The Hargrett Library and the ITA Men’s Tennis Hall of Fame will be co-hosting a panel discussion on the history of the NCAA Tennis Championships in Athens on Wednesday, May 3, at the University of Georgia’s Richard B. Russell Special Collection Libraries.
When the NCAAs return to Athens for the 29th time beginning May 18, it will mark the 45th anniversary of the championships’ first appearance at Georgia’s tennis facility, now called the Dan Magill Tennis Complex. Georgia men’s tennis coach Manuel Diaz was a Bulldog freshman playing for Magill when the NCAAs first arrived in 1972; he’s now in his 29th season as the Bulldogs’ head coach and has won three of his four national championships on the Dogs’ home courts.
Diaz will be joined on the panel by longtime Georgia women’s coach Jeff Wallace, who played for the Bulldogs in the early 1980s before beginning his incredibly successful tenure as the Lady Dogs’ coach, as well as former Georgia player and assistant coach under Diaz, Jack Frierson. An Athens native, Frierson grew up serving as a ball boy at the NCAAs for many years before going on to play and coach in the event a few blocks from his childhood home.
As coaches both Diaz and Wallace have won NCAA team titles on their home courts — Wallace’s Lady Dogs won in 1994, the first time the women’s championships were held in Athens — and Frierson was Diaz’s assistant when the Bulldogs won here in 1999.
The panel discussion is being held in conjunction with the exhibit “A Championship Tradition: The NCAA Tournament in Athens,” which has been up in the rotunda of the Russell Building since late January and will run through the end of May.
The exhibit explores the teams and players who have shaped the rich tradition of collegiate tennis in the Classic City through photographs and objects relating to the NCAA tournament, using materials from archives of the UGA Athletic Association, which are housed in the Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library.
The discussion is free and open to the public, and will run from 5:30-6:30 p.m. The exhibit will be open before and after the event, and is open Monday-Friday from 8 a.m.-5 p.m., and Saturday from 1-5 p.m. The Russell Building is located at 300 S. Hull St., across the street from the Hull Street parking deck.
Moderating the discussion will be John Frierson, curator of the ITA Men’s Tennis Hall of Fame. Like his older brother, John was an NCAA ball bay for many years, before later covering the event for the Athens Banner-Herald and numerous other news outlets.