University of Maryland tennis player John Collins is optimistic about the men’s tennis team despite an unfortunate situation.
Effective July 12, 2012 the men’s tennis program at Maryland’s flagship university will be cut, along with seven other varsity sports to alleviate the athletic department’s multi-million dollar budget deficit. Since university president Wallace Loh finalized the decision on Nov. 21, teams and athletes have had time to soak in the situation.
Collins intends on making his and his teammates’ last season at Maryland a special one. The junior, who plays predominantly at No. 2 singles, helped Maryland to a historic season last year, with its first NCAA tournament appearance and win. He also led the team in wins for a second year in a row, with 22 singles and 19 doubles victories. Collins sees the team progressing even further this year. Maryland's 2011-2012 schedule.
Collins, who hails from Bowie, MD and starred at DeMatha High School, chose to attend the University of Maryland because of its academics and proximity to his home. As for Maryland athletics, Collins, like many others, believed it was an epitome of success.
And although the decision has been finalized, Athletic Director Kevin Anderson has given teams an opportunity to “raise 8 years worth of total programs costs by June 30, 2012, in order to keep the program in existence.” Men’s tennis and women’s water polo would need to raise approximately $8 million.
Despite the lofty goal, Collins maintains hope that Maryland will see men’s tennis again sooner rather than later.
USTA/Maryland: What was your reaction when the announcement to cut the team was made?
John Collins: “Well, I’m upset. Everyone on the team is upset. It wasn’t unexpected – we had a week or two notice from the commission’s report. We were just waiting on whether [University of Maryland President Wallace Loh] was going to finalize it. So, the initial shock was already out. But just the fact that, “Okay, this is it. This is going to be our last time together.” That’s when it started to sink in.
USTA/MD: What is the overall vibe within the team right now?
JC: “We got the worst of our emotions out of us. We’re starting to move forward. We’re just going to enjoy the time we have left together and make the best of this terrible situation.”
USTA/MD: What was head coach Kyle Spencer’s message to the team?
JC: “He told us from the very beginning, when this whole process was just starting, that he was going to be open and honest with us and he did exactly that. He has been very supportive of what we want to do, making sure we get in touch with other coaches, if we want to transfer, or just making sure that we’re put in the best position to move forward out of this.”
USTA/MD: Did you ever think a drastic move like this would happen at such a prestigious athletic program such as University of Maryland’s?
JC: “No, not at all. You think Maryland athletics; there are great facilities for everything – an athletic powerhouse to say the least.”
USTA/MD: What attracted you to play at the University of Maryland?
JC: “I really like the academics of the school. It’s also close to home. I went to DeMatha [High School] so it’s very close to home; my parents can come to watch. It’s been really nice as I’ve gotten older. I have a car on campus, so I’m away from home, but if I want to go home for dinner or catch up with my parents, I’m a close drive home. It’s been nice.”
USTA/MD: How would you describe the tennis community at the University of Maryland?
JC: “I enjoyed it. I wouldn’t want to change anything. I had a great group of friends. I had two or three great coaches I worked with and practiced everyday with my friends and tried to get better.”
USTA/MD: How would you characterize the tennis within the state of Maryland?
JC: “When I was growing up it was good. Like we had Jared Pinsky for instance, he was top 10 in the nation. Then you had Denis [Kudla], Junior [Ore] and Mitchell [Frank] just coming up. So I was right in between a bunch of really good players that I was able to practice with.”
USTA/MD: Was the University of Maryland tennis team headed in the direction of gaining more support and community involvement if the team was given a chance?
JC: “Absolutely. I don’t know the whole history of Maryland tennis, but I know they didn’t have scholarships for a while. They just recently got it with the old coach and he wasn’t really able to do anything with it. Our coach came in and tried to put a serious program together. You can look at our results. The first year I was here, we were hardly ranked. The second year we advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament. Every year, the whole team has progressed. And we’re still headed in that direction. We still have a whole season ahead of us, and we’re going to do some special things here.”
USTA/MD: What are the possibilities of raising enough money to be reinstated?
JC: “We are paired up with [Women’s Water Polo] that we also have to raise money for, and we also have to raise enough money to support the program for eight years. So, I mean, it’s a big number that we need to get, but I’m optimistic about it, and I think we can get it done.”
USTA/MD: What is your next career move after this year?
JC: “It’s a terrible situation, but it’s actually kind of exciting. I get to be recruited again, and I really enjoyed that process. I want to go somewhere where I can compete for a national championship.”
USTA/MD: Do you think that the University of Maryland will see men’s tennis again?
JC: “I’d like to hope so. I’d like to think there would be. But after speaking with President Loh, the projected timeline for the University of Maryland to start making money is not until 2015 and 2019 would be the first year they would be making enough money [to reinstate the teams.] So it’s going to take awhile to get back in the swing of things.”
USTA/MD: Why do you think men’s tennis was targeted?
JC: “I personally don’t know all the details, but the trend goes towards Title IX. We are also a very inexpensive team, so [the cost of the team] definitely [wasn’t a reason.] We have 10 members on our team and only eight travel. And of course, they’re going to invest in basketball, baseball and football – the sports to make money in the future.”
This article was originally published for USTA/Maryland. Read it here.