The USTA and the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) launched the College MatchDay concept this past February. The program is intended to call attention to the fierce competition between schools that is the embodiment of the intercollegiate game all across the country.
On Friday, April 19th, the men’s teams from UCLA and USC will face-off at the Los Angeles Tennis Center at 3:00 p.m. in a MatchDay Spectacular.
It would be difficult, if not impossible, to find a more electrifying rivalry, in the college game, than the Bruins versus the Trojans. The schools have dominated Division I play for ages. USC won the inaugural NCAA Men’s Team Championship in 1946, and since then they have amassed 20 trophies, including the last four. UCLA has garnered 16 titles. Between 1960 and ’72, no other institutions were in the mix. During that 12-year span, it was a "Blue/Cardinal" era with UCLA and USC each earning six "Best of the Best" season-end trophies.
On the individual side, Jack Tidball won UCLA’s first NCAA championship when he claimed the singles title in 1933. USC joined the march a year later with Gene Mako sweeping the singles and doubles (with Philip Castlen). Overall, UCLA has had 10 and USC, 15 singles champions, including Steve Johnson, the 2011 and ’12 winner. (In the process, Johnson compiled an astounding 72-match win-streak.) A glance at NCAA doubles records shows that the Trojans have 21 victories, and the Bruins have 11.
As impressive as these numbers are, the individuals responsible for the success rank among the best ever to play. Some of the illustrious UCLA performers were: Herb Flam, Larry Nagler, Allen Fox, Arthur Ashe, Charlie Pasarell, Jeff Borowiak, Jimmy Connors, Billy Martin and Ben Kohlloeffel. USC’s representatives include: Bob Falkenburg, Hugh Stewart, Alex Olmedo, Rafael Osuna, Dennis Ralston, Bob Lutz, Stan Smith, Joaquin Loyo-Mayo, Robert Van’t Hof, Cecil Mamiit and Johnson.
The doubles tandems are equally noteworthy. A few of those who should be noted are: Bob, along with his brother, Tom Falkenburg, Bob Perry with Larry Huebner and Ron Livingston of UCLA, Olmedo, who teamed with Francisco Contreras and Ed Atkinson, and the Nagler and Fox duo.
Osuna earned three victories, two with Ramsey Earnhart and one with Dennis Ralston, who also won with Bill Bond. Ashe and Pasarell both won, but not with one another. Ian Crookenden proved to be the "Perfect Partner". Lutz and Smith were two-time champions. So was Rick Leach who shared titles with Tim Pawsat and Scott Melville.
Coaches are the foundations of programs that reach elite status, and that is the reason that UCLA and USC have set the men’s standard. (Though Dick Gould had a stellar career at Stanford.) William Moyle led the Trojans to their first national championship, but any mention of USC tennis coaching staff (with a tip of the hat to Louis Wheeler, who was in charge in 1951), begins with George Toley. He was followed by Dick Leach and the "Four-peat" perfection of Peter Smith. The Bruins parade of legends begins with Bill Ackerman then JD Morgan, Glenn Bassett and now, current coach, Billy Martin.
The ITA Hall of Fame began inductions in 1983 and Ashe, Morgan, Olmedo, Osuna, Ralston and Toley were among the initial honorees. In the years since, Ackerman, Falkenburg and Mako have been recognized. So have Connors, Flam, Fox, Pasarell and Tidball, along with Lutz and Smith. Peter Fleming was a Michigan/UCLA selection, and Joe Hunt, a USC/Navy choice, placing them among the few who are two-school Hall of Famers. Frank Stewart was a noted UCLA contributor who earned a spot, and Raul Ramirez’s play at USC also made an impression.
Bassett, Crookenden, Martin and Perry have been feted for their time at UCLA. The same holds for Brad Pearce (currently BYU men’s coach), Jim Pugh, Ferdi Taygan and Brian Teacher. Marcel Freeman is another Bruin in the group.
Bond, Earnhart and Van’t Hof are Trojans who have received ITA Hall of Fame accolades. Bruce Manson is another member. Dick and Rick Leach, as well as Byron and Wayne Black, are among the rare families who have been named to the exclusive collection of intercollegiate standouts.
Having played twice this season, both teams have triumphed. Given the intensity of UCLA - USC contests, and their No. 2 and No. 4 rankings in the April 9th ITA poll, it’s anyone’s guess which competitor will have the game that will lead to a win on April 19th. In truth, it doesn’t matter who finishes on top, because the tennis exhibited is guaranteed to be MatchDay scintillating. More importantly, there is no cost to attend and no tickets are needed.
(Author’s Note: Danny Harrington, UCLA Assistant Sports Information Director and Darcy Couch, USC Assistant Sports Information Director provided input for the story.)