Friday, April 10, 2020

Tennis for America's Debut Uncertain; Wisconsin Says No to Spring Sports Seniors; Ivy League Discourages Withdrawals to Maintain Eligibility

I had an opportunity to learn about the ITA's new initiative Tennis For America earlier this month, talking at length with the ITA's Dave Mullins about the Year of Service program that gives graduating seniors an opportunity for paid internships at five community tennis centers across the country.

As it has with virtually everything now, the COVID-19 virus has disrupted the launch, with some positions not yet filled, and those that have been filled, uncertain as to when they will begin.

But even if the program is delayed beyond this summer, it remains an outstanding opportunity for former college tennis players (or Tennis on Campus participants, or Tennis Management majors) to spend a year acquiring skills and real world experience while assisting non-profits in introducing communities to the benefits of playing tennis.

I am eager to follow up on this article after the program's first year is complete, to see if this template will be beneficial enough to both the fellow and the non-profit to assure its long-term survival and its adoption by other collegiate sports.

My article, for the Tennis Recruiting Network, is available here.

When the NCAA first announced last month that it was providing 2020 spring season athletes with an extra year of eligibility, it was clear that many questions would need to be answered, by each school's leadership. Many schools are giving their student-athletes the opportunity to return, but yesterday the University of Wisconsin decided they will not offer that option to their 35 seniors affected. It's time for the seniors to move on, according to athletic director Barry Alvarez, in this Wisconsin State Journal article:

"What we tried to do was encourage our seniors to go ahead and, if you’re going to graduate, graduate and move on with your life,” Alvarez said Wednesday on his monthly radio show on 1310 WIBA and Learfield/IMG College. “We appreciate everything that you’ve done. But move forward. The future is in question, and we can’t promise you anything."
Wisconsin's tennis teams currently have three seniors affected by this: Chase Colton, Melissa Pick and Christina Zordani. According to the article, Wisconsin is the first Power 5 conference school to deny its student-athletes the option of returning.

As I mentioned last week, the Ivy League decided not to change its existing policy, which allows only four years of athletic eligibility and does not extend it over five years as is allowed elsewhere. There was speculation that some seniors might withdraw from school this spring before completing the semester to maintain their eligibility for 2021, but Princeton has come out against that according to this The Daily Princetonian article, as have Yale and Harvard, according to the AP. The eight Ivy League presidents issued this statement Wednesday:
Consistent with core longstanding principles, Ivy League athletes are students first and foremost. No student-athlete should withdraw from the spring 2020 term for the sole purpose of preserving athletics eligibility.
Transfers would still be an option for Ivy League graduates, if they would like to begin graduate school elsewhere.