IPFW’s men’s and women’s tennis teams were recently taken by surprise with one day’s notice given to coach Eric Burns that the programs were being canceled.
The programs were the most successful in sports at IPFW the last six years. Those of us in the tennis community are scratching our heads in shock and disbelief.
We were told it’s all about the money. With all the bad publicity lately with the former chancellor and the bridge debacle, this fits right in with their lack of foresight in how to deal with difficult decisions.
Women’s tennis has six consecutive Summit League championship appearances with three titles and trips to the NCAA tournament. This is more Summit League titles than all other IPFW teams combined. Since joining the league in 2007-08, women’s tennis is 66-10 (55-5 in the regular season). They hold the longest winning streak in Summit League history at 21. They also hold the record for the most wins in a season at 27. Men’s tennis also has the most wins in a season at 19. The men’s and women’s teams finished second in the regular season this year. At the Summit League tennis banquet, Burns was named women’s coach of the year. Mayu Sato was named the player of the year, Sara Sherif newcomer of the year, and six men and women received first-team status.
Both teams have been at the pinnacle of scholastic achievement – 40 Intercollegiate Tennis Association scholar athletes – and numerous ITA all-academic teams. Just walk the halls at the Gates Center and see the domination with all the tennis banners and trophies. I suggest they be taken down to spare embarrassment when visitors marvel at their success and then are told the program was canceled in 2015 after 40 years.
These scholar-athletes had little time to find another team. They were told that those who had scholarships would still have them; the problem is, they want to play tennis. The trickle-down effect has been enormous. Recruits were told they had no scholarships now and to look elsewhere. We had walk-ons who were going to pay their own way through school who won’t be coming now.
IPFW has not just lost credibility, it has lost future income. The club where we practiced indoors lost its biggest income source. They refurbished the courts and painted them IPFW colors. The club brought in a new tennis manager; his job could now be in jeopardy. Umpires for our matches have lost a source of income. The thousands of dollars spent from a local doctor’s donation for a lighted scoreboard is a slap in his face.
We were puzzled we were not given a chance to rally all IPFW sports programs to save tennis. We were told that nothing else could be done and that the money saved would make available scholarships for a diverse group of people with high scholastic achievement. The tennis teams have students from all over the world who have attained high grade point averages; you can’t get any more diverse than that. How does this make any sense?
Recent announcements that IPFW endowments have grown by $2.5 million and that legislators appropriated additional millions only add to the confusion. Maybe it’s time to invoke the Freedom of Information Act to see how this process played out and expose any inconsistencies so people can draw their own conclusions.