KEARNEY – The University of Nebraska at Kearney will once again have a men’s tennis program, beginning in 2023-24.
The decision, announced today by UNK Director of Athletics Marc Bauer at a news conference, comes four years after men’s tennis was eliminated as part of $2.8 million in university budget reductions.
UNK is able to bring back men’s tennis after a private donor agreed to create a $3.4 million endowment that will fully fund the program’s operating and scholarship needs.
“This is another exciting, proud day for Kearney and the Lopers. This is big for the university and UNK Athletics, and I am thankful for everyone who has been involved in helping reinstate the program,” Bauer said.
Bauer said the decision was driven by “donor priority” and discussions that began in 2018 when the donor approached UNK shortly after the program was eliminated.
“This was not a surprise to me given the passion and enthusiasm for tennis in the Kearney community,” Bauer said. “We are grateful to the donor for making this a possibility, and we will honor the donor’s desire to remain anonymous.”
The Lopers will play home matches at Kearney’s Harmon Park and the new indoor Ernest Grundy Tennis Center, which opened this spring at University Village.
Scott Shafer joined the UNK tennis program in 2013 as an assistant and was elevated to head coach in 2019. He will serve as head coach of the team and will also continue to coach the women’s tennis team. The men’s team will carry a roster of about 10 players and begin play with the 2023-24 season.
“It is prudent that we wait one full year to begin practice and competition,” said Bauer. “That gives Coach Shafer ample time to recruit, plan and schedule competition, as well as allow the endowment to accrue.”
UNK offers 15 NCAA Division II sports – 9 women, 6 men – and competes in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association. With the addition of UNK, the MIAA now has 10 men’s tennis teams competing in the conference. That includes full-time members Emporia State, Northwest Missouri State, Washburn and Newman, and associate members Augustana, Harding, Ouachita Baptist, Souhern Arkansas and Southeastern Oklahoma State.
The Lopers have a long and successful history in men’s tennis. The program competed in the NAIA from 1941-90, when it won more than 20 conference titles and had multiple top 30 finishes at the national meet.
The team continued its success at the NCAA level, where it competed from 1990-2018 and recorded 17 NCAA Tournament appearances and four trips to the Sweet 16. The Lopers won 152 duals from 2010-18 and had five consecutive NCAA appearances during its MIAA tenure from 2014-18.
“Although it will take some time to reestablish the program, I am confident that the program is back and here to stay,” said Bauer. “I am appreciative of the support of the university and continued efforts to create and provide the best possible collegiate experience for our student-athletes.”