The Transition

Butch Newman on the transition from Division I to Division III.

1976 USTA National Women's Collegiate Champions

Photo from the 1976 USTA National Women's Collegiate Championship team including JoAnne Russell, Donna Stockton, Mary Hamm, Coach John Newman, Stephanie Tollleson, and Sandy Stap.

 

 

There had been talk of transitioning tennis to Division III. All other sports at the time had already made the switch, but tennis was the last sport to be considered. The President of the University at the time had plans to make Trinity a more prestigious and academic school (Personal interview with Lisa Westergard, 2016). In the fall of 1990, tennis officially moved to a Division III program (Personal interview with Butch Newman, 2016). It was hard at the time for both the players, coaches, and alumni who had worked to build up the program. According to the men’s head coach at the time Butch Newman, “it was the biggest ruckus on campus since the Vietnam War,” (Personal interview, 2016). The players on the team camped out on the courts for three weeks in protest of the decision. Butch remembers the day he told his team, with tears in his eyes he explained the reasoning behind the decision. As Butch mentioned, it was hard for these players to hear because they had come to a top, nationally ranked school on scholarship and would no longer be able to continue the legacy they were building. Coach Newman helped his players transfer to other schools so that they may continue their scholarships. Gottfried, McKinley, Westergard, and Newman all agreed the decision was hard to hear at first. However, they slowly learned more about the decision and the reasoning behind it in which they agreed it was the right direction for the program.

Making a transition as drastic as this was for Trinity tennis provides many challenges. It leaves behind a rich history of successful players who would then go on to the professional level and win Grand Slam titles. Division I Trinity tennis left behind a legacy hard to match in every way. Six men and women alumni went on to win a combined total of 21 Grand Slam titles including singles, doubles, and mixed doubles (Personal interview with James Hill, 2016). Along with the many national championships and the Gottfried versus McEnroe match, the school with less than 3,000 students in south Texas made a name for itself. Due in part to its Division I success, Trinity tennis has continued to be a tennis powerhouse at the Division III level winning five team championships and 12 individual championships (Personal interview with James Hill, 2016). Trinity has continued to grow both as a school and a tennis program and it would not be the program it is today without the talented players Division I brought in. It is a privilege to play for a program rich with success. Larry Gottfried speaks for many by saying, “Looking back, it was a phenomenal experience being affiliated with the Trinity program,” (Personal interview, 2016).