The editorial board is sad to see our tennis teams go. TKS has had several members of the tennis team work or write for us over the years and we feel for those who have lost one of their reasons why Knox became home.
This isn’t the first time we’ve lost a team on campus. Knox ended its wrestling program in 2015 after quick turnover in coaches and being unable to fill the roster. It was the only wrestling program in the Midwest Conference, and when it ended, some of the wrestlers decided not to return to Knox.
We hope tennis does not become a similar story, and doubt it will. Tennis has had more consistent coaches over recent years and there are other tennis programs in the Midwest Conference, keeping the sport regionally afloat. Every effort should be made to find a way to ensure that the tennis players are able to compete at some level if they want to.
Nonetheless, this is perhaps one of the first highly visible changes we’ve seen from the budget problems Knox is facing. We trust the decision making process that determined tennis was not a varsity program that the school could support any longer and that this was a last resort in the process.
Changes like this are only one of the ways the school is using to address the budget problem and such changes will hopefully be kept to a minimum. But it is understandable that they need to happen. Daniella Irle, Knox’s Athletics Director, started at Knox at what has become a difficult time for the college, yet has brought important and effective changes to the athletic department in the face of this financial downturn.
This comes amid a time of potential change in the NCAA. Moves to allow athletes to profit from their name or image could alter how college sports work as a whole. Additionally, there are – rightly – increasing concerns about student athletes and concussions.
Knox has consistently brought in student athletes by expecting high levels of academic performance along with participation in sports. That will not change, but a lot of the culture around college sports may in the future. Irle and the athletic department seem prepared to make changes in response to both changes in sports and changes in higher education at a wider scale.
Necessity does not mean that it is not sad to see the tennis program go. Even those who have not gone to practices hopefully welcomed the life they could bring to the area near the tennis courts, an area of campus not often used for school events.
Whether or not the courts will stay remains a mystery. Recreational use may be possible, but likely not a priority for many students.
With the recent renovations, it is unclear that attempts to remove the courts will occur. Nevertheless, having them around could certainly be a way to give the tennis players a means to keep playing a sport they clearly love.