NCAA Tournament Tuesdays: 1997 Men's Tennis
1997 Men’s Tennis
The 1997 season was head coach Rodney Harmon’s second season coaching the Hurricanes. Coming off an 8-13 record in the previous season and the high of receiving the BIG EAST Coach of the Year award, the expectations were high for the 1997 Hurricanes.
With only one player returning from the previous season, junior Arturo Zizold, the Canes had to rely on their top recruiting class to return Miami to one of the nation’s elite. The new freshmen included Michael Russell, Ivan Rodrigo, Jorge Carvalho, Fernando Borja, Mark Arrowsmith and Arpad Odry. University of Florida transfer Wayne Boich also joined the Hurricanes for the 1997 season. Russell came to Miami as the top-ranked under-18 junior in the United States and was ranked No. 20 in the world junior rankings. Rodrigo, a high school teammate of Russell’s, boasted a lethal forehand. The duo’s participation in national and international tournaments had the Hurricanes hopeful for a successful season.
The Canes faced a difficult road ahead with 12 top-20 teams on the schedule. The 1997 team finished the season ranked No. 30 in the nation. In addition to that accomplishment, the Hurricanes claimed the BIG EAST Championship over Notre Dame, which guaranteed them a berth in the NCAA Tournament.
In the NCAA Tournament, the Hurricanes were given a first round bye due to their winning the BIG EAST Championship. Unfortunately Miami’s promising season was ended when they faced Harvard in the second round of play. The Canes were defeated 4-3 by the Crimson in a heart breaking loss.
Following the success of the 1997 season, head coach Rodney Harmon left Miami to become Director of Multicultural Development for the UTSA and was succeeded by former Florida International assistant coach Jay Berger.
The 1997 season was head coach Rodney Harmon’s second season with the Canes. The Canes finished with a No. 30 ranking under Harmon during the 1997 season and earned a berth in the NCAA tournament.
As a former top junior player, Harmon won the 1979 Easter Bowl singles title, the UTSA National Boys’ 18’s doubles title and was a member of the USTA’s Junior Davis Cup Team.
In college, Harmon captured the NCAA doubles title with Mel Purcell in 1980 while at the University of Tennessee. Following his transfer to Southern Methodist University, Harmon led the Mustangs to the NCAA team final in 1983 and graduated with a degree in broadcasting.
Before graduating, Harmon reached the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open in 1982 where he joined Arthur Ashe as the only African-American male to ever reach the final eight at a Grand Slam tournament at the time. Harmon played in the pro tour for several years, achieving a top-100 world ranking. He reached the third-round at Wimbeldon in 1983 and saw victories over Guillermo Vilas, Brian Gottfried and Tim Mayotte.
As a UTSA staffer since 1988, Harmon was appointed UTSA National Coach in 1993. He was named United States Professional Tennis Registry Pro of the Year twice (‘88, ’94) as well as Touring Coach of the Year in 1991.
In the 1995-1996 season, the Hurricanes finished with only an 8-13 record under Harmon but pulled a miraculous performance in the BIG EAST Championships where the Canes fought their way to a second-place finish. This surprising performance earned Harmon BIG EAST Coach of the Year honors to add to his already impressive resume.