NCAA urged to toughen rules on foreign tennis players

Updated: April 13, 2006, 5:54 PM ET
Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Vanderbilt's chancellor wants the NCAA to stop the influx of older foreign players who are now dominating college tennis.

Chancellor Gordon Gee blames insufficient oversight, lax penalties and a rule book that is "more like the IRS tax code." Gee said NCAA president Myles Brand has assured him the association will review the rules.

"The purpose of intercollegiate sports in this country is not about professionalism, it's about amateurism," Gee said Thursday.

The NCAA makes allowances for all athletes, not just foreign ones, who have had some professional experience to "cleanse" themselves by forfeiting professional winnings and sometimes by sitting out matches. But that doesn't eliminate the fact that some players still have far more experience than most amateurs, Gee said.

Some universities also choose to look for loopholes in the rules while others strictly adhere to them, he said.

"That is rank nonsense," Gee said. "The playing field needs to be leveled."

Wally Renfro, senior adviser to the NCAA president, said university leaders should periodically examine the standards by which athletes are considered amateur.

The issue, however, is not as simple as saying a student who has accepted monetary winnings is a professional and a student who has not accepted such winnings is an amateur, he said.

"In the world of athletics, it's rarely that simple," Renfro said. "For years, the NCAA has been accused of being far too rigid of its application of the rules. It's clear that the membership has wanted a greater ability for an individual's circumstances to play a role in the decision."

Renfro said he wasn't aware if the NCAA kept statistics on the percentage of foreign athletes at U.S. universities, but he said there is evidence that a large percentage of athletes in tennis and other sports who compete at the championship level are from other countries.

The NCAA is developing a clearinghouse that will review an athlete's level of experience, much like the association's clearinghouse that reviews academic eligibility, Renfro said.

"Anything they can do to help ensure clarity is essential," Gee said.

Gee and other Vanderbilt administrators have taken a greater hand in Commodore sports since he essentially eliminated the school's athletic department in 2003 to try to integrate it into the general program.


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press