There could easily be a cloud of gloom and misery hanging over the city of Stillwater right now.
On what should have been Day One of Oklahoma State University hosting the NCAA Tennis Championships, the Greenwood tennis center sits quietly in the midst of a mostly vacant campus, due to the coronavirus prompting the NCAA to cancel all spring sports championships.
There are no crowds, tents or festivities in the city, but what Stillwater does have is optimism.
Optimism was the overarching theme in every conversation conducted to answer the first question in many OSU fans and Stillwater residents’ minds once the 2020 tennis championships were canceled:
When will OSU be able to host again?
Although there is still much up in the air in regard to seeing a future tennis championship played out in Stillwater, there are three things for certain.
The line will not simply be moved back one year
The 2021 championship is slated to be held at the USTA National Campus in Orlando, Florida, and the 2022 championship is set for Illinois University.
“We just got the memo that (the NCAA) isn’t pushing anything back, so (hosting in) 2021 isn’t an option,” said Cowgirls coach Chris Young, one of the key people behind OSU and Stillwater landing the 2020 event.
Even though 2021 was OSU’s original goal after the cancellation, Young points out that waiting might be for the better.
“As you look at it now,” he said, “2021 is probably not the best time to host it with the simple fact that a lot of schools are looking at budgets right now and what the college tennis season is even going to look like, we really have no way of knowing that at this point.”
New target: 2023
The NCAA tennis committee has not selected host sites for its next bid cycle, which is for years 2023-2026. In a message from Greg Johnson, associate director of communications for the NCAA:
“The deadline to apply for NCAA Championships hosting opportunities was Feb. 3, but it has been extended for those sites who were unable to host in the winter and spring of 2020 due to these unprecedented times.”
This deadline extension provided by the NCAA is a big break for the OSU tennis program. If nothing had been done, OSU wouldn’t have been able to place a bid in the upcoming cycle, and the earliest it could have hosted would have been 2027.
OSU’s bid is in
“The NCAA tennis committee hasn’t met; I think they determine (the host sites) in October,” said Jason Lewis, OSU’s tennis administrator. “So we submitted our bid and they haven’t followed us with any questions or anything regarding that.”
That is really all OSU can do at this point, submit a bid and wait. But for a variety of reasons, OSU fans have reason to remain optimistic on the prospect of seeing a tennis championship in Stillwater soon.
“We’d like to be in the next bid cycle which is 2023-2026 and the NCAA has communicated that they will give us strong consideration for that,” Young said.
There’s logic in a feeling that OSU and Stillwater has already been found worthy of hosting, and nothing on that end has changed.
“OSU isn’t not hosting it because of something Stillwater did, or it wasn’t a good fit,” said Stillwater councilwoman Alane Zannotti. “It just truly was because a pandemic happened, and they weren’t able to do it. So, I do think (the NCAA) will give us first running again in hosting it.”
Fellow councilwoman Amy Dzialowski:
“In my experience so far, a lot of those (canceled) events are trying to accommodate the hosts that weren’t able to host. Certainly, with the facility we have at OSU, we’ve got to be a good contender from that perspective… I’m sure we’ve pled our case and hopefully, the folks in charge of that will look to us again very soon so that we can bring that back to Stillwater.”