Tennis funding remains low, Mauro pulls double duty

 

Athletics spends less on each of its tennis teams than every other school in The American. | Avery Maehrer TTN
Athletics spends less on each of its tennis teams than every other school in The American. | Avery Maehrer TTN

When the men’s tennis team faced Philadelphia University at the Legacy Tennis Center on March 6, its head coach was halfway across the country.

With the women’s tennis team opening its conference schedule with road matches against Houston and Southern Methodist, Steve Mauro took the trip with the Owls. There are seven schools in the American Athletic Conference that have both a men’s and a women’s tennis team.  Of these seven, Mauro is the only one to coach both teams.

With its comparatively smaller coaching staff, Temple also differs from the rest of the conference in its budget. The men’s and women’s tennis teams’ operating expenses are by far the lowest in The American – even falling below Houston, a school that funds only one tennis team. The tennis programs receive less funding than any other sport at the university.

Mauro said everyone is aware of the low budget the team is operating on and that it remains important for the group to continue making the most out of what is a less-than-ideal financial situation.

“We do the best that we can and we’re appreciative that we have a program,” Mauro said.

Mauro is in his ninth season as the men’s tennis coach and his sixth of leading both teams. He took over the women’s program after the departure of Traci Green in 2007. Frederika Girsang – the lone assistant coach – and graduate assistant Andrey Morozov work with both the men’s and women’s team.

“I think [Mauro is] balancing it really well,” junior co-captain Kristian Marquart said.  “I know it’s hard for him to be responsible for two teams.”

Mauro said he was mindful of the team’s situation when the athletic cuts were announced in December, but that he kept his head up. In 2012, Maryland cut it’s men’s tennis program. Robert Morris also cut its tennis teams last fall, three days before Temple’s cuts were made.

“They cut a lot of programs around the country so everybody’s a little bit leery about that,” Mauro said.  “I just tried to remain optimistic.”

The administration cited facilities as one of the primary reasons for its decision to terminate men’s gymnastics, men’s track & field, softball, baseball. Athletic Director Kevin Clark said the decision was made “to give our student-athletes remaining a chance to compete and give them the experience they deserve.” A university spokesman said in December that the tennis programs were spared from elimination due to their low budgets and cost-effectiveness.

Memphis is one of the seven schools in The American that funds two tennis teams, but the Tigers operate on more than three times the expenses Temple does. In 2009, the Racquet Club of Memphis became the home for the Memphis tennis teams.

The Racquet Club of Memphis is a 186,000-square foot facility located on 12 acres of land in East Memphis and is an annual stop for the Association of Tennis Professionals and Women’s Tennis Association world tours.  It will also serve as the host site for The American tournament April 18-20.

Memphis tennis stands above each other school in the conference in terms of funding, but even programs with lower operating expenses than the Tigers have efficient facilities. Cincinnati, which only sponsors a women’s program, spends less on tennis than Temple but has the on-campus Trabert-Talbert Tennis Center, which has lighting and grandstand seating for 500 people. Rutgers has six all-weather courts with an adjacent tennis house with space for game-film viewing, team meetings and classroom instruction.

The Owls’ six tennis courts on Main Campus were resurfaced ahead of the 2013-14 season, but there is no seating option in place that could hold a sizable audience.

The administration estimates the cuts to five sports will save the athletic department $2 million to $2.5 million. An athletics spokesperson said the administration is still deciding how to best reallocate the newly available funds.

Marquart said the team doesn’t get a lot of crowd support at its home matches and that he hopes students soon understand the program’s situation. Even if the Owls don’t have a state-of-the-art-facility, he said, it would still be nice to have a crowd come out and show support.

Marquart said he is looking forward to heading to Memphis later this month for the conference tournament to compete in a premier facility.

Temple has played matches this spring at the Legacy Youth Tennis complex and has its last three homes matches of the regular season at the Student Pavilion on Main Campus.  But Legacy is not operated by the university, which presents obstacles when Mauro schedules home matches.

“We’re at the mercy of the public,” Mauro said.

Sophomore Nicolas Paulus said the team doesn’t pay too much attention to its facilities or budget.

“We can’t change anything right now on the court,” Paulus said. “We just have to win.”

Greg Frank and Avery Maehrer can be reached at sports@temple-news.com.

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