Six games in one week would be a sizable task for any program. Over the weekend, however, Arkansas women’s tennis team faced Tennessee State six times in one day.
After a successful outing in the SEC tournament — Arkansas won its first three matches before a 4-2 loss to Florida on Saturday — the Razorbacks had a 10-16 record for the season. But the NCAA selection committee will only consider teams with records of .500 or above for at-large berths. To try to solve this quandary, the Razorbacks called Tennessee State and subsequently faced the Tigers six times on Sunday in Nashville, Tennessee.
The first match started at 8 a.m. The last one began at 7 p.m.
After winning all six matches, Arkansas now has a 16-16 record, good enough for at-large consideration.
The NCAA’s selection show for the 64-team women’s team tournament is May 1.
NCAA rules for tennis allow teams flexibility with scheduling throughout the season.
“The girls don’t get the opportunity to play that caliber of talent very often and the thought of getting to play a bunch of matches against SEC schools was exciting for them,” Tennessee State women’s coach Monroe Walker told CollegeTennisToday.com. “We spoke to the Arkansas staff over the weekend and they were looking to schedule three or four matches with us if possible and then find another team to play another couple with to give them their six. On Saturday they reached back out to us and said they were unable to find another team to play and wanted to know if we would agree to six.”
Arkansas officials did not respond to ESPN’s request for comment, and Tennessee State spokeswoman Ashley Fontenot directed ESPN to Tennessee State coach Monroe Walker’s interview with CollegeTennisToday.com when asked for comment.
“These will be the only comments that we will be making concerning this issue,” Fontenot said.
Per the Tennessean, Tennessee State received $15,000 for the six matches against Arkansas. That’s a significant sum. Tennessee State spent $27,652 last year on women’s tennis, per U.S. Department of Education data, which means the Tigers made more than half their annual budget off Sunday’s matches.
Arkansas spends nearly $300,000 per year on women’s tennis.
Tennessee State initially looked like it would end its season with a 13-10 record overall and 1-8 tally in Ohio Valley Conference play. After Sunday, however, the Tigers are now 13-16 — and ineligible for at-large consideration in the NCAA tournament.