Tennis coach resigns, files a complaint against college

by Beacon Staff • October 4, 2011

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divHours after resigning as head tennis coach, John Nestel yesterday accused Emerson’s 2010 women’s team of violating a rule that put the team at an unfair advantage./div

divNestel said the team engaged in illegal lineup stacking--which occurs when teams intentionally position their better players in lesser roles in an effort to gain points--during its last season./div

divHe stepped down yesterday after he and the college said Nestel, who coached five games since his hiring, was a bad fit for Emerson’s program./div

div“While it is regrettable to part with a coach mid-season, at this time the department felt it was best we and Coach Nestel part ways as we feel a different direction for the program would be best,” Athletics Director Kristin Parnell said in an email./div

divParnell declined to comment on Nestel’s accusations./div

div“On the allegations posted by Coach Nestel, at this time Emerson has no current or past violations and have no comment to make as we feel one at this time is not justified on currently unfounded accusations,” she said./div

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Nestel said he filed a complaint Wednesday night with both the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) and the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA), stating the Emerson’s women’s tennis engaged in the practice. Lineup stacking is banned by the National Collegiate Athletic Association and the ITA, according to their rulebooks.

“All lineups must remain in the order of strength as listed on the entry form for each round of the championships. This procedure also applies to the doubles portion of the team lineup,” according to the NCAA Division 3 Men’s and Women’s Tennis Handbook’s regulation on the lineup submissions.

In an Emerson College Today press release from Nov. 23, 2010, former Sports Information Director Roger Crosley wrote, “To strengthen Emerson’s doubles play, Astley split Russell and Mosser after the first four matches.”

Nestel cited two 2010 matches, an Oct. 12 game against Emmanuel College and another against Simmons College, as instances when Emerson stacked its lineups.

Last season, the women’s tennis team advanced to the GNAC finals.

“The clear #1 and #2 players in the League Savannah Mosser and Lacey Russell were split as a doubles team in a sole effort to gain points for the team,” Nestel said in the email to The Beacon.

The former coach said when he reviewed the team’s previous matches, he noticed that Mosser and Russell were split in a contest last season against Emmanuel. Emerson won the match 5-4, and both players won their respective doubles matches, giving the Lions the necessary points to win.

[caption id=attachment_3813537 align=alignleft width=212 caption=Lacey Russell serves this past Saturday against M.I.T. during John Nestel’s last match as Emerson’s head coach.         Lauren Foley/Beacon Staff]a href=http://berkeleybeacon.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/lauren_tennis2.jpgimg class=size-medium wp-image-3813537 title=lauren_tennis2 src=http://berkeleybeacon.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/lauren_tennis2-212x300.jpg alt= width=212 height=300 //a[/caption]

“The number two player, Lacey Russell, had casually mentioned to me that the previous coach had split them in doubles, and when I asked why, she said it was to get more points,” Nestel said in a phone interview.

Mason Astley, who headed the women’s tennis team at the time of the alleged violations, said he was not aware of any regulation violations during his tenure.

“I never did anything knowingly against the rules,” Astley said in a phone interview.

However, he confirmed that Mosser and Russell were the team’s top two players last season.

After the 2010 season, Mosser was named GNAC Player of the Year, while Russell was named Rookie of the Year.

Last year’s men’s tennis captain, Will Abeles, denied the notion that Astley, who coached both the men’s and women’s teams, stacked lineups.

“I don’t know anything about the women’s team,” Abeles said in a phone interview. “But no, [the men’s team] never stacked our lineup.”

When Astley accepted a coaching role in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s tennis program, Nestel filled the vacancy.

A day before he resigned, Nestel said he informed Athletic Director Kristin Parnell about the alleged lineup stacking.

“I basically said, ‘Why was the allowed to happen?’” Nestel said. “She said she wasn’t so sure that was a rule violation. I said, ‘You can’t not know that was a rule violation.’”

Nestel said his coaching philosophy contradicted that of Emerson’s players and the program, which made for an unhealthy relationship.

“When I run a practice, I expect 100 percent effort and dedication,” Nestel said. “The players saw practice as more of a social thing.”

Howe said several tennis players already quit the team before Nestel’s resignation, although she said their departures should not necessarily be linked to Nestel.

The Athletic Department declined to disclose the names of the players that had left the team.

Other issues plagued Nestel’s relationship with the department, he said. The former coach cited budgetary constraints that fueled the dispute.

Nestel said he suggested Emerson send Russell and Lacey to an ITA event that showcases the top Division 3 tennis players. However, Nestel was told it could not be covered by the budget.

But Kerry Howe, the department’s media relations director, said situations like this did not lead to Nestel’s departure, rather, that it was in the best interest of the program.

“We are trying to move in another direction that’s better for John and for our program,” Howe said in a phone interview.

In the interim, according to Howe, various members of the department will take over the coaching duties of the team, including herself, Parnell, and Assistant Athletic Director Erin Brennen.

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