There is a stark contrast between the two pieces of news we are going to share in this new entry of the VT Sports blog. Both will affect college tennis in the near future, though. On the one hand, two rising players are set to receive each year a juicy grant to ease the transition between collegiate and professional tennis. On the other hand, it was also confirmed one of the premiere universities in the sport has decided to discontinue all its athletic programs.
Oracle US Tennis Awards
Let’s begin with the good news. On March 14, the software multinational company Oracle unveiled the creation of two $100,000 grants that will be given to a pair of standout student-athletes with aspirations to break into the pro circuit. We shall remember that Oracle’s founder, Larry Ellison, is a fervent tennis fan and, since 2009, he’s the owner of the Indian Wells Masters, widely regarded as one of the very best tournaments in the world.
The American mogul, currently the seventh richest man in the world according to Forbes, has decided to boost the careers of two promising players. The recipients of these awards will be announced during the BNP Paribas Open each March.
Top college players have been given plenty of opportunities to showcase their talent at ATP events on American soil. For instance, the NCAA champion gets a US Open wild card, Georgia Tech’s star Christopher Eubanks had a strong showing at the 2016 BB&T Atlanta Open, while the Tallahassee Challenger always gives a shot the top of the Florida State men’s tennis lineup.
However, these opportunities aren’t there week in and week out. At some point, the tennis players must travel around the world to play Futures or Challengers. Despite the recent prize money increase, it’s all but impossible to make a living if you’re stuck in tennis lower ranks. Unless you consistently advance to the final rounds, you’re losing money, even if you are travelling without a coach.
Thus, the fact these grants are being launched is a huge step forward. Worst case scenario, two talented kids can play tournaments around the world for two years. If they prove they have enough level to sneak into the main WTA or ATP circuits, where the prize money is succulent, the economic pressure will no longer exist.
Armstrong State to shut down athletic department in 2017
A few days earlier, the consolidation between Georgia Southern and Armstrong State became official, hence the latter will become a satellite campus of the former.
These are awful news for the ASU athletes. Even though Armstrong State stated “all athletics-related scholarships for affected student athletes will be honored,” those who still have more years of eligibility are facing a conundrum.
Should they quit their sport and complete their education in Savannah at the university they had freely chosen or should they keep playing and thus obtaining a degree elsewhere? There are plenty of successful stories featuring transfer students, but being pushed to transfer by a board of regents must be a hard pill to swallow. A lot of lives will be considerably altered due to this decision.
The supremacy of Armstrong State tennis in NCAA DII will forever remain in the history books. The Pirates have won a whopping 10 national championships since 2008 between the women’s and men’s squads.
Posted by Pablo Mosquera