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.


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

How to make American tennis great again

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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.

Next Steps

  1. 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?
  2. 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.
  3. Identify an internal or external program manager with campaign experience and strong relationships in the ITA to plan, manage, and execute our campaign.
  4. 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.
  5. 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



There were 14 internationals drafted by NBA teams. NC State’s Cat Barber wasn’t drafted. NC State recruited 3 international men’s basketball players (pending eligibility). Which Americans got bumped?



https://littlegreenbookoftennis.com/2016/10/24/day-dream-believer-175/ (WHAT IF?)




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?










https://wordpress.com/my-stats/?day=2016-11-28 (BLOG ADDRESS) INFORMATION ON LITTLE GREEN BOOK OF TENNIS

https://littlegreenbookoftennis.com/2016/11/02/what-to-do/ (WAYNE BRYAN/PATRICK MCENROE) plus the accompanying comments.

https://littlegreenbookoftennis.com/2016/10/24/helping/ (THIS IS A BOOK SIZED MANUAL WITH A TON OF HISTORY ON THIS ISSUE)

https://littlegreenbookoftennis.com/2016/10/24/day-dream-believer-175/ (WHAT IF?)





This represents a few of the 180 articles.   My two main efforts are directed at the scholarships  issue and ways to better high school tennis for players, coaches, teams.

WHAT TO DO? (177)

The Little Green Book of Tennis

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. Then follow Patrick McEnroe’s response.  http://tenniskalamazoo.blogspot.com/2012/02/patrick-mcenroe-responds-to-wayne.html  Along with both long letters, it is essential to read the attached comments.

My gratitude to Coach Bryan includes appreciation for his effort to change the situation.  Having similar feelings for over 40 years of coaching college tennis, I am also aware…

View original post 1,152 more words

Helping (176)

I’d like to share a copy of my writings, comments, and a collection of sources that have helped me.  Between the books and the blog, this a “haystack” of thoughts of various types.  It is, perhaps, a folder of inspiration that goes in many directions and is presented in no particular order.  Mainly it deals with coaching and teaching tennis  in America over the past fifty years. Lately I have concentrated on helping high school tennis teams, coaches, and players.  Some handpicked “lessons” are enclosed, excerpts taken from earlier writings, new blogs,other sources, etc.  I have doggedly tried to help enhance the amount of scholarship  money going to American men and women, as evidenced inside.    As Ray Charles once said, “You may not like all of my music, but hang on, I’ll find you.”

Download the full Helping file (160 Mb) here: helping-by-tom-parham


CURRENT REALITY (AMERICAN COLLEGE TENNIS) Since 1970 college tennis has had no limit to international grant-in-aid, or scholarships. Since then the amount of aid to Americans has diminished
steadily to the point that Americans often get what is left over, or none at all. Parents now realize it is probably only going to get worse. This has cast a pall on our tennis families. More and more they make the choice to select another sport with more scholarship opportunity. “My next kid is playing (fill in the blank——–golf, lacrosse, baseball, soccer,etc). No one can see an end to this downward spiral. Or can they?
DAY DREAMING? When TITLE IX was passed, families were encouraged to have young girls play golf. “All kinds of grants are available for any girl that can shoot 85!” Our girls flocked to the driving range. Alas, women’s collegiate golf mimed tennis. Did Title IX intend for Duke to field an all international girls golf roster (2014 NCAA 1, 2015 NCAA 2 FINISHES) When is the next flight to recruit Asian golf courses, Coach? There was 600 million dollars spent on tennis by colleges and universities last year, in no small part for international grants. What if we could promise American families that five years from now 8O% of that money would go to our kids? Would these things happen—
1. Would families come back to tennis?
2. Would these grants lighten the spiraling cost of college to our families?
3. With grants available would we halt the downward spiral of quality players?
4. Couldn’t Internationals still play if they paid the bill?
5. Wouldn’t our college programs develop our top kids (they do that now for internationals, and we pay the way). And they did so before grants were lost.
6. Wouldn’t our top kids have a shot at top notch education at our better institutions?
7. How about USTA membership? High school tennis, Coaching quality and opportunity?
8. Players would gather the life lessons of a great sport. The game is the best teacher.
9. Our kids would win more, and especially benefit from being on a team that has a chance to win.
10. All-Americans that are American?


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. Then follow Patrick McEnroe’s response:  http://tenniskalamazoo.blogspot.com/2012/02/patrick-mcenroe-responds-to-wayne.html  Along with both long letters, it is essential to read the attached comments.

My gratitude to Coach Bryan includes appreciation for his effort to change the situation.  Having similar feelings for over 40 years of coaching college tennis, I am also aware of the need for powerful leadership capable of rattling the cage of tennis people in America.  (See blog 169, again.)

Having read Mr. Bryan’s letter and Mr. McEnroe’s response, I then tallied the comments  about Internationals in American college tennis.  These represent about 30% of the total comments on the letter.

Summarizing the pros and cons these main  themes showed up:

NO CHANGE NEEDED.  1.  Internationals add diversity to our school.  Better players, better attitudes.   2.  Our school’s tennis team quality would be drastically reduced with US only, or limited rosters.  3.  The USTA doesn’t govern college tennis,  the NCAA does.  4.  Limitation   is  unconstitutional.

I  don’t disagree with 1 or 2.  Number 3 needs some comment.  While the NCAA governs Divisions 1,2,3,   the INTERCOLLEGIATE TENNIS ASSOCIATION   is an affiliate of the NCAA. It’s predominate membership is made up of college coaches.  Historically there was a serious move to have a 50/50  limit,  or half of scholarships allotted  to be reserved for Americans.  And, in fact, the voting college coaches approved this “quota” by a substantial margin.  While this recommendation passed, it was never implemented.   Why?   Number 4 or legality.   While the precedent for legal concern only has a  1970 track case as the law on this question,  there  were also  many behind the scene concerns  by the ITA.  Mainly there was the fear of a threat to withdraw from the ITA by many of large and successful schools and their coaches.  MY guess is COLD FEET stopped this effort.

Some are rethinking #4.  With only the 1970 track precedent, is it not possible to reserve  American monies for American young people?   Would the NCAA go to court on the issue? Is it true the NCAA is not a “state actor”, i.e, able to make decisions in the best interest of the organization?

Coach Bryan’s letter elicited  many strong comments from  American parents.  One included a similar core belief that I have been convinced  of, more so lately.  That being there is a direct correlation between very limited good scholarship availability equals very few high  quality American players.  In affect the NCAA having given not only American college tennis to internationals, but the opportunity to strive for scholarships and perhaps development into the high level players that are so missing at the upper level.

Here a  few comments and thoughts:


My guess an American on a college tennis team would  aid roster diversity.  One coach said “…quotas would bring back discrimination against Jewish and African American kids. This concern was expressed in  the 80’s at an NAIA  national tournament with a draw of 256 players.  There were no Jewish entries,  and one black player,  Wayman Tisdale’s nephew.   I don’t think there was a Klan entry.   28 of the 32  seeds were international.

My team played one of the top teams in the nation that year at their place.  Match started  at 1pm on a beautiful Sunday.  Their coach stated half way through the match, that it was the best match they’d played at home.  Near the end of the match I asked if he’d consider recruiting a player from this state?  It was a state funded university, yet with a typical all international roster.  His response was “…Oh no! Our fans wouldn’t  tolerate a lesser quality of team!”   I couldn’t resist noting that there were three non-players in attendance–me, him, and his school’s financial aid officer.

I saw several schools who fit this description:   (a)  a very talented men’s all foreign team (b) a much lesser skilled all girls team with American players.  The girls stands were full, the men’s stands empty.  I am convinced that , other than at the top level of college tennis the only  American players  would draw any fans.  Parents, students, townspeople will follow familiar players.  On the flip side the parents are now very well aware of what’s going on  (“My kids have changed to Lacrosse” is typical commentary.)

Americans have proved the Academy System isn’t for them.  And there is evidence Americans especially don’t want to give up their kids.  No one cares about a player more than parents, coach or not./  Our great success has, in fact, come from a FAMILY model consisting of parental oversight, local pros, free play, tournament play, high school tennis, and college play  (witness Evert and Father, Connors and Mother,  Agassi, Chang, and on and on.  With 17 million USTA dollars producing very little, our recent best, John Isner and  Steve Johnson, came from the college/family development process.  The Bryans are similar family/college products.   Our colleges and universities spend 600 million dollars annually on tennis.  And we give that in foreign  to others children.  Fifty internationals with American college involvement  played Davis Cup this year for another country.  We lost to Croatia.

We are literally paying to train them, to beat us.

The USTA spent over half a billion d0llars to enhance the US OPEN.  We may soon have no one to qualify to play under the roof.

Physical size and speed and cultural changes have created a “blow back” from our two big money makers, Football and Basketball.  Bouncing off that wall ,where do our talented kids go?  Are we not in a position to get them to select tennis?  I can tell you it won’t be without college scholarships available.  Witness soccer, baseball, and now Lacrosse.  Or skiing, or worse–extreme sports.  The worst emerging choice is video games.

Being the proverbial  small fish in a small pond, I decided to direct my efforts to helping high school tennis coaches, players and teams.  See THE LITTLE GREEN BOOK of TENNIS.

With more scholarships available, more kids selecting tennis, there would be tremendous  benefit from improving high school tennis.  If nothing else, simply playing some twenty matches per season guided by a competent coach and enthusiastic teammates with the carrot of a possible grant-in-aid would help.

Other sports are following the same route or recruiting internationals. International basketball  grants for both men and women take away from our poorest population .  Fourteen top NBA draft picks were international.  Any international sport (golf, volleyball, cross country/ track and field,  soccer, etc ) will attract coaches and schools only interested in winning.  Coaches can’t be blamed, or entrusted to make change, given the threat of being fired.

In 1970 Title 1x became a deserved godsend to our women.  Soccer is the most widespread international sport, yet American men have never won the world cup.  Our women, since 1970, have won three times.  This year’s women’s roster included 23 Americans all of whom played college soccer on soccer scholarships.  Duke’s women’s golf team has finished first and second in NCAA GOLF, the last two years.  Neither year was there an American girl on the roster.  Was this the purpose of title 1x?

It is indefensible to give grants to international without admitting you just bumped an American.