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What I Learned – College tennis and coronavirus: St. Edwards University senior Chase Bartlett

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On the latest Beyond the Baseline podcast, host Jon Wertheim talks with St. Edwards University senior tennis player, Chase Bartlett about his school’s decision to cut the men’s and women’s tennis programs as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Bartlett explains how he and other students have been fighting back and pushing the school’s administration to pursue other creative solutions instead of eliminating the team; how valuable his team and college tennis experience was to him; how the pandemic will impact college sports in general and more.The following transcript has been edited for length and clarity.Jon Wertheim: To what extent are you concerned about college tennis overall?Chase Bartlett: In the beginning, I was extremely concerned about college tennis, because like a month ago, we started seeing these programs dropping pretty quickly. So we saw maybe six programs in one week get cut along with all of our programs, and so, you know, it was looking pretty grim. At this point actually, I’m starting to feel a little more confident. I’m starting to feel like maybe it was just our school because we’ve seen a lot of great examples across the country of schools that are finding creative ways to manage the problem, which our school clearly did not do. The Wake Forest athletic director has come out and said cutting these sports does not always lead to an increase in revenue. There’s not always that direct relation because a lot of these sports are partial scholarships. So schools have done really, really creative things across the country. And I think it would be foolish for athletic programs to not mimic those ways and figure out ways. At the very least, just don’t cut a program. You can you can look into reducing scholarships. You can look into reducing coaches’ salaries. But you can’t just cut our program, because that was 55 years of legacy right there for a lot of our alumni. JW: Clearly you are impacted by this, but as you say, you’re a senior, you graduated. What about your teammates who are freshmen and sophomores and committed to this program and now are suddenly being told essentially the factory’s closing? CB: So they’re forced to make a pretty desperate choice. And that’s between their dreams that they’ve been working on their whole life and their home because, we all love St. Edward’s University. And so like I mentioned earlier, we had this one guy. He’s a freshman. I’ve been playing tennis with him, actually, at Austin Tennis Academy since he was probably 10. And he’s a great player and he was all-American this year. And for him, that’s it. Like he’s throwing away the rackets, giving up. So it’s it’s really sad. I just can’t express how bad it is. Some people are transferring, others are just quitting.JW: How have you done this as a team dissolving when you can’t even see each other? Are you guys having team meetings over Zoom?CB: So two days ago we had our final team meeting with coach and that was when he announced that even though we raised $600,000, that we were just going to kind of move on because some of these guys, even if there’s not a lot of opportunities to transfer, it’s really crucial that we give everybody enough time to find a place, even if they’re not on scholarship, to still find a team and play. So, that’s sort of why we called it two days ago. 

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