When I was hired as men’s tennis coach in the summer of 1966, the perception was that Stanford athletes weren’t tough enough. They were too involved in their studies, too soft to consistently battle for the top.
Stanford hadn’t won an NCAA team title in any sport since men’s golf in 1953. There was talk of de-emphasizing athletics, or dropping sports altogether. In the tennis world, USC and UCLA had a stranglehold on the national championship, winning 21 of 26 possible titles through 1971.
Dick Gould/John Todd
I gave a talk at an annual alumni conference in Southern California in 1967. It was well attended. People were looking for something good to connect with athletics, so I gave it to them.
“I firmly believe we can win the nationals in men’s tennis,” I said.
I was laughed at, not just by people in the audience, but by people in my own athletic department. Are you kidding me? Are you serious? I’d hear it from people all the time, the excuses, even from coaches. There were a million alibis, which I detest. I hate alibis. They just reinforced my feelings. I was more determined than ever.
On January 15, I will retire as the John L. Hinds Director of Tennis and complete a Stanford career that has spanned 57 years.
While I was coach from 1967-2004, Stanford won 17 NCAA men’s team championships, and 10 singles and seven doubles titles. Stanford, a place that tolerated athletic mediocrity when I started, now holds the standard for excellence in college athletics. I’d like to think that I played a role in that transformation.
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