Arkansas Women’s Tennis Rightfully Denied NCAA Tournament Berth


You may already be aware that after a reaching the semifinals of the SEC women’s tennis tournament, the Arkansas Razorbacks tennis team scheduled a half-dozen matches in a single day against lowly Tennessee State in order to reach the .500 mark on the season, and become eligible for selection in the NCAA tournament. But now we know that the NCAA selection committee has made a statement about this action by failing to select Arkansas for a spot in the national women’s tournament, despite the Razorbacks being qualified by ranking.

While I will preface this argument by saying that the Arkansas players worked hard all season, and I’m sure gave their best efforts, they did not deserve an NCAA berth compared to the other teams that met the qualification standards without games and gimmicks.

Arkansas’ “snub” was actually quite a surprise. The NCAA almost always selects teams based solely on their rankings. Araknsas’ ranking was more than high enough to earn an at-large had the Razorbacks been eligible.

As you can see above, Arkansas sits at #32. That’s nine spots above the cut-off line for at-large selection. However, the selection committee saw through their gimmick and intentionally left Arkansas out of the 64-team tournament. (There are only 33 at-large spots because 31 spots are reserved for teams that win their conference championship. Since eight of those champions were ranked highly anyway, only teams in the top 41 spots earned at-large bids.)

You can’t blame the Arkansas players or Tennessee State–who likely needed the money paid by the Arkansas, for participation–but the coaches and Arkansas athletic department that promoted and encouraged this sham behavior sent the wrong message to their student athletes, the SEC, and the college tennis world. They deserved to be denied and for once the NCAA did the right thing in a situation that was clear as day. We can only be grateful that no Tennessee State or Arkansas player was injured as a result of playing six matches in the course of a day, an activity that–as student athletes–they aren’t even paid for. On the WTA tour or even the ITF circuit, such a situation would never occur.

In the race for championship glory and postseason accomplishments, many college sports teams and athletic departments continue to cut corners in a way that isn’t just unethical, but also endangers the health of their athletes, and sets a horrible ethical example. If college sports is really about molding young men and women for the future, this situation would have never occurred. Let’s all be glad the NCAA did the right thing today, and hopefully deterred any other teams thinking of engaging in the same tactics in the future.

You can see the entire NCAA selection show and a live updating bracket on the NCAA’s website.


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