Column: Athletics department dumps tennis
Men's Tennis: Ranked No. 6 nationally by ITA.
Women's Tennis: Ranked No. 36 nationally by ITA.
In Fall 2019 when students pass the tennis courts they may no longer hear the sound of a tennis ball when it hits the string of a racket or a hardworking player’s grunt, but instead will walk past silent, empty courts.
An email that was sent out April 16, from the Pacer Athletics to every USCA student and staff member, announced that after the spring 2019 season the men’s and women’s tennis teams would transition to club sport classification.
With the continuing demand for athletic scholarships, there was a review of all the sports offered at USCA and the operational cost of the tennis program was considered before it was ultimately cut.
After the announcement was made, students began showing support to the players by posting on the USCA Student Life Facebook page.
Students clearly want the administration to know what they think of the decision and the impact that it will have on 15 international students. Each of these players will now have to decide whether they want to stay at the university they have grown accustomed to or go to another university so they may continue with both their education and the sport they love.
“I feel so passionate because I feel like USC Aiken is taking away my favorite part about this institution, diversity,” said USCA student, Catherine Pullan, in an emotionally charged post written on Tuesday. “This change is forcing 15 international students to leave the university they had the confidence to leave their familiar home countries to come to.”
“The members of the USCA tennis team were lied to, mislead, and quite frankly, treated like garbage by this university,” accused another student, Jonah Boucher. “I want to know who is to answer for this situation.”
“The least USC Aiken could’ve done was make this decision earlier in the semester instead of the last 2 weeks of school,” maintained Kaelen Hetzler in another post.
Despite the school’s announcement, the teams can still end on a positive note. Some of the players were selected to the PBC All-Academic Team, which requires student athletes to achieve certain qualifications for eligibility- including a GPA of at least 3.3.
Four players from the men’s team were selected and will represent the school, including Vicente Andrades, a biology major who maintains a 3.92 GPA, Antonio Sabugueiro, who maintains a 3.79 GPA in the business administration program, Tales Silva, who has a 3.69 GPA in the business administration program, and Alex Sklizovic, who has a 3.74 GPA and majors in mathematics and computer science.
Three members of the women’s team were also selected to help represent the school. They are Elena Bompieri, who holds a 3.75 GPA in the exercise and sports science program, Victoria Giannaccini, who has a 3.54 GPA and majors in business administration, and Alice Neves, who maintains a 3.7 GPA and is studying business administration.
Every player who sets foot on that court shows passion, determination and school spirit, but now they will have to decided where their future might lie, while also preparing for the upcoming finals.
“Good bye [sic] to one of the teams that possessed the most school spirit I have seen in our athletic program and to the team that truly made me proud to be a Pacer,” concluded Pullan in her post, which was liked and shared by many fellow students.
Only time will tell if this was the right move for the Athletic Department to make and what direction this is going to lead the university in. The email stated that by transitioning tennis to a club sport, they will make way for the addition of more high-demand Division II athletics. Will this decision cause school spirit to falter or eventually raise it up?
Perhaps this path will lead to bigger things for the school, though it has slammed the door on a nationally-ranked team.
Yesterday, April 18, students and players tied white ribbons, balloons and notes of support to the tennis court fence in order to show support for the teams. Many hope that the university will reconsider the decision, though no member of administration has offered any support for that prospect.
“We could never imagine the amount of support that we would get after the cutting off of the tennis program,” said Antonio Sabugueiro, a member of the men’s tennis team. “We can’t thank you guys enough for all the support, all the kind messages, everything that you have done to make us feel a little bit better. “