Black smoke sputters out of the exhaust pipe of a Philadelphia Transportation bus as the driver toes the accelerator for the 20-minute drive from Main Campus to the Legacy Center each morning.
Drearily, the athletes rest on their way to practice, most listening to music during the commute.
Junior Santiago Canete said he appreciates the facility at Legacy, but doesn’t like having to travel every morning to courts that don’t belong to him or his team.
“If the courts were ours, we could practice whenever we want, but we can’t,” Canete said. “We use about half of our budget to get indoor court [time].”
Coach Steve Mauro said the university spends a good amount of its tennis budget to rent out the Legacy Center, an indoor tennis facility located in Philadelphia’s East Falls section.
“Having our own facilities would be nice,” Mauro said, “but we do the best with what we have.”
Hashaan Freeman, a tennis instructor at Legacy, said the team pays an hourly rate of $22 to practice at the facility, while matches cost more.
Any athlete needs to make commitments, with training, competing and time spent in the classroom being among them. Traveling to Legacy each morning, junior Nicolas Paulus said, adds to that list.
“We waste a lot of time going to Legacy each day,” Paulus said. “If we could practice when we wanted, we would be happier.”
Rob McCune played under coach Andrew Sorrentino from 1994-1998, and said that it was a challenge to practice on Main Campus because of what the team had to do to get the courts ready.
“The courts we had were worse than what they have now,” McCune said. “If you drive past the tennis courts now, you will see nets. We would have to put the nets up each time we wanted to practice and take them down after we were done because of security concerns.”
Throughout its history, Temple’s tennis program has lacked adequate on-campus facilities, and usually traveled for indoor time at clubs around the city.
“Having no on-campus facilities is a recruiting nightmare,” Sorrentino said. “Recruiting athletes from the Philadelphia area was tough because most kids knew about the lack of facilities we had and how we traveled a lot. We weren’t a top Division I program.”
The team’s funding also pales in comparison to American Athletic Conference opponents.
During the 2011-12 Fiscal Year, Temple’s tennis programs combined to spend $62,510 in operating expenses, according to the U.S. Department of Education. After changing to the American Athletic Conference in 2013, the Owls spent $60,265, $2,245 less amid a season in which the team jumped to the American Athletic Conference.
The $60,265 was the lowest amount of operating expenses out of the 10 schools in The American. The second-lowest was Cincinnati at $73,581, a school that only fields a women’s program.
East Carolina’s funding ranks second-lowest behind Temple’s when it comes to schools that support both men’s and women’s programs. Yet, ECU’s figure of $117,198 for its tennis programs almost doubles Temple’s amount.
Peter Daub coached the men’s team from 1982-1989 and the women from 1985-1989. He compiled a 164-86 record during his time as coach of the programs. Throughout his tenure, Daub said he drove his players to Ambler each day for practice.
“The [funding] was tough sometimes,” Daub said. “[When I coached], sometimes players had to contribute out of pocket on trips, which wouldn’t happen if the programs received proper support.”
Through the years, the teams couldn’t travel at times when they wanted because they had to be frugal with their money.
Sorrentino played for Daub from 1982-1986, and took the men and women’s jobs in 1990. He coached both teams until 1998.
“We had to pick and choose where we went, how we went and when we went,” Sorrentino said. “We didn’t do a lot of flying, we did a lot of driving in vans. One time, we drove out to Notre Dame, and we drove a van to South Carolina and to Florida … we weren’t fully funded, we were functionally funded.”
McCune said that when the team played at home, it didn’t feel like it because those matches weren’t on Main Campus.
“When I played, about 80 percent of our matches were away,” McCune said. “Whenever we played at home, we played at Ambler and if we didn’t play there, we played at Legacy, so we were in fact on the road quite a bit of the time.”
Dalton Balthaser can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @DaltonBalthaser.