The ITA Division I Operating Committee moved to re-submit its dual match format proposal to the NCAA Division I Tennis Committee for the 2015 NCAA Division I Team Championships during its final meeting of 2014. This decisive vote (25 yes, 0 no, 9 abstentions)—supported by the USTA and the USTA's Athletic Directors Advisory Council—is a powerful indication of the group's commitment to adopt creative and innovative measures to enhance the sport of tennis during this time of seismic change in collegiate athletics.
In addition the ITA Operating Committee voted 26-8 in favor of playing the shortened format during the 2015 ITA Kick-Off Weekend and 2015 ITA Division I National Men's and Women's Team Indoor Championships. Also, the Committee voted to adopt (30 yes, 0 no, 4 abstentions) the shortened format for all non-conference dual match competition with all singles matches being played to completion (doubles will remain "clinch"). It should be noted that NCAA conference rules supersede ITA rules, and therefore any conference can decide to not play the ITA format if it should so wish.
The ITA shortened format:
►No-ad scoring in singles and doubles.
►Three doubles matches played, each match one set to 6, with a tie-break at 6-all.
►Followed (after a brief intermission; time TBD) by six singles matches, each match 2 out of 3 sets, with tie-breaks at 6-all.
►No warm-up with opponents (in doubles and in singles)
The ITA Operating Committee felt that it was very important for Division I men and women's tennis to play with the same format—one that would enhance the student-athlete experience, be more fan-friendly, be more exciting and make college tennis more relevant. And in this quickly changing landscape, the Committee also agreed to continue to monitor the pulse of the membership in looking ahead to the future.
"Over the past several years the ITA Division I member coaches have engaged in a vigorous and dynamic dialogue about format and best ways to grow and promote the sport of college tennis," said David Benjamin, ITA executive director. "We are very proud of the way in which all of our coaches of men's and women's tennis programs—from widely diverse institutions—have managed to work together and present a unified front on such a complicated and critical issue."
The NCAA Division I Tennis Committee will teleconference on Jan. 6 to review the ITA-shortened format proposal for possible implementation in the 2015 NCAA Team Championship. If endorsed by the Tennis Committee, it will be put forward to the NCAA Division I Championships/Sports Management Cabinet for its approval.
ITA Operating Committee co-Chair Sheila McInerney knows college tennis is on a long-term plan to become more fan-friendly and exciting.
"Coming out of the ITA Convention, the men's and women's Operating Committees are excited to play the new scoring format," McInerney said. "We feel this shorter and more exciting format will benefit college tennis and are hopeful the NCAA Tennis Committee will endorse this format for the upcoming 2015 NCAA Team Championship."
Boise State head men's tennis coach Greg Patton is filled with hope for the future of college tennis.
"I think it's a dynamic step in the future that is going to dramatically and positively impact the growth of tennis in this country," Patton said. "Tennis could be in the top five [of college sports] if we do it right and we're trying to take steps to do it. We can't keep on being satisfied with the product that we're giving. We want to make sure it's exciting and timely. If we can keep it into a certain time frame, it's going to be really incredibly compelling and incredibly attractive to people. It's hopefully going to attract a lot of kids to the sport."