Three years pass, still no love for tennis program

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Next to cross country, Southwestern College’s most successful women’s sport was tennis.
It produced a national champion, league championships, a California Scholar Athlete of the year and a hall of fame coach.
Key word here is “was.” Tennis was cut as a Jaguar sport in 2009 and there is no return in sight.
When deciding what sport to cut at cash-strapped SWC many factors come into play, but the green one usually prevails. Money makes the world go ‘round and it also shuts down sports teams. Or does it?
Helmets, balls, pads, travel, insurance, facilities and salaries all factor into deciding whether to cut a sport or not.
Southwestern College’s men’s volleyball team was eliminated due to lack of money. Lack of interest or talent were not issues. Local high schools Eastlake, Bonita Vista and Otay Ranch, hold 21 conference volleyball titles and two CIF tiles between them.
Cutting the tennis program a few years ago was a peculiar case.
“We had a situation where we had to cut our budget and what I did was look at our history of the college that we have cut programs before,” said Terry Davis, dean of the School of Health and Exercise Science. “We tried to look at the programs that were serving the smallest number of students and my decision was based on the number of students and the program that was the easiest to bring back. Right now it’s about two things. It’s about money and it’s about desire of our students. It comes down to what the student interest is.”
An on-line survey taken of incoming SWC students from July 1, 2010 through June 30, 2011 reported 501 men interested in tennis, 693 in wrestling and 509 in volleyball. A total of 770 women were interested in tennis. These sports are not available at this school. Water polo (253 men, 196 women), and cross country (359 men, 329 women) and track & field (612 men, 446 women) all have lower student interest than wrestling, volleyball and tennis. Track & field (612 men, 446 women), a program that was suspended for years, was also highly popular.
Interest level for men’s volleyball, wrestling, and tennis are all high but tennis, aside from being the least expensive sport on campus, is a self-sustained program.
“We have uniforms and equipment I’ve backlogged just sitting there being wasted,” said women’s tennis coach Susan Reasons.
Reasons, an inductee to the SWC Hall of Fame, turned tennis into a money-making machine for the school. The SWC Tennis Center offers adult and youth clinics year-round. After expenses are tallied, 14 percent of the money earned goes to the college. Over its 11-year existence that started June 2001, the Tennis Center has grossed more than $60,000 for the college, a program that gets no money from the school whatsoever. Yet, a tennis team seems too expensive to maintain.
Not only is it a sport with willing participants, the talent is an endless pool.
“I have about five to six tennis classes a semester and each one pushes about 30 students,” she said.
Reasons has coached a player to a national championship, had another (Viridiana Martino) win the Pepsi Scholar Athlete of the Year in 2007 (the only one in SWC history), and won the first woman’s banner at the school. But the overachieving program is on hiatus.
People pay to go see the big sports like football, baseball and basketball so schools make an effort to accommodate the fans with a nice stadium and a good team. A $33 million dollar football stadium is currently being built on campus, yet the baseball team was denied lights for night games, the men’s volleyball team gets lost in obscurity and tennis continues in purgatory.
“I was told we were getting cut for two years…it’s been three,” said Reasons. “I know the economy hasn’t gotten any better since the team was cut, but I’m really anxious to get a team going here. The longer we wait, the harder it’s going to be. But as I tell my girls to be a team player, I’m trying to do the same.”
Title IX, which established equal opportunity for both sexes to participate in collegiate sports, also plays a big factor.
“Title IX basically forces schools to offer opportunities to equate the percent representation of each gender,” said Dr. Donna Riley, department chair of Exercise Science and Health at Cuyamaca College. “If you have programs at your school that are heavy female specialties, your college is going to be lopsided in regards to men and women.”
At Southwestern, 58 percent of the campus population is female, therefore the school has to offer an equal amount of sports for each sex. The school currently has eight teams for each respective sex. As an example, if men’s volleyball were to be reinstated, then the school would also have to front money for a women’s team. A women’s volleyball team is already in place, so maybe a women’s tennis team would come to fruition. That may lead to men feeling left hanging on the tennis side, so the situation does get a little complex.
“A lot of the time with Title IX it’s not as easy adding a women’s sport,” said Riley. “Sometimes it involves cutting a men’s team, which is unfortunate because usually it’s more men that want to play sports than women.”
SWC offers a nursing and dental hygiene program, which is generally a female-dominated field, potentially skews the population numbers. Something schools do not take into account, are the ages of the student body when factoring the interest in a sport.
“I’m a supporter of Title IX, but I do feel that sometimes it can get abused because I see a lot of opportunities taken away from guys because of the inequity and the desire,” she said. “You can’t make a woman play a sport. Just because there are 60 percent of women on the campus, you’re going to count moms in their 40s as part of your Title IX proportion? That doesn’t make any sense.”
Of the 20,207 students registered in fall 2011 at SWC, 37 percent were less than 21, 41 percent were between the ages of 21-30, and 22 percent were more than 30. That is 63 percent of the student population that realistically do not even factor into the sports programs. If a more detailed approach were taken, a shift in the programs offered could be seen, adding more students athletic possibilities.
San Diego State University has 11 teams for women but only six for men.
“There are more football players than anything else,” said Mike May, associate athletic director of media relations at SDSU. “What you’re trying to get is a balance between the opportunities for male and female student athletes. In order to keep that balance, I’d say the majority of schools have more women’s sports than men’s sports.”
Since football teams often have more than 50 players, sports with smaller squads must be integrated to keep everything even. Since football is only for men, small men’s teams suffer because women’s sports have to be compensated.
SDSU’s men’s volleyball team was cut in 2000. In 1973 it won SDSU’s only Division I National Championship.
“Men’s volleyball is not a sport that is offered in the Mountain West Conference,” said May.  “A lot of times you try and mirror your sports to those offered in your league.”
SWC is the only school with more than four athletic teams in the Pacific Coast Athletic Conference that does not have a tennis team.
But there is hope for potential athletes looking to get their respective competitive sport going. If enough students follow the correct steps in establishing a club on campus through the ASO, the sport gets a shot at being reinstated.
“That always helps,” said Davis. “That is a good methodology to get a team going because it shows us one thing we’re looking for, interest. That’s more possible when you have a conversation with the administration when asking to bring in a program. You tell them ‘well in our surveys it shows students have interest and they are already competing.’ I would bring back women’s tennis first, then bring back a men’s sport,” he said.
Both the tennis and volleyball program have tried to go the club route, but both missed the club deadlines by a day. The ASO had given them the appointment dates after the deadline. The net result – no day in court.

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