Skullduggery In The Polite Game Of Tennis?

According to NCAA tennis rules, college coaches must play their best players at the No. 1 singles, their second best at No. 2 and so on. When FILA Collegiate tennis rankings are released weekly, it's pretty easy to detect when a coach "stacks" the lineup.

The Broncos travel to Austin, Texas, on May 11, to play in the first and second rounds of the sixty-four team NCAA National Tennis Championships, the tennis equivalent of basketball's Big Dance. 

Their first round opponent is #41 University of Texas at Corpus Christi.  The Broncos will be favored in this match and should advance.  

If the win they will probably play #11 University of Texas at Austin who plays unranked Navy…first…and be forced to deal with the possibility of an illegal dual meet tactic called "stacking."  

In no way do I suggest the Longhorns would resort to "stacking," but after analyzing their 2006-7 match history…there is strong coincidental evidence that suggests they… might.  

"Stacking" in tennis is a cousin to point shaving in football and basketball. It's not the deliberate missed lay-up, or a dropped pass for a first down.  "Stacking" is simply manipulating your lineup to create an unfair advantage over your opponent to improve the odds of winning…illegally.  The practice occurs in the singles lineup more than doubles. A player of lesser talent is inserted near the top of the lineup, ideally at the number one singles position, playing the opponents number one player. The inserted player usually loses. The legitimate top ranked players each drop a slot, sometimes two, creating a better chance for victory by playing against lesser players. 

An example in reverse, insertion of a stronger player, is what happened to Boise State in the past few weeks with the addition of Kean Feeder to the Bronco lineup. Kean is an awesome player, at the same talent level as the Bronco's top two players, Luke and Clancy Shields. Piotr Dilaj is a step behind them, and a step ahead of the rest of the team. Coach Patton inserted Feeder at the top or close to it, legitimately dropping the Bronco lineup a notch creating more strength through number six singles. 

Fresno State came close to defeating Boise State on April14. The match was close but Fresno lost 3-4. Kean Feeder did not play. 

Fresno State returned to Boise on April 29th for the WAC Championships. Kean Feeder was inserted at #3. Piotr Dilaj, who usually plays at #3, Blake Boswell and Steve Robertson, all dropped a spot and played at #4, #5 and #6.  They overwhelmed their opponents.   

Boswell and Robertson, along with Eric Roberson, and Brent Werbeck were nationally ranked five star players in high school.  When these guys play at #4, #5,or #6 in a dual match line-up, there are few teams in the country who can beat them. The Broncos defeated Fresno easily this time, 4-0. 

NCAA Rules on "Stacking" in Men's and Women's dual meets are as follows. 

14.2 (NCAA TENNIS RULES) GENERAL POLICIES   Intercollegiate tennis is so structured that when teams compete, the best players play one another, the second best players play one another and so on down through six singles positions. In doubles, the coach may arrange his team so that the best combination plays first doubles, the best combination of players plays second doubles, and the best combination of the remaining players plays third doubles. 

14.3 (NCAA TENNIS RULES) GENERAL POLICIES   Stacking or attempting to match up individual players with another team will not be allowed.  It is the coach's responsibility to play his/her team in the proper order. 

Let's take a look at the "coincidental evidence." Something strange was obvious when analyzing the Texas Longhorn roster against their singles line-up in the dual matches played (*). The Longhorn's have three nationally ranked singles players. They rarely played at the dual match singles line-up positions they should have.

 

Those three are… 

#41.....Dimitar Kutrovsky (call him 1K)

#116...Milan Mihailovic (call him 2M)

#122...Luis Draz Barriga (call him3B)

 

Next, a close look at the Boise State -Texas match of February 17, in which Boise State lost 1-4.  Texas played an unranked player at their number one line-up position.  Miguel Reyes Varela (call him V).  Their #2 player (2M) played at #2 position.  Their #1 player, and best player, (1K) played out of descending order at  #3 position.  Their #3 player (3B) played at the  #4 position.   

This seemed strange. Maybe there was a one-match mistake. A check of thirteen other Texas matches (they played 26) came up with the following.  

To begin with, Varela (V), an All American at doubles, is not the top singles player for Texas. He is not close to number-one. In fact he ranks at the bottom of the active ten-player singles roster…with a weak 9-15 win-loss record. And yet it became obvious Varela was inserted into the lineup many times as their number one or number two player.   

He (V) played at the number one position against the following top ranked teams... Duke (4), Pepperdine (20), Notre Dame (5), Boise State (23), and Texas Tech (36).  

He (V) played at the number two position against Baylor (8), twice, and against Duke (14). 

In all the above matches the top three Texas players played at number two...three...and four position. Against Notre Dame, Virginia, and Boise State, their top player (1K) was inserted at the number three position in the lineup. 

The Longhorn match results against four weaker opponents told a different story. The teams were Georgia Tech (46), BYU (64), New Mexico (53), and Texas A&M (43).  The top three ranked singles players, (1K), (2M), and (3B) played in the proper order in descending order of skill… at the number one, two, and three positions.  Varela (V) played in only one of these matches.  

For drill…a look at other ranked teams to see how they play their stronger singles players.    

Selected were Georgia (1), Notre Dame (5), UCLA (8), Illinois (10), USC (12), Pepperdine (20), Boise State (23), and Texas A&M (41). All consistently organized their line-up playing the six singles matches with their best players in a descending order of skill. 

I give the Longhorns the benefit of the doubt.   

A certainty with no doubt, with Kean Feeder playing this time around, the Broncos will be a much stronger adversary than last February . 

(*)  Detailed dual match results for all ranked D-1A tennis teams can be found at http://www.itatennis.com/

 

 


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