Kelly Roderick / Lantern photographer
It’s time to put your sweater vests and bow ties away. There is a new fashion statement that this campus can adopt to show support for a team that hasn’t lost a home game in more than eight years.
Ohio State men’s tennis coach Ty Tucker has six Big Ten Coach of the Year titles, six regular season Big Ten championships and five NCAA quarterfinals appearances.
Almost all of these accomplishments were achieved while wearing gray cotton sweatpants and a white baseball cap to every match.
“Every year I get a fresh pair of socks and new shirt to go underneath (my jacket). People don’t know how hard it is to keep everything separate,” Tucker said.
When on the road, Tucker said he washes his ensemble in college laundromats, making sure to keep the designated gameday sweatpants, shirt and socks apart from the rest of his attire. He wears only one outfit per season.
Chris Britt, the student athletic communication contact for men’s tennis, said Tucker is “very superstitious.”
Tucker, a bit distraught having brought up bad memories, also said he no longer takes his team to Olive Garden because they lost two matches after dining in one.
“We lost twice,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean we won’t do Carrabba’s or Macaroni Grill and we get pasta.”
After a heartbreaking loss to the University of Southern California at the NCAA National Championship in 2009, Tucker told The Lantern instead of washing his sweatpants, he would burn them to signify the end of the season.
But it took more than superstition and luck to turn the Buckeyes into the third-ranked college men’s tennis team in the nation.
Tucker makes sure the team captains endorse new players after their official visit to make sure they are a good fit.
“Athletically speaking, you’re looking for an athlete, when you’re out there watching, out there playing and fighting and never giving up,” he said. “We try to stay away from anyone we think might give up even one point in a match.”
Tucker said most college tennis players never make it to the professional circuit. It is important to him to recruit athletes who will continue to play and practice hard, even if OSU is “the last stop on their journey.”
During the winter months, the team practices five days a week.
“We try to, definitely for the first hour-and-a-half, keep water breaks to a minimum and try to keep the high-intensity going on,” Tucker said.
Tucker, a 41-year-old OSU attendee , knows what it takes to perform at the college and professional levels. He was the No. 1-ranked college singles player during his freshman year and achieved a world ranking of No. 273 in 1994.
On the junior circuit, Tucker defeated Grand Slam singles tournament champions, Andre Agassi, Jim Courier and Michael Chang.
Most recently, Tucker’s team defeated No. 26 Notre Dame, 5-2, on Saturday. The Buckeyes improved to 9-1 during against ITA Top-30 teams in the win.
In a sport that is largely based on individual performance, Tucker instills a strong team-mentality in his players.
“They know they’re playing for Ohio State Buckeyes and that means more than anything,” he said. “They only care if the team wins.”
Tucker acknowledges his methods are a bit strange but said he wants nothing more than to bring light to the tennis program.
“Sometimes I think my quirks overshadow what they’re doing out there,” he said. “But what’s important is that people come out and see the group of hardworking guys we’ve got.”
The biggest motivator to his team, Tucker said, is the way the athletic department has treated his organization increasingly well.
“As good of care as Ohio State takes of our facilities and being able to travel the country and play the best teams, you’ve got to be willing to practice and compete in your matches like it might be the last time ever,” Tucker said.
Last year, the athletic department encouraged students and fans to participate in “Dress Like Ty Tucker Day” during the home match against Indiana.
Kaitlyn Labrozzi, a fifth-year in Russian and international studies who wore gray sweatpants and a red OSU jacket to the match, said functions that rally support around the tennis team are few and far between.
“I like to dress like Ty Tucker anyway,” Labrozzi said. “If there were more of them, the team would probably gain notoriety on campus and in the community. They are wildly underrated and we should support teams that do well, regardless of the sport.”