The University of St. Thomas announced today it will discontinue its varsity men’s and women’s tennis programs, effective at the end of the 2020-21 academic year. Here’s more background on what led to the decision and what it means for the university.
Q: Why was this decision made?
A: Our goal is to provide an outstanding student-athlete experience. After evaluating our entire athletics department and varsity sports portfolio, we have determined we are unable to sustainably provide this experience for our men’s and women’s tennis student-athletes. This was a difficult but necessary decision as responsible stewards of our resources.
Q: Why tennis and not another sport(s)?
A: Our tennis programs present unique challenges. For example: We have no dedicated tennis facilities, either on or off campus, and the financial investment required to have one is not sustainable. We also evaluated roster sizes and forecasted resources necessary to sustain comprehensive excellence, which led to today’s difficult decision.
Q: Who made this decision?
A: This was a collective university decision that came following considerable study and discussion involving President Julie Sullivan and her staff; our Board of Trustees; and the leadership of the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics.
Q: How many tennis student-athletes are there currently?
A: The 2020-21 tennis teams include 12 women’s players and 15 men’s players.
Q: Why decide this now? Why not allow the D-I transition to start and see how it goes?
A: There is never a good time to discontinue a program. As we complete our final year in Division III and the MIAC, we felt now was the time to make this decision before we committed any athletic scholarships to student-athletes, developed a full-time coaching staff, or committed any other resources to the programs as we transition.
Q: Why announce this today, especially considering the women’s team just won the MIAC and is headed to the NCAA Tournament?
A: To be clear, the timing is not related to team performance; it is about the inability to provide our student-athletes adequate conditions to pursue sustained comprehensive excellence. We also believe it is important to meet face to face with our teams and follow up in person with all the individual players and coaches. We want to give them the opportunity to absorb this news together and ask questions in the moment. We want to provide assistance if they consider a transfer to another university or need other support we can provide. If we waited until later this month to make this announcement, several players would have already left the Twin Cities for summer break. Those student-athletes could potentially feel alone as they process this difficult news.
Q: Is this decision in response to financial fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic?
A: No. This decision is about the inability to sustainably provide our student-athletes adequate conditions to pursue comprehensive excellence.
Q: Will tennis be supported at all?
A: Yes, tennis will continue as a club sport at St. Thomas.
Q: Are other sports in danger of being discontinued?
A: No. We will compete in 20 varsity sports next year.
Q: How is St. Thomas’ Title IX compliance affected?
A: This was not a decision related to Title IX. As we transition to Division I, we are implementing adjustments to roster sizes across all sports, which will also assist with Title IX compliance.
Q: Will any players lose athletic scholarships?
A: No. No athletic scholarships had been committed for current or incoming tennis student-athletes. Any institutional merit or need-based aid they currently receive will continue.
Q: Can our current players transfer to other schools?
A: Yes. While we hope that our current student-athletes will remain Tommies, we understand some may wish to continue their intercollegiate playing careers. We will support all student-athletes through this decision-making process and will assist in any way we can.
Q: What about the athletes who were recruited for next season?
A: Like all students, student-athletes choose a university for multiple reasons. All incoming tennis student-athletes will be welcomed on campus next fall, should they choose to remain enrolled at St. Thomas. For those who choose to go elsewhere, we will support them in any way we can to help them pursue their competitive careers at other institutions.
Q: What will happen to our coaches?
A: We will honor all contracts with our tennis coaches, which are part-time contracts that conclude at the end of the academic year. We thank them for their dedication to the program and the student-athletes.
Q: Is there an opportunity to save the program if enough funds are raised?
A: No. While we appreciate a desire to maintain the program, this decision is final.