Ask the Experts
Building a National Powerhouse
An interview with Virginia men's coach Brian Boland
by Colette Lewis
, 25 February 2010
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When Brian Boland arrived in Charlottesville in the fall of 2001, Virginia had never won an ACC title or reached the final 16 of the NCAA team championships. But having already proven he could build a successful program at his alma mater Indiana State, where he won three straight Missouri Valley conference titles and achieved a Top 20 ITA national ranking, Boland went to work. By his third season, he had guided the Cavaliers to a share of the ACC title and the NCAA Sweet 16, and in subsequent years the accomplishments just kept piling up: three straight undefeated ACC seasons, two consecutive undefeated regular seasons, two NCAA semifinal appearances, three NCAA individual titles.
Last week, after his team had just captured its third straight ITA Men's Team Indoor title on their home courts at the Boar's Head Sports Club, I sat down with Boland to discuss questions big and small in the world of college tennis.
Questions and Answers
Colette Lewis (CL): You have 14 players on your roster this year. How is that possible when the NCAA allows only 4.5 scholarships?
Brian Boland (BB): There are a select few schools, because of what they have to offer academically, socially and the kind of tennis program they're running, that attract student-athletes. We're not alone - look at Notre Dame... we played them recently in a match and quite frankly, they have more depth than we do.
Everybody runs their program differently. You can create a bigger environment and find a way to create more opportunity and thus develop a better program, which has been our choice. Some, on the other hand, have restrictions because of Title IX, they can only take so many guys on their roster. Others don't divvy up their scholarships very well, and some don't want to have as many players. But there are families out there that are willing to invest in their child's education if they have the money and realize it's the best thing for their child.
CL: In that Notre Dame match, the score was 7-4, not the usual best-of-seven format for dual matches, and you also played a match with William and Mary this year that had 15 points. What's your rationale for that?
BB: First and foremost, I'm for creating more opportunities. If we can get more coaches to think about the overall development of their teams and their players over time, it will bode well for all of us. You can play any format you want, as long as both coaches agree prior to the start of the match and six players participate. Whether you're No. 7 or 12, it becomes irrelevant on that day when you don't have an opportunity to compete. It's not a bad thing if they think they're going to improve and get up into that top six, but to do that, you have a strong developmental program for them, and this is one missing link.
The fall's fine, the summer's fine, then you get into the spring season, which is just a few months, but we've got to conquer that so that they can continue to develop.