BECK COLUMN: Cougars' tennis along for the ride to CAA
Many college football and basketball programs appear to be in a transitional mode while administrators search for bigger paydays and more media attention for their schools.
Where does that leave other sports at these colleges? You don't have to be a Ph.D. to figure out that these so-called minor sports such as tennis are along just for the ride. Their current perches may be rather tenuous.
Of course, you don't have to go very far to find one of the athletic programs in flux. A year from now, the College of Charleston will be in the middle its first basketball season in the Colonial Athletic Association. Basketball obviously was the driving force of the Cougars' impending switch to the CAA.
But tennis is forced to tag along at a time when the College of Charleston men's and women's programs are riding the crest of success that equals some of the school's better tennis days, not to overlook the women's small college NAIA national title in 1983.
Coach Angelo Anastopoulo has directed the women's program to four straight Southern Conference titles and recognition for four consecutive seasons as an Academic All-America team. Men's coach Jay Bruner has led the Cougars to three straight SoCon regular season first-place or tie for first finishes and one conference title.
You've got to admit that the school's tennis programs are in great shape. Recruiting appears to be getting easier, possibly influenced by the Cougars' relatively new and excellent tennis complex at Patriots Point.
As usual, Anastopoulo is taking the switch in stride. Starting his 22nd season as a head tennis coach at the College, he is no stranger to changes. He was there in 1998-99 when the Cougars left the TransAmerica Conference for the SoCon.
“We are going to make the best of it. The school is committed to helping us reach our goals,” Anastopoulo said Saturday.
Anastopoulo's goal for the women's team is to be a consistent national top 45 team. The Cougars were rated 63rd last spring.
“Our travel allowance has been increased,” he said, pointing out that the extra travel money will allow the Cougars to play the type of schedule that could help them reach their goal.
Unlike the SoCon, the Colonial Conference does not require its tennis teams to play a regular season conference schedule. That's probably due to the fact that the CAA's nine tennis-playing members are spread out between New York, Delaware, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and South Carolina.
“The TAC was similar to the Colonial,” said Anastopoulo, who doubles as tennis director. “So, we are going back to a little like the TAC days. It will be hard to keep an eye on other programs, but it will be easier now because of the web.
“The TAC later went to divisional schedules for tennis . . . I hope the Colonial will do that in the future to help determine tournament seedings.”
Right now, Anastopoulo is concentrating on the Cougars' last season in the SoCon. That season will start in less than a month.
Recruiting is always in focus. And Anastopoulo doesn't know what effect the Cougars' switch to a more northernly conference affiliation will have on recruiting.
“We usually recruit the Southeast,” he said. “Nine of our 10 recruits are from the South. I don't know if playing in a Southern conference had an impact on our players' decisions to come here.”
League tennis lull?
This may be a lull between league tennis seasons, but for most team captains, it's probably the most harried time of the tennis year. Not only is there the hustle and bustle of Christmas and the holidays, the new year's only really “official USTA season” is just weeks away. Team quotas still must be met in most cases before the Jan. 11 deadline.
Most captains have lost at least one or several players to league tennis' always distracting bump-up process. That means many captains must find a new team nucleus if they expect to field a competitive team capable of challenging for a berth in the playoffs.
Then there is the addition of a 40-and-over league, which may create a bit more confusion for everyone. In most cases, there aren't enough weekday nights and facilities to accommodate a new league. So, family time and weekends are threatened.
Of course, senior tennis has faded into the sunset in favor of terms such as 55-and-over, 65-and-over and 75-and-over. And the adult league is now officially the 18-and-over league. Don't you feel younger already?
Reach James Beck at email@example.com. See his columns on pro tennis at ubitennis.com/english.