Success Brings Scrutiny
Perhaps no tennis team has been so analyzed in the past few years as the Baylor men's team.
After staying near the bottom of the Southwest Conference standings for years, the Baylor men have rocketed to the top of the Big 12 and the national rankings, winning the past four Big 12 regular-season and tournament championships and taking home the national title in 2004. In 2005, they lost in the national final.
Because the team's top players have been from other countries, coach Matt Knoll has had to deal with allegations about his athletes.
Did this player play for a pro team? Is this one too old? Did one accept too much prize money?
Many coaches want to look into the background of Baylor's international players to make sure they're eligible, and institutions are the ones who make the initial inquiries, not the NCAA.
With questions coming from his peers, Knoll decided years ago to take it all in stride, because he believes he has stayed within NCAA guidelines.
"Frankly, I just don't think about it," Knoll said. "I don't worry about how we're perceived. Here, we have a clear vision of what we're trying to do. We feel really good about what we're trying to do, and, in life, that's all you can control."
Knoll said the scrutiny has been going on "since I can remember us being any good," but he doesn't speak of specific allegations.
Each of the past three years, Baylor has received a letter from the NCAA asking it to respond to allegations. All three times, it was about the same players, but with different issues. In 2003 and 2005, the inquiries came from fellow Big 12 institutions.
The worst part for Knoll was that each time it happened was a week before the NCAA Tournament.
"They clearly don't have the best interest of the student-athletes in mind when they're handling some of this stuff," Knoll said.
Each time, Baylor cleared everything up and the players were given the OK to play.
Paul Bradshaw, an associate athletic director at Baylor, said people have perceptions about German tennis that are not accurate.
"People try to paint German tennis with a very broad brush, saying that all competition in German club tennis is professional," Bradshaw said. "That is simply not true. Otherwise, there could be no German players in NCAA tennis."
Even with the problems he has faced, Knoll does not necessarily support the proposed NCAA amateurism clearinghouse or the 20-year-old rule. Knoll is afraid of the clearinghouse being a "bureaucratic nightmare."
"I'm all about the kids," Knoll said. "I want kids to have an opportunity, and I'd hate for a kid that should be playing college sports not to have an opportunity to.''
From Far and Wide
Over the last two years, the Baylor men's tennis team has won the national championship (2004) and been runner-up (2005). The Bears have done it with 11 international players and two American-born players. Both years, Baylor's singles players during the finals were all international.
|Benjamin Becker||Orscholz, Germany|
|Benedikt Dorsch||Weiden, Germany|
|Michal Kokta||Prague, Czech Republic|
|Barry McLaren||Edinburgh, Scotland|
|Lars Poerschke||Buseck, Germany|
|Vladimir Portnov||Moscow, Russia|
|Jon Reckewey||Lincoln, Nebraska|
|Greg Shearer||Christchurch, New Zealand|
|Will Ward||Auchland, New Zealand|
|Matija Zgaga||Maribor, Slovenia|
|Jason Gould||New Braunfels, Texas|
|Ivor Lovrak||Zagreb, Croatia|
|Matias Marin||Rosario, Argentina|
|Reiner Neurohr||Worms, Germany|