May 13, 1998
Men's Tennis Traditions
University of Notre Dame men's tennis coach Bobby Bayliss has led his team to an appearance in the NCAA Championship for the past seven seasons, including a trip to the final match in 1992. But success on the national level is nothing new to this Irish squad.
Men's tennis is one of the oldest programs on the Notre Dame campus and its roots can be traced back to 1923 when the team posted a modest 0-2 record. Progress was slow at first as the team went through several mediocre seasons, but success arrived in 1944 when Charles Samson and Jim Evert became the first Notre Dame players to earn All-America honors. That same year the Irish shared the National Intercollegiate title with Miami (Fla.) and Texas.
Tom Fallon began a 31-year run as Irish head coach in 1957 and two seasons later, he led the Irish to a share of the national title with Tulane. Max Brown was an All-American for the Irish in 1959, while Bill Brown and Jasit Singh won the honor in 1968. Fallon became a college tennis legend and amassed a 511-200 record in his career before retiring after the 1986-87 season. He was inducted into the Intercollegiate Tennis Hall of Fame in 1988.
Fallon brought the 1971 NCAA Championship to the Notre Dame campus as UCLA won the team title and the singles championship match featured two soon-to-be legends: Jimmy Connors of UCLA and Roscoe Tanner of Stanford, with Connors winning the match.
In 1987, Bayliss took over the reins of the program and has again made Notre Dame a leader on the national front. Bayliss led the Irish to an NCAA tournament berth in 1991, but the highlight of his tenure thus far was leading the Irish to the 1992 NCAA Championship match and in the process was named the national coach of the year by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association.
His 1991-92 Irish posted an overall record of 23-4 and became the talk of the college tennis world. Notre Dame entered the NCAAs as the No. 10 team in the country, but in the process of recording wins over Mississippi State, host Georgia and top-ranked USC, Bayliss' club became the lowest-ranked team to advance to the finals since 1977, when the current team format was adapted.
The historic season of 1991-92 was the final one for David DiLucia, who was a three-time All-American and won the Dan Magill Award in 1992 from the National Intercollegiate Golf/Tennis Association.
In 1992-93, the Irish posted an overall mark of 18-9 and finished the season ranked 10th in the country. Senior Chuck Coleman earned All-America accolades for the third time and earned the Tennis Magazine/Arthur Ashe Collegiate Award for Sportsmanhip and Leadership while classmate Will Forsyth picked up the honor for the first time. Notre Dame defeated Mississippi State in the second round of the NCAAs, before losing to eventual national champion USC in the quarterfinals.
Besides their success in the NCAAs, the Irish also won the prestigious Blue-Gray College Tennis Classic with victories over four nationally-ranked teams.
In 1994, the NCAA introduced regional play in the men's tennis tournament for the first time and the Irish posted wins over Michigan and Minnesota to win the Region IV tournament and a spot in the NCAA Championship.
The NCAA Championship returned to the Notre Dame campus in 1994 as Bayliss coordinated a city-wide effort to make the event a success on all fronts. Mark Merklein of Florida won the singles championship while USC was the team winner.
Seniors Andy Zurcher and Todd Wilson advanced to the semifinals of the NCAA doubles tournament to earn All-America honors. Zurcher became the second Notre Dame player to win the Dan Magill Award and was also named the Region IV player of the year. Freshman Ryan Simme was named the Region IV rookie of the year.
Notre Dame again took part in NCAA play in 1995 as the Irish played host to the Region IV tournament and advanced to the final. Mike Sprouse was named the national winner of the Arthur Ashe Award for Leadership and Sportsmanship. In addion, Bayliss was named the winner of the Rolex Meritorious Service Award for his dedication to college tennis.
The Irish also advanced to the NCAA Region IV tournament in '96, as the event was again held on the Notre Dame campus, and in '97 Ryan Sachire was named the regional rookie of the year.
In addition to top coaching and talent, part of Notre Dame's recent success has been due to the addition of the Eck Tennis Pavilion, which opened in 1987 and was made possible by the generosity of 1944 Notre Dame graduate Frank Eck.
The facility features six indoor courts, offices and locker rooms. In September of 1988, the Eck Pavilion received the United States Tennis Assocation Award for architectural design.