By Karl Terry: Freedom Newspapers
Eastern New Mexico University opted not to renew women’s tennis coach Christine Blaeser’s contract last week. This week, regents voted to do away with the program completely.
Gary Musgrave, vice president for Student Affairs presented a recommendation to end the program to the regents, based on input from the Athletic Committee and administration.
Sophomore tennis player Tracy Hughes pleaded for the continuation of the program, telling regents how difficult it had been for her to find a smaller tennis program at the right university.
She said that she felt many of the recent problems with the program related to conflicts between the coach and some of the players.
“I think if we were to get new leadership we could attract new players and regain a winning record,” Hughes said.
She said four of the current players would likely return and she knew of two recruits that were signing. She urged the regents to continue the program on a probationary status.
“I believe with the university’s support, this could be a program we could be proud of again,” student body President Steven Frost said.
Athletic director Mike Maguire said the team has been struggling to get home dates and he said he didn’t believe he had that many players committed to playing tennis. He added that Hughes had been the only person at the athletic committee meeting to speak in favor of the program.
“In effect, the program has been on probation for the last two years,” ENMU President Steven Gamble said. “I might point out that over $100,000 per year is put into this program. That, by far, makes it the most expensive program per student.”
Gamble said the money from the tennis program could be redistributed to other women’s athletic programs at the university and help them out as budgets continue to tighten for athletics.
“It’s very difficult to delete a program,” regent Alva Carter said. “If we’re not offering a good strong program, though, we’re not serving the university well or the student athlete.”
Regents voted 3-1 to discontinue the program with Student Regent Charles Britton voting no and Regent Pauline Ponce absent.
In the last 17 years, while Blaeser was coach, the team compiled a 134-171 mark. The team made seven consecutive NCAA regional tournaments and one national tournament, and the program’s highest ranking was No. 8 in Division II. The team was 4-13 overall and 0-9 in the Lone Star Conference this season.