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November 23, 2015 12:39 PM

Got a Minute?

TimCassToby Smith talks to Tim Cass about his move to the USTA

After serving as deputy athletics director at the University of New Mexico for almost a decade. Tim Cass, 51, is returning to his first love, tennis. At the end of this year, he’ll leave UNM to be the general manager of the USTA National Campus in Orlando, Fla. Cass arrived in New Mexico to play for the Lobos in the 1980s and ultimately earned all-American honors. He followed that by being named coach of the UNM men’s team, a position he held for nine years. For five of those years, all in succession, he led the Lobos to a conference championship. He went from there to a decade as head men’s coach at Texas A&M. That led to his most current post at UNM. He’ll start work in Florida in early January.
How did this all come about, you getting back in the tennis arena again?
I had been aware that a new national campus for the USTA was being talked about some time ago. The USTA discussed it with me a little; I knew some of the senior management team. We had some conversations, but quite honestly, I did not take it too seriously.  I very much liked what I was doing in New Mexico. In late July or early August, the USTA made an overture to me. They flew me to Orlando. Things started really happening during a three-week period in the fall. The USTA made my hire official with an announcement on November 4.
What will the national campus entail?
The USTA is bringing almost everything to one central place.  In other words, the training centers in Carson, Calif., and Boca Raton, Fla., will now be in Orlando or, more precisely, the Lake Nona area of Orlando.
What about the national office in White Plains, N.Y.?
The USTA will keep a presence in White Plains, mainly to support the U.S. Open.
USTA_National_CampusSo what exactly will be in the National Campus?
This vision of the USTA’s began to form four or five years ago. Ground was finally broken last April. What they’re doing is combining community tennis, collegiate tennis and player development in one spot. It’s going to be a challenge, but I think it’s necessary and I’m excited to be part of it in the early stages. (National Campus Photo courtesy of the USTA.)
Will it actually be a campus?
It will be when it’s finished. The property covers sixty-five acres. The plans remind me a lot of our South Campus at UNM.  It’s going to be divided into areas, with a lot of different things going on.  There will be more than 100 tennis courts, a mix of Har-Tru (green clay) and red clay as well hard courts and an indoor tennis center.
What else?
There will be a lodge designed for player development use. There will various offices, a sizable weight room, training room and a sport science component, for mental training. A main office building will house 150 staffers.
It sounds as if different things will be happening simultaneously?
Part of the vision of this project is bringing synergy to all the elements.  For instance, kids who come there for player development might watch Jack Sock working out with his coach.  It’s all open to the public, so you might see two major college teams having a dual match while a USTA national 50 women’s doubles tournament is taking place. Remember, there will be 100 tennis courts. 
Is this the most tennis courts at one location in America?
The biggest tennis center that I know of is in Mobile, Alabama. That has 50-some courts, I think. The National Tennis Center at Flushing Meadow has 32.
When will the Lake Nona site be finished?
The projected completion date is late fall of 2016.
Other than a love for tennis and a deep knowledge of the sport, what prepared you for this new job?
The renovation of the Pit really helped. I was there to see part of the renovation. What we had to do was to take a 50-year old building and bring it into this century. The old Pit had nothing when it was built.  The new Pit is functioning now.  It’s being maintained now. A lot of that technology and know-how will be put in the Lake Nona project.  I love to build and to construct.  Maybe the best thing we did at the Pit was place all the refreshment stands in pockets outside the concourse.  In the old Pit, you had massive crowds in the concourse trying to get to the food concessions. People queued up and it was a mess to move.
What else did you change at the Pit?
One of the major challenges was connecting the Rudy Davalos building next door. The Rudy was standing alone. To get to the Rudy from the Pit you had to go outside.  That wasn’t functional. What I think I can bring to the national campus is a set of eyes. What is the function of that? Can this be maintained?  How can we make it to last?
You were also involved in the building of the George P. Mitchell Tennis Center at Texas A&M when you coached there, weren’t you?

I was, particularly the stadium. That was a six to seven million dollar project.  The men’s and women’s NCAAs were twice held there when I was coach.
I suspect you had a say in the formation of the McKinnon Family Tennis Center, south of the Pit, right?
Yes, I oversaw the project, in particular the stadium.
You must be happy at how these things turned out.
Maximizing resources, making sure things are functional, that’s what makes me happy and proud. My first experience with functionality was at the Lobo Tennis Club.  We were having trouble playing matches in the early spring because of the lousy weather.  Night play was out of the question.  We needed to do something.  And that came in the form of an indoor bubble. We added a second bubble before I left.  
Were you a member of the USTA as a youngster?
I joined the USTA at 9 or 10, back in the early 1970s.  I was a late bloomer. I started to play serious tennis between the ages of 15 to 18.  As a teen, I played the USTA amateur circuit back East. Ten tournaments on clay and hard courts.
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