The decision by Wright State University to cut three sports on Wednesday surprised the men’s and women’s tennis teams just as much as it did the softball team.
Greg Milano, a volunteer assistant coach whose daughter Jillian was a junior on the team, knew of Wright State’s financial problems and saw other programs being cut throughout the country but thought the program would be safe because Wright State already fielded the minimum number of teams (11) to remain in Division I.
“What we didn’t know was the NCAA might grant a waiver,” Milano said Thursday.
Wright State will ask the NCAA for a waiver to remain in Division I, Athletic Director Bob Grant said, and will then hope to add teams in the future to get back to the minimum.
» SOFTBALL: Coach blindsided by decision
Meanwhile, Wright State tennis players are dealing with disappointment while trying to figure out their futures.
“It was just pure shock,” said Jillian Milano, a Carroll High School graduate. “With everything going on in the world, this was the last thing I was expecting. Obviously, it was very upsetting, very sad. I’m going to miss the team camaraderie. I loved it there.”
Jillian’s dad played for the program in the late 1970s and joined head coach Ben Roeser’s staff in her sophomore season.
“It was really satisfying and neat to watch her play,” Greg said. “She loved Wright State. I was a volunteer coach, but I loved every minute I put into it. The parents were great. I donated a lot of time. It’s tough.”
Wright State’s decision also disappointed Roeser, a 2008 Waynesville High School graduate. He started as a volunteer assistant in 2016 and then climbed to assistant coach in 2017 and interim coach last fall. In November, he was named the head coach.
“I’ve been about every position you can be for Wright State,” Roeser said. “I had just realized a dream of being a head coach not too long ago.”
» EARLIER COVERAGE: Wright State will need waiver to stay in D-I
Roeser found out the news of the program cuts from Grant on Wednesday afternoon and then gathered all his athletes for a Zoom video call. Then he had to inform three incoming freshmen who planned to join the women’s team and two who planned to join the men’s team. There was also a four-star recruit who had told Roeser earlier in the week he planned to verbally commit to Wright State.
Like softball coach Laura Matthews, Roeser turned his focus to his players. Wright State will honor their scholarships if they choose to stay at the school, and they will be immediately eligible if they transfer to a new school.
“I think there’s a couple players who are going to find homes a little bit quicker,” Roeser said. “Some of them, it’s going to be tough. I’ve contacted coaches. I’m talking to coaches non-stop. My main goal is to find these student-athletes a new home and a good one.”
Param Pun, a senior from India, said he’s not sure what he will do. He has one more season of eligibility and wants to play. His grandparents also planned to travel from India to live with him for the next year. All that is on hold.
“Most of the people on the team are international students,” Pun said, “and we come across the waters to play tennis. That’s one of our biggest things.”
This also isn’t the first time this has happened to Pun. He planned to play at Southern Illinois University and arrived at the school in January 2017, and the program was cut a month after he arrived.
“The good thing about that is we were told in February, which gives us six or seven months to find a new school,” he said.
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