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Roundtable: Weighing in on the Big XII Cheering/Heckling Rule (Part 2)
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Thanks to a conference committee spearheaded by TCU head men's coach David Roditi, the Big XII implemented a "decorum policy" this season allowing fans to cheer during points in an effort to involve those more accustomed to the raucous atmosphere of a basketball or football game.

The change recently garnered national attention in the Wall Street Journal and on ESPN.com, prompting strong opinions throughout the tennis world - including our panel of coaches.

Today we have more responses to the following questions:

 

Q) What do you think about the Big XII rule? Is it something you would like to see implemented throughout college tennis to increase fan involvement? How would you fine-tune the rule for future seasons?

 

Bobby Bayliss, former head coach, Notre Dame Men

College tennis needs to be relevant on campus and the community to survive - a packed house will certainly make it more difficult for an athletic director to drop tennis - but one of the tough things for a new tennis fan to accept is the inability to cheer as they would at a football or basketball game. Our challenge is to seek the delicate balance between the "golf clap" and the loud, ugly cheering we sometimes see in basketball, for example.

When we work hard to promote our sport and draw a large, enthusiastic crowd, we defeat the purpose when we don't allow the fan experience to be fun. We can't allow fans to personally denigrate an opponent, but traditionalists need to understand that college tennis is more like a Davis Cup atmosphere and should be celebrated as such. Only when we allow our fans to express their emotions vocally will we build that all-important fan base we are seeking.

We are competing against other sports for fans and perceived relevance, which has driven the abbreviated match format and our effort to attract spectators in large numbers. We need to understand that if they don't have fun, they will not be back, so it behooves us to alter our ideas regarding fan decorum to affect an increase in attendance. Balance seems to be the watchword here. Fans, you can yell and scream, but don't get ugly.

 

Lee Taylor Walker, head coach, TCU Women

Though some have jumped to false conclusions about the rule (it's not about degrading opponents with derogatory or inappropriate heckling), I think we are on the right track. My colleague David Roditi wants college tennis to thrive not just survive. We need fresh, new ideas to grow player development and the fan experience. Without them, college tennis could soon be a thing of the past.

The rule hasn't affected the women as much as the men because attendance is lower, but we've had some spirit squads chanting at matches and all the players liked it. Who doesn't want people at matches? If they can't handle playing in front of 1,000 tennis fans, they will never be able to handle Arthur Ashe Stadium. College tennis can be fun, challenging and exciting-it will prepare anyone for the pros in the long run if they really embrace it.

The rule can be fine-tuned in two ways: Schools can provide a home support staff to manage the event, or they can release a detailed, enforceable list of what can and can't be done. The bottom line is that it starts with the coaches. I watched the TCU men's team play Texas with 2,000 spectators, and it was exciting while still being clean and classy.

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Page updated on Monday, November 04, 2019
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