Open Announce
Frank Mercogliano photo

Men's Tennis Rings In Some History

by Frank Mercogliano

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — For Jack Kennedy, it was time to do something for Lobo Tennis, a program close to his heart.  It was back in 1958 that Jack Kennedy earned All-America honors.  As for what to do, that’s where his wife Sue, an artist by trade, comes in.

Jack and Sue worked with Kay Frances, a Master Artist with Romero Jewelers to design one of a kind All-American rings for the first four Lobo All-Americans in the men’s tennis program, Kennedy, Van Hill (1968), Tim Garcia (1976) and Tim Cass (1986).  The rings were presented infront of former players and families at Sunnyside Up Restaurant at a breakfast in their honor.

The rings, which have “All-American” and “Tennis” engraved was designed by Frances, who was present at the ceremony.  Kennedy was UNM’s first men’s tennis All-American, earning the honor in 1958, and while the Lobo archives aren’t overly deep from the program’s days in the Skyline Conference, some of the accomplishments of Kennedy will most likely never be matched.  His freshman season saw him never lose a match, going undefeated.  He might have won the NCAA title that year if freshmen were allowed to play.  Kennedy wasn’t, so on the advice and prompting of then Athletic Director Pete McDavid, Jack played in the 1957 Canadian Grass Court Circuit, winning a tournament up north.

UNM’s first four-year All-Conference honoree, he was named from 1957-60, winning the Skyline singles titles in 1957 and 1958, finishing runner-up in 1959 and making it to the semifinals in 1960.

After earning All-America honors in 1958, it wouldn’t be for another 10 years until another Lobo would earn the same honor, as Van Hill turned the trick in 1968.  Hill was a five time WAC Champion, winning WAC singles titles in 1967, 1968 and 1969, and doubles titles in 1968 and 1969.  He was the men’s tennis program’s first All-WAC performer, earning honors three straight years.  Hill also owned a 3-1 record in NCAA Tournament singles play.

Garcia was UNM’s third All-American, earning the honor in 1976. Garcia won the 1975 and 1976 WAC singles title, and he was also All-WAC.  He went 4-1 in singles play at the NCAA Tournament.

Cass, who would eventually be named head coach at UNM at the ripe age of 23, was All-WAC in 1984, 1985 and 1986, and he was the first Lobo to make it the NCAA Doubles Championship, doing so with Steve Bickham in 1984 and 1986, and also with Galen Garcia (who was at the ceremony) in 1985.  His 72 doubles wins at UNM is tied for 14th all-time in program history and his 27 doubles wins in the 1985-86 season is tied for seventh in Lobo lore, teaming with Bickham to win a WAC doubles title.  As a coach, his 127 wins is second only to Alan Dils for the most in Lobo history.

Along with Cass, former coaches Alan Dils (1997-2014) and Tim Russell (1976-80) were in attendance which saw current Lobo head man Chris Russell greet everyone and talk about the current Lobo squad.

Kennedy in his remarks said he hopes that the idea of All-America rings might infiltrate other sports at UNM. Normally, for many sports, the only thing a student-athlete gets when earning All-America is an announcement in the media, or maybe a certificate.  Kennedy hopes that these first four rings for UNM’s first four tennis All-Americans is the start.