Booster club seeks return of U of M men’s tennis with help from creative funding solution

This past fall, the University of Minnesota Board of Regents voted 7-5 to discontinue Gopher men’s tennis, men’s gymnastics, and men’s indoor track and field after the 2020-2021 season, citing financial concerns due to the pandemic.

In the months that have followed that vote, there’s been an effort underway to save men’s tennis.

The Baseline Tennis Club – the athletic booster club for the U of M men’s tennis club - says they have a creative solution that would keep the men’s tennis program running. Now, they just need the Board of Regents to listen.

Though it's been months since the decision, the news still stings for University of Minnesota tennis players.

"I was really surprised, as was everybody," said player Jackson Allen. "It was shock turned to sadness turned to what can we do to save the team?"

"We care about the student athletes; their lives have been disrupted forever based on this decision," said John Phillips, board member of the Baseline Tennis Club.

The vote was a disappointment for athletes, fans, and the booster club that supports the tennis program, but the club says they have a creative way to keep men’s tennis going: by using private funds that are already raised.

"Our calculations are that the men’s tennis program - and this is according to the Athletic Department - is about $700,000 in expenses per year. So, what we’ve raised, including the endowment, would cover the cost of the program for four to five years," Phillips said.

The club says the goal is to eventually make the program completely self-funded - but they don’t feel the Board of Regents is listening.

"We’ve gotten guidance from supporting regents, which is very helpful, but no response to the specific points from solutions we’ve offered," Phillips said.

Some do believe it’s an idea worth listening to, such as Regent Darrin Rosha, who voted against discontinuing the three men’s programs.

"Provided there are proof of the resources, I would absolutely support retaining tennis and any sport that would have a booster capacity to be revenue-neutral for the university," Rosha said.

But, Vice Chair Steve Sviggum said the issue is more complex and costly, and that sports can’t be looked at individually.

"We have to look at the comprehensive look at the programs as it affects everything, every aspect of the university…it might be Title IX, it might be the finances, it might be diversity…we have to look at the comprehensive view at the program."

The Board of Regents meets next in February, but the booster club's proposal isn't on the agenda. However, the board said it is willing to have further conversations on the issue.