Over the past 35 years, the number of top ranked US players has declined drastically. For example, right now there are zero top 10 ranked men in the ATP, and two in the WTA. By comparison, in the 1970s there were an average of 3 men and 4 women in the top 10. Today, our colleges and universities are giving approximately 7,000 scholarships a year (~$200m/year) to international players. In the 1970s, scholarships to foreign players were relatively rare. The USTA spends $18m/year on player development which is 10% of the amount invested in foreign born players by our higher education institutions.
What if we invested these resources (scholarships) into American tennis players? Would we see a dramatic increase in top ranked players in the next 10 years? Either way, we will have allocated tens of thousands of scholarships to young Americans, investing over $250m in educational resources into the US economy. Let’s build a coalition of supporters of American tennis to test this theory. Our goal is the adoption of a new policy by the NCAA that requires 70% of men’s and women’s scholarships to be allocated to US citizens over the next 10 years.
How would we measure success?
We expect to see a 300% increase in Americans in the top ten men’s and women’s worldwide rankings by 2027 (ten years).
How to accomplish this?
We have the potential to build a grassroots coalition of like-minded supporters of American tennis. Once we determine our strategy, we can leverage our collective relationships to determine the strengths, weaknesses, threats, and opportunities of our campaign. We’ll start by privately approaching Tim Russell, CEO of the ITA, to understand the ITA Board’s concerns with our proposal. Once we have their support (or opposition), we will reach out to the ITA coaches to help us demonstrate their support for our proposal. We’ll state the potential benefits and consequences of this policy shift, and petition the NCAA to make the changes. If they refuse to consider our proposal, we’ll explore a legal approach.
Are there any risks?
The first question is, is it legally possible to reserve a percentage of scholarships for US citizens? We may need to hire a legal expert to determine the complexity of our proposal if necessary. Does the ITA Board, the ITA members, NCAA, and/or USTA have an incentive to incur the cost of fighting this proposal? We should address any negative consequences in our proposal. For example, we understand that we would eliminate some great international players (and scholars) from our institutions. It is also probable that the overall quality of competition would decrease in the near term, and that this could put some smaller college programs at risk. Finally, there would be a decrease in the “diversity” of students in our higher education institutions. We are willing to take these risks.
- Determine the right legal and financial structure to support this campaign. Is there an existing non-profit that we could leverage as a fiscal sponsor to move more quickly?
- Start a coalition of supporters to staff and fund this campaign. Establish a working leadership council with clear roles and responsibilities, and a decision making process.
- Identify an internal or external program manager with campaign experience and strong relationships in the ITA to plan, manage, and execute our campaign.
- If we face resistance from the ITA or NCAA, we will need to hire a legal team experienced in NCAA policy and laws to litigate this proposed change.
- Identify the ideal leader for the campaign
Who’s with me?
Please comment here or contact me (ethomasparham [at] gmail.com) if you would like to discuss this further.
We estimate that they are at least 700 men’s and women’s programs across D1, D2, NAIA, and junior colleges. We estimate that 70% of these 10,000 total scholarships are valued at $25,000/year. Before taking this campaign public we should validate these assumptions with the ITA.
History of this issue
In 1970, the NAIA eliminated their quota on foreign scholarships. Within five years, the consequence was clear – NAIA tennis was dominated by foreign tennis players. I would know – I won two national championships with teams with at least 50% of foreign-born players. During the 1970s, the NCAA followed by removing any barriers to recruiting foreign players, and D2, D3, junior colleges, and eventually D1 tennis programs became dominated by foreign players. Concurrently, from 1970 to 2016 we see a clear and consistent reduction in the number of top 10 ATP and WTA players born in the US. Is this causation or correlation? No one knows, but if necessary, we could design and conduct a formal study to explore causation between these two trends.
Focusing on the ITA
Our ecosystem of stakeholders includes: ITA, NCAA, USTA, Higher Education administrators, private and high school teaching professionals, parents of young players, and American taxpayers. After evaluating the incentives and resources of each of these organizations, my recommendation is to start our campaign within the ITA, build a grassroots movement with the ITA members that demonstrates that the majority of coaches support us, and then take our proposal to the NCAA. Given that the ITA changed leadership, how can we effectively influence the strategic plan?
Would most of the ITA members vote for our proposal? Our theory is that they would because 73% did vote for a similar policy change in 1990, but the ITA board rejected the proposal after the USTA stated that they would not provide indemnification for the ITA in a lawsuit. Some coaches would not support this proposal, because it would risk them becoming less competitive and ultimately threaten their personal well-being. One way to get started would be to internally poll of the 700+ ITA coaches and the ITA Board, and evaluate potential buy-in to the idea. If there is a consensus, our coalition would provide the program management resources to formally propose the policy change, collect endorsements, and present it formally to the NCAA. If ignored or contested, we would then put together a plan to litigate against the opposition.
Creating an incentive for American families to invest time and resources into junior and high school tennis is seemingly good for our economy. Quantifying the potential impact would require some resources, and should not be an immediate priority. If we determined that quantifying the economic impact of our proposal would help us fundraise, we would measure the potential impact by surveying 7 families whose children received full scholarships to US universities and determine the average cost of their commitment. Then we would survey 7 families whose kids play junior tennis (and/or high school tennis) and determine how much of a factor the potential of earning a college scholarship drove resource allocation in the family. We would need to hire a consultant to design and execute this survey to be statistically sound.
Could this approach apply to other sports? Is the NCAA’s primary concern that if the ITA makes this change that they will be pressured to do so on other sports. Would that be a bad thing? No, not in our opinion. Title IX created a tremendous opportunity for women athletes, but many of these scholarships are currently being allocated to international athletes.
Former college tennis players
Jack Kramer, Arthur Ashe, Stan Smith, John McEnroe, Bob and Mike Bryant, Jim Courier, Brad Gilbert, Bill Tilden, Roscoe Tanner, Jimmy Connors, Dennis Ralston, Dick Stockton, Vitas Gerulaitis, Michael Chang, Malavai Washington, Todd Martin, Bob Lutz, Bill Talbert, Tony Trabert,, Vince Spadea, John Isner, Steve Johnson
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“Tom Parham is my friend, my coach at Elon University, and a long time advisor. He brought me to America. He skillfully guided me through a new world and a new tennis arena–American College Tennis. We did well. He understood both the game, the team, and me. He is a very well respected professional with success at coaching and teaching at all levels
(Roland Thornqvist , Coach of Florida Women’s tennis team—currently ranked #1).
Wayne Bryan, father of the tennis twins, wrote a long, thoughtful letter to the USTA some while ago. My blog 117 condenses a few points from the letter. My post “The Guerilla Bureaucrat” calls for a powerful insider to throw appropriate light on the exit of college tennis scholarships to international players. And to the link between no scholarships for American players and no quality American players winning slams or even getting close. For years no one has done much to confront this cocktail of demise for American tennis. Contrarily, Coach Bryan may now have hit a major nerve with American parents
Being from the South opens one up to quick criticism. My particular myopia centers around the world of college sports, mostly tennis. This began in 1972. Just this year I’ve made a “comeback”. My blog has 15 articles on the subject(s) published this year. Below I have listed related comments, if anyone is paying attention. If you read only one along with this one, go to #122.
Once again the only two American winners, save the Williams sisters, are college products. John Isner and the Bryan twins won the Davis Cup round.
My strong belief is that the only hope for future top American players, is the allotment of scholarships to our youngsters. Many youngsters are not playing football and basketball for whatever reason. Tennis needs to position itself to attract these youngsters as their next option of choice.
Ah, but the law. The constitution and NATIONAL ORIGIN. I think the Morel Letter (see blog 116) gives tennis the “out” needed. There again, that Southern thing!
Anyway–to start the new year how about the SIX BY SIX plan? There are six singles players in the standard team format. There are also 6 slots for doubles (2 players per team, 3 teams). How about this: Six of the twelve slots must be filled by Americans?
Bob Burton said the NCAA should be restricted to ten rules. Add one? You have to eliminate one.
So here come the nit pickers: How do you allot scholarships? fill out your lineups? injuries? etc.
Call it the Parham 6×6 plan. But the details and rules? That is for the next Xenophobe.
RELATED ARTICLES BY NUMBER: 111,112,114,116,117,119,120,122,125,126,127,128,132,136,137.
From article 153 (Passing the Flag)
Here are some questions and “food for thought” for anyone concerned about the future of American tennis:
1. Does the USTA realize they are spending $500,000,000 plus for a roof and that when it is done perhaps no Americans will qualify for the USOPEN?
2. Did we actually spend 17 million dollars on USTA Player Development with this kind of results?
3. What are the plans on the horizon to correct this problem? Are we willing to listen to new or valid suggestions?
4. If so, has this been thoroughly thought out: There is a direct correlation starting from 1970 until 2016 between the number of scholarships given to American college tennis players to the current dearth of highly ranked American pros. Further, an examination of the top ten Americans during the 70’s and 80’s reveals the quality of those players compared to the top ten men and women today. My belief is the best elite training system world wide is the American College/University athletic programs. Ask Isner 1. were you selected for USTA elite programs? 2. Did your participation at GEORGIA prepare you for your best shot at pro tennis? 3. Did you have a scholarship? 4. Would you have selected GEORGIA had they not provided that grant?
200 MILLION AMERICAN $ ANNUALLY TO INTERNATIONAL COLLEGE TENNIS PLAYERS? (SEE LINK BELOW)
******THERE ARE SOME 200 ARTICLES ON BLOG (WWW.TOMPARHAM.WORDPRESS.COM). IN ADDITION TO THESE NUMBERED ABOVE, THERE ARE SEVERAL MORE NEW ONES ON THE BLOG, AS WELL AS THOSE IN MY BOOK, “THE LITTLE GREEN BOOK OF TENNIS”. TP