12 Feb MSU-Billings Drops Tennis Teams
To those of you who have not been informed, it is with great regret that I must tell you of the disbanding of the Varsity Men’s and Women’s MSU-Billings Tennis Teams. As a child growing up in the Montana tennis community, I was especially close to two collegiate programs, MSU and MSU-Billings as my father was the head coach of each respective program at one time. As a collegiate player myself, I was able to play for both of these programs as well as become an assistant and head coach at MSU-Billings. My life has been greatly influenced by the time I spent at each university and I have cherished my time will all of the players, coaches and supporters of these programs.
It is easy to place blame in a situation like this. Could the administration at MSU-B have done more? Could the community have been more involved? Instead of looking at the past, however, I feel it is more important to look at the future. Montana still has two colleges with tennis programs, MSU and the U of M. If you live in Bozeman or Missoula or are a fan of either team, support them by going to their matches, fundraisers and events. Show the athletic administration that you care about your teams and want them to be a part of your school and community. If you live in Billings or are a MSU-B fan, don’t simply post your concerns on Facebook. Inform the athletic program of how much the tennis program meant to you. Some tennis programs have been dropped and then reinstated a few years later like Portland State in the mid 2000s. Collegiate athletic programs are not chosen at random, they are a reflection of the students and the communities that surround and support them.
To me, the saddest part of losing the MSU-B program is the lost opportunity for junior players in Montana. I met some of the best people I have ever met playing for MSU, but most of them come from different parts of the country or the world. The fact is that MSU and the U of M belong to a very competitive Division-I conference where they need players outside of Montana to compete. The very top tier of Montana juniors has the ability to play for either MSU or the U of M, but most junior players here do not. The coaches at both universities have done a wonderful job of trying to keep the top talent in the state, but the majority of the U of M and MSU teams over the last few decades have been from outside of Montana. MSU-Billings was a place for Montana juniors who wanted to stay in their home state but still pursue their tennis goals and dreams. This is not to say that the MSU-B teams were poor teams with only Montana players, they were competitive teams in Division-II tennis. In fact, the only tennis team to make it to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament in any division came from MSU-B. (Great job girls!)
The loss of the MSU-B teams is a loss for tennis in Montana and a step backward for the Billings tennis community. I am troubled by the thought of Billings without a collegiate tennis team and hope that the current players can find a way to continue their academic and tennis careers. MSU-B was a haven for the youth of Montana with aspirations of a tennis career beyond high school. It truly was Montana’s tennis program, and I am saddened to see it disappear.