The UMBC Athletics Department recently submitted a proposal to the University Athletics Policy Committee to discontinue the University’s men’s and women’s Division I tennis programs. Following the process established by the University Policy on Adding or Terminating a Varsity Sport, the Committee recommended elimination of the programs to President Hrabowski, who has authorized this step, effective after the Spring 2016 semester.
“We pride ourselves on providing a broad-based intercollegiate athletic program,” says Athletic Director Tim Hall. “The University came to this decision after a thoughtful process that closely examined the tennis programs, today’s changing competitive landscape for the sport, and UMBC’s broader intercollegiate athletics and recreation programs.”
Understanding that eliminating a sport means a personal loss for dedicated student-athletes, their families, and coaches, Hall personally shared the decision this morning with team coaches and the eighteen players affected. In addition to thanking them for representing UMBC well on and off the courts, he expressed the University’s commitment to provide support and guidance to the student-athletes as they consider their future plans.
Head Coach Rob Hubbard has guided both programs since the 2008-09 season and is assisted by Oliver Steil. The eight-member men’s squad includes five seniors and three juniors. The ten-member women’s team includes three seniors, three juniors, three sophomores, and one freshman. UMBC will honor all commitments of grant-in aid awards for these student-athletes. UMBC will also grant unconditional releases to any student-athletes who choose to transfer to another institution.
Discontinuation of men’s and women’s tennis responds to a national trend of contraction in the number of sports offered at NCAA Division I schools. This is particularly true in the America East Conference (AEC), in which UMBC competes. Due to a decline in the number of men’s tennis programs in the conference, the AEC dropped men’s tennis as a sponsored sport over a year ago. As a result, UMBC and fellow AEC schools entered into a 2-year contract with the Missouri Valley Conference which concludes at the end of the 2016 Spring season. This temporary conference is not sustainable as it involves costly and time-consuming travel for student-athletes. The University also anticipates that the AEC will soon reconsider whether to continue women’s tennis as a sponsored sport, due to a decreasing number of women’s tennis teams competing in the AEC.
Over 11 prior seasons in America East, the men’s program has won one title, in 2007. The Retrievers have been unable to capture an America East women’s tennis title since joining the conference in 2003-04.
UMBC currently sponsors 19 NCAA Division I sports: ten women’s programs and nine men’s programs. The elimination of the tennis teams will provide important stabilizing resources to the UMBC Athletics Department budget, allowing the department to make needed investments in other intercollegiate and recreation programs, and minimize future student athletic fee increases.