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Evansville Courier & Press (Indiana)
EVANSVILLE — This is always a possibility for any non-revenue generating sport. On Monday, it became a reality at the University of Evansville.
Athletic Director Mark Spencer announced the Purple Aces' women's tennis program will be eliminated following the semester. The announcement came right after UE completed its final match of the fall season Monday at the ITA Regional Championships in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
"This was an incredibly difficult decision because of the impact on the affected student-athletes, but it was one that was done with the best interests of our entire student-athlete body, the athletic department and the University of Evansville in mind," Spencer said in a statement. "This is something that has been discussed internally for several years and this is the right time for all parties involved to move forward with this action."
Women's tennis at Evansville began in 1969.
Its demise continues a growing trend at the NCAA Division I level. Western Kentucky, Southern Illinois Carbondale, Indiana State and IPFW have each cut tennis programs in the past few years.
The writing was on the wall for Jayson Wiseman, who was the program's head coach for the past two years until accepting the same position at Eastern Michigan University on Sept. 18.
Wiseman hoped that the addition of men's and women's track & field at UE meant that tennis would be safe. But he said cutting the sport was unavoidable due to the university's budget shortfalls.
"It's hard to justify the budget for that small number of kids when you know the money could be better spent elsewhere," Wiseman said.
Spencer detailed three factors that led to the decision.
"The recent and untimely departure of (Wiseman) brought into question as to whether to hire a new coach or reconsider program elimination. Secondly, the successful addition of men's and women's track and field at the University of Evansville put the program above the NCAA minimum for NCAA Division I participation while also keeping the program in Title IX compliance.
"Lastly, the aging UE tennis courts, limited access to playing facilities within the community and the persistent financial challenges within the university also factored into the decision," Spencer said.
Wiseman, who has a degree in sport management, couldn't fault the UE administration for making the decision.
"I understand the business and decision the university had to make," he said. "But it doesn't make me any less sad to see it happen. I hurt for those girls. I recruited all of them."
Current tennis players at UE who are in good academic standing will have the option to retain their financial aid until they graduate from the university. Others wishing to continue their careers are immediately eligible to transfer and resume playing in the spring.
Don Martin, the club manager at Tri-State Athletic Club, said that was a nice touch by UE. But he was surprised and disappointed to learn the news.
He disagrees with Spencer on the "limited access to playing facilities within the community".
TSAC provided an indoor and outdoor facility for all of UE's practices and some matches while all outdoor contests were played at Wesselman Tennis Center. Martin said the club allowed the Aces to practice and play free of charge at TSAC, which also fundraised "significant money" for the program.
"We were big supporters and we were disappointed," Martin said. "We did provide a facility for them and there was a coach. So we were a little disappointed (in UE's statement) about not having a coach or places to play. They worked really well with Wesselman and really well with us."
One of TSAC's tennis pros, Lisane Swartwood, helped run the UE program after Wiseman accepted the EMU position. Martin said Swartwood was qualified and would have accepted the job.
"(A lack of a coach) wasn't their problem," Martin said. "They had a great candidate. (Swartwood) did an excellent job this fall when Jayson left. She stepped in and helped (former UE athletic director) John Stanley (who was technically the interim head coach) out immensely."
UE had two players win singles' finals on Oct. 9 at the Missouri Valley Conference Individual Championship. The Aces were expected to finish among the top teams in the league next spring.
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