As schools cut the game, tennis proves to be weak.

As schools cut the game, tennis proves to be weak.

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The promise of college tennis lured Abhimanyu Vannamedi from his home in India to live in the United States, where he settled at Winthrop University in South Carolina.

Now he is pointing to his future thousands of miles away from his family as financial reality crashes on his game.

Winthrop announced last month that its male and female tennis programs would be abandoned due to the budget crisis created by the coronovirus epidemic. Tennis has been hit hardest among college programs as athletic departments do sports cutting across the country to save money.

“I was definitely caught by surprise,” Vannamreddy said. “No prior warnings or rumors about shutting down the program. It was just a random call one day and has just been revealed to have been completed.”

Dozens of college tennis players are in a similar situation across the country. According to AP research, men’s and women’s tennis are the only sports dropped by more than four Division I schools since the beginning of the epidemic.

East Carolina, Green Bay, Northern Colorado, Southern Utah and Wright State have dropped male and female tennis over the past three months. In Arkansas, the UAPB suspended men’s and women’s tennis for the year. Appalachian State cut men’s tennis, while Akron eliminated women’s tennis. Connecticut will not have a men’s tennis team after 2020-21.

“My assessment is some of these cuts that were probably in the works,” said Timothy Russell, CEO of the International Tennis Association, the governing body for college tennis. “Usually when there is a cut, there is a big stir and cry. There is so much going on in this environment with noise, it is easy to make these cuts with anyone paying attention.”

About 89% of Division I schools had women’s tennis programs and 71.5% had men’s teams by 2019, but these recent cuts have raised concerns and prompted officials to seek a solution.

Tim Cass, a former New Mexico and Texas A&M coach, is now the general manager for the American Tennis Association’s national campus in Florida. He believes colleges can help their programs by opening on-campus tennis facilities for their communities, hosting junior or adult tournaments, and offering after-school programs.

“If you’re doing this, more than likely your program has a very good chance of being safe,” Cass said.

Lack of quality facilities has contributed to some cuts.

Winthrop deputy athletic director Hank Harwood said his school’s tennis facility needed at least $ 1.3 million in repairs. The campus in Southern Utah and Northern Colorado did not have indoor facilities, and teams in Southern Utah often had to travel 45–50 minutes to practice.

Northern Colorado and southern Utah belong to the Big Sky Conference, which previously required its members for tennis teams. When Big Sky relaxed that requirement last month, both schools dropped their programs.

Scholarship concerns also play a role.

The NCAA allows schools to offer 4 {scholarships in men’s tennis and eight in women’s tennis. Harwood said Winthrop’s tennis programs were generating a smaller percentage of tuition revenue than the school’s other Olympic-style games.

Once Winthrop felt the need to save more than $ 600,000, Harwood said that eliminating tennis made the most financial sense despite its history of success.

Winthrop’s women have appeared in 17 NCAA tournaments – including three straight from 2017-19. The men had won nine Big South Conference regular-season titles since 1997.

“From a dollar and cents point of view, strictly a business decision on campus, it became clear that tennis is very clearly one where you can influence the least amount of students saving the most money, “Harwood said.

An NCAA study found that 63% of Division I men’s tennis players and 62% of Division I women’s tennis players in 2018 came from outside the United States. Most players in any other game K did not come from outside, although men’s soccer had more international athletes than men’s tennis.

Retired Stanford coach Dick Gould, who led the Cardinals to 17 NCAA team titles, believes that when primarily international players are required to cut schools, tennis programs are included.

“If you’re a state school that gets state and public money, and your team is 70% (international players), I think it makes your game a clear target,” said Gould, who coached in 2004 Retired but remained Stanford’s tennis director for 12 more years.

Winthrop men’s coach John Collins was not so sure. He said that international players from Winthrop who were not receiving full scholarships actually earned more money for the university by paying out-of-state tuition fees.

“If we had more Americans from the mountainous region like Nevada, Utah, Arizona during the last five to 10 years, the support could have been better so maybe we would have more donor, fundraising opportunities for facilities and maybe it didn’t Will, “said Southern Utah women’s coach Michael Mukki.” But there are a lot of programs that were cut with a ton of Americans as well, so I believe it really depends on the situation. ”

Winthrop did not have a single American player on its men’s or women’s roster this year. International players who remain in the US, such as Vennamreddy, face a series of decisions.

He can leave college tennis and live in Winthrop, honoring the financial aid package offered to his tennis players. Or he could try to play elsewhere, knowing that there are fewer roster spots available with a surplus of players looking for new homes.

He can’t help but think about the risk of choosing a school that can cut its own program a year from now.

“It’s definitely something on my mind,” Vannemreddy said. “There’s a lot of uncertainty in these times. It’s basically a gamble if I’ve been honest.”

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