A response to NCAA President, Mark A. Emmert

Below is a letter to me that states the position of NCAA President Mark A. Emmert on international athletes in American college athletics. And I agree with the content. However, I believe there is another tenable side to this issue. Therefore, in addition to President Emmert letter, I have shared what I believe is another salient side to the issue.

NCAA-Emmert-Letter.jpeg

Dr. Mark Emmert
President, NCAA
PO Box 6222
Indianapolis, Indiana  46206

Dear Dr. Emmert,

I am appreciative of your letter of March 15, 2017. Earlier this winter I had a long conversation with Timothy Russell , CEO of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA).   I have also pled my case to Paul Lubbers of USTA player development, the Southern district of USTA, (STA) and the North Carolina Tennis Association (NCTA).

And have done so with countless others since 1970. Your response insures that I have been heard at our highest levels and that is truly fair.

Approaching age 77 with fifty years of coaching, teaching and administering in two small (Barton College) to mid size Division 1 (Elon University), I have watched this issue closely, and while I fully agree with diversity and inclusion and equitable participation, there seems to be more to the issue.

My teams rosters included fifty plus internationals. From about a dozen different countries. Roland Thornqvist, women’s tennis coach at the University of Florida just won the women’s D1 National team tennis indoor title, owning a handful of national titles. I recruited Roland to the USA and he is probably best known of my recruits who are in the athletics arena and have stayed in the country. No less known in the world of orthopedic surgery in America is Dr. Pramote Malisitt, a native of Bangkok, who remains in our country. Dr. Peter Lindstrom, is one of twenty nine Swedes whom I recruited, and who is nationally known as a vital computer expert with our defense department. Neither our schools, nation, nor I would wish they weren’t here.

Never have I suggested we shouldn’t have delved into internationals then or now. But it seems to me to be a half full/half empty issue. Not once have I ever said an international should be prohibited from participation. Or equal admittance. The elephant in the room is scholarships. Never have I suggested internationals should be exempt from a reasonable amount of money. I do believe that the NCAA has a legal right to provide aid to our citizens first. One link to follow allows that about 200 million American dollars go into international men and women tennis players.

Many parents and taxpayers question all foreign rosters, all with grants and many from state schools. (See enclosed latest rankings from Division II) I wouldn’t object to an all international team in any sport if they paid the bill. But to scholarship an all African team, rather than an African American team is bothersome, to say the least. What we have now is foreign aid, not trade. Not once in the many times I asked any international , “Would your native country do what we do?” was the answer yes. And the money is coming from the coffers of the only reasonable financial return for all the expenses encountered: Scholarships. Scholarships can easily amount to a quarter million dollars per student ,over four years. Not to mention the subsequent benefits of quality education. I don’t even mention the rarity of professional player rewards, as we all know the status of American elite players. That is another issue, but giving American college tennis to internationals via disproportionate scholarship is directly related to this demise (again link to follow).

Basketball, golf, and other international sports are making forays into the American college arena. As a young coach I quickly realized if they have a nuclear weapon or two, I had better find some to help me keep my job. This is true today. Witness Duke University’s meteoric rise in Women’s golf. Surely young coaches watched an all international roster ascend to the top. Is this the intent of Title IX for our women? The American college system is the best system in the world to train elite athletes. The best example is surely Women’s Soccer.

Soccer, the most widely played sport in the world ,has never been won by American men. Yet, since the advent of Title IX our women have won three world cups in soccer. All twenty three women were participants in American College Soccer. And I’d bet they all had scholarships. Some one asked me where was the national training center for women on the world cup team? Chapel Hill, I replied. (Anson Dorance’s UNC teams had six of the twenty three players). And his teams influenced all the rest.

Upon accepting the job at Elon University, the then president admonished me, “… we don’t want an all foreign team!” After ten years that included a national team championship, I was concerned that a walk-on international was good enough to shift our team balance to more than 50% international for the first time. A decided shift in attitude was “ Coach we’ve decided that we don’t care where they are from if they are the quality of people you’ve been recruiting.”

And, while this validates your position, I believe a compromise is the answer.

My internationals returned home at about a 90% rate. That money may have brought in any number of our own citizens, equal in every way, except talent in tennis, as a true 18 year old freshman . (see DAY DREAM BELIEVER) on addendum to follow. Without scholarship aid for many American tennis youngsters, the “…pathway to opportunity” does not currently exist.

I have shared a few opinions, mine and others, on Addendum 1.

I intend to include a copy of your letter, and valid position to several interested parties. Knowing I have had my say, I remain sincerely grateful.

Tom Parham

*****NOTE:  The additional comments  heretofore referred to can be found by reading  HOW TO MAKE AMERICAN TENNIS GREAT AGAIN,   a blog on http://www.tomparham.wordpress.com

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