Athletics Cancels Womens’ Tennis Season

Shun Hasegawa

Despite the players’ unparalleled enthusiasm, the 2004 season of the UMB women’s tennis team was cut off when the Department of Athletics decided to call off the team’s entire schedule. While the department insists that the decision was legitimate, players are unhappy that they were not allowed to play in this year’s season, which was supposed to include 12 games and culminate in the Little East Conference Championship Tournament on October 15 and 16.

On every no-rain weekday, the UMB women’s tennis team, under first-year coach Carl Briggs, practices at Clark Athletic Center from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. These gals love the sport so much that, even after the mentor leaves, many of them still remain for an extra hour or two to polish their skills.

“They show good commitment for the sport. Actually, a lot of them are beginners. Some of them even never had held a racket before. But they are enjoying to make tennis a part of their schedule,” Briggs said.

According to Pat Burns, the Interim Director of Athletics, the arguable decision was made by himself and Cheryl Aaron, Assistant Athletic Director for Intercollegiate Athletics. Then they processed a proposal to Charlie Titus, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs and former Director of Athletics, and William M. Moore, the Commissioner of LEC, who finally approved of the Beacons’ “no contest season.”

Burns pointed out a lack of players was the factor. “We couldn’t meet the number of players required for the first five or six [games] in September. If you don’t have a good team at the beginning of the season, you are not likely to be good at the end, either,” Burns said. He added that the decision gave opponents plenty of time to find other teams available to compete for the canceled matches against UMB. Rather than waiting to see if the Beacons have enough players for the scheduled games only to cancel them one day before, UMB showed “professional courtesy” by giving them more options, Burns said.

Briggs also added that it is difficult to specify the number of players he has. Briggs said he has more than 10 players on his list, but only three or four of them could manage to show up at game-time on weekdays.

College tennis games are played with six singles and three doubles matches to determine a winner of best-of-nine competitions. Gathering four players means that UMB automatically loses two singles and one doubles match to be down 0-3, which makes the young team’s chance to win a game minimum.

But the men’s tennis team, also headed by Briggs, had only five players at the beginning of the Spring 2004 season. They kept giving up two or three matches in the first three games. The difference from the cancellation made by the department was that the men’s team, despite their 2-10 record, completed the twelve-game season and the LEC Championship Tournament.

Some in the women’s team think they should be granted the same treatment. They expressed their wills to represent UMB and to play matches rather than to finish the season as no-victory-no-defeat.

Burns dismissed a speculation that the cancellation was prompted by the fact that the department is in the red. The National Collegiate Athletic Association regulates, “A student-athlete…receives expenses (e.g., transportation, meals, room or entry fees) from the institution for the competition.” The amount of money the department saved for the women’s tennis team was not immediately available.

Briggs is ambivalent about the influence of the cancellation on his players. He said, “To play a match is necessary to feel tense emotion and understand what every point is meaning for. But [playing matches unprepared] will give them a negative experience and maybe a little embarrassing. What I do now is to keep them playing in fall and spring and have them ready for matches next [September]. I think they will be competitive in Division three.” he said.

The process the department took to make the decision provides another conflict between the department and players. Burns articulated, “[The Department of Athletics is] most definitely open to players’ [opinions]. Being in the Division three, it is all about student-athletes.”

Some players disagreed. They said, after they heard of the cancellation from coach Briggs, there was no formal occasion to discuss vis-à-vis the department.