Interim Athletic Director Julie Kline met with the men’s and women’s tennis teams Tuesday to announce that both programs will be cut – at least for the next several years – effective at the end of the current season.
“We didn’t cut the program,” Kline said. “We’re trying to position ourselves to fully support these programs the way we want to.”
The tennis programs will be on hiatus due to facility issues – namely that the tennis courts were turned into a parking lot to accommodate the new campus center construction – La Verne is not set to get new athletic facilities until 2018. This raises the questions: When will the program return, and are more athletic programs on the chopping block because of similar facilities issues?
The question of whether University budget also weighed into the problem was immediately raised by coaches and players.
But Kline said the decision was based solely on facilities issues, or lack thereof. With the administration feeling that the programs could not uphold the competitive standards of the University and the Southern California Athletic Conference, Kline decided to put the program on “hiatus.”
“Our No. 1 priority is to ensure our student athletes have the highest level of experience during their time at La Verne,” Kline said. “Our decisions are based on what we believe is best for our student athletes and based on our ability to provide a quality experience they deserve.”
The La Verne athletic program’s athletes and coaches of the University see it differently
“I think that this is ridiculous. I don’t think that this decision is necessary at all, I just feel bad for the freshman that came here to play tennis and now won’t be able to,” Adrian Laygo, a senior on the men’s tennis team.
“When the decision was made it was difficult to hear,” interim men’s coach Lacy Cascadden said. “Being an alumna, it’s very emotional. The program is dear to our hearts.”
The coaches of both the men’s and women’s teams are planning to appeal the decision with letters and meetings with the Intercollegiate Tennis Association.
Both teams’ players and coaches pointed out the recent challenges they faced when the tennis courts at the University were demolished and made into a parking lot in the summer of 2007.
Still the teams made the best of the circumstances and have been able to improve, even without a home facility.
The lack of success in SCIAC, which Kline indicated was a deciding factor in the program’s cancellation, has to do with the fact that SCIAC, one of the nation’s premiere athletic conferences.
Despite the challenges created when the campus courts were closed, the women’s team has shown vast improvements, increasing its ranking in conference.
It is currently ranked ninth in the Western Region.
On the men’s side, though players have struggled this year with distractions and injuries, they have remained competitive.
And the team was showing promise with the development of their young players.
La Verne has also taken major steps in recruitment.
Many young players plan to return on the men’s side, and seven women recruits were hoping to attend the University specifically to play tennis.
“If the University is trying to increase attendance, and the fact that division three athletes are not awarded athletic scholarships, the decision to disband the tennis program is an overall contradiction of the Universities overall mission plan,” women’s coach Brian Harrison said.
President Stephen Morgan said he will be speaking with players early next week.
“Making the decision to put the tennis team on hiatus was a difficult decision because we know that it has an impact on the students that are currently participating in the program, however we believe it’s the right decision for the long term because it gives us time to construct appropriate competitive facilities that will allow us to provide a much more positive experience for future participants,” Morgan said.
The players will have plenty to say.
“I’m very upset about this situation, this sends a message that once things get hard and start going downhill … they quit and give up,” said Jen Baca, a junior on the women’s team.
“What kind of message is this sending out to the students of La Verne, it doesn’t make any sense at all,” Baca said.
The men and women’s team are set to play their potential last match of the program’s existence, with the men’s team set to host the SCIAC Championships in Redlands, on Friday.
The women also will host the SCIAC Championships in Claremont on Friday beginning at 9:30 a.m. as well.
Aaron Braunwalder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.