I men's tennis has lost way over 50 programs in the last 25 years. The BCS is now in control of the NCAA - almost anything could happen. Conference commissioners are stating Olympic sports are in serious trouble. Shame on us if we don't try something - college coaches have put in 100s and 100s of hours trying to figure out the best course what to do; we have talked to everyone in the tennis industry. Really we don't know if this will work but we have to try. We chose what we believe is the best option, to preserve college doubles and play it every match. We have played No - Ad before and most of the college coaches remember it fondly. When pro doubles went to No - Ad many people that it would be terrible for pro doubles and it turned out to be a big boost. Singles first would have meant the end of college doubles and simultaneous would have turned players into doubles only players. We are under enormous pressure to keep it under 3 hours, some AD's have suggested 2 or 2 1/2 hours. Lets see how it goes - all of you, even you Colette should come watch a great college match, then go ahead and write what you think. College tennis is very important to American tennis, we need everyone to help us survive.

George Opelka said...

Too much Barnum & Bailey throughout this entire process for me... Lin Loring's petition of No Ad opposition to the recent unanimous tally in favor of No Ad is an odd turnaround. Evangelism amongst the coaching fraternity works miracles I reckon.

Anyway, good luck. In my opinion, that's exactly what the committee is turning college tennis into, a game of luck.

unintended consequences said...

I do strongly disagree with Collette on not covering the sport. It's her blog so her decision but how does this help the sport?

It's basically a blogger temper tantrum.

I don't think changing the game will help attendance. Ridiculous. The only benefit is to get kids to do their homework sooner :).

I visit this site the most during the college tennis season but not anymore. I guess this would be what they call the law of unintended consequences.

I hope this post gets approved. My comments are sincere and not over the top in my opinion.

Lin said...

wi tennis - I followed the link you provided to substantiate your position, but saw nothing other than vague assertions by the ITA to support their own position. Hardly unimpeachable third-party analysis. Nowhere was there any identification of those assertions.

You open your post by telling me what I know despite my comments to the contrary,, impugn my integrity, and call me a liar, but then put forth nothing of any substance to support your own assertions.

If I am wrong, I would gladly accept that, but will need the actual data to show it. Not ad-hominem attacks.

My child is starting to play D1 tennis next fall, so I have some skin in the game, and a reason to advocate for the best interests of my player, and the sport.

rem's observed that the ITA's stated goal of shortening matches is obviated by the contrary strategy of playing out matches after a victory is clinched. I point this out to highlight hypocrisy, not as avocation for stopping at clinch.

Who really thinks that saving a marginal amount of time, and simplifying the scoring will result in a measurable increase to the fan base, or "relevance" of college tennis?

tennis fan said...

Doubles matches by far are the most exciting thing to watch especially by fans who do not "know" tennis that well. Everyone is hyped and excited and it is constant fast action--really gets the audience into the match. SOOOOO if they truly want to make it more exciting for the fans and attract a "bigger" audience shortening doubles is flat out wrong. Friends of my child have come to watch the college matches and they absolutely loved the doubles and energy involved.

On another note I don't think anyone has sited any data/facts about match times--everyone is so vague and only can come up with a few random vague instances. Why should the NCAA mens and womens be held simultaneously when it obviously hurts how late matches are completed? There are no other sports that have NCAA championships for men and women at the same time and location. Some people have sited matches at the NCAA championships as being too long and use that for "facts" to support the change, so obviously, don't play them together.