Oracle CEO Mark Hurd On The State of College Tennis And Developing Professional Skills


Mark Hurd knows tennis. The Oracle CEO strong supporter of the sport at both the college and professional levels. As a former collegiate player at Baylor University, Hurd has continued to follow his former team as collegiate tennis has evolved.

In an interview with Inside Tennis, Hurd noted how the unique dynamic of college matches has infused the sport with exuberance. Respectful silence during play is traditionally expected from professional tennis audiences, but new fans are increasingly vocal in their support for college players. Hurd supports the passion from supporters. “I think the energy is fantastic,” says Hurd. “It’s not just a tennis match – it’s rowdy and exciting. It’s intense.”

Hurd also believes that the format of collegiate  tennis creates match intensity and put new pressures on individual players. Division I tennis modified the traditional tennis ruleset in 2015 to speed up dual matches. The new no-ad scoring system creates greater tension around single points, which can now decide the outcome of games, sets, and even matches.  The scoring format of doubles matches has also been shortened from eight to six games with no-ad scoring. The result is matches that are both shorter and more exciting, drawing larger crowds that engage with the game.

The overall format of collegiate tennis, however, remains distinct from play on the professional circuits. In college tennis, player performance is tied to both individual and team results — a scenario that mimics professional expectations. Hurd observed, “In business you have to perform individually, but you’re part of a team.” 

After graduating from Baylor University with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, Oracle CEO Mark Hurd has continued to support the tennis program at his alma mater, where he serves on the Baylor University Board of Regents as Vice Chair of the Executive Committee. The university has expanded and renovated on-campus tennis facilities through support from the Hurd family, recognizing them in 2011 with the opening of the Hurd Tennis Center and awarding Mark Hurd with the Baylor Legacy Award. Rated as the No. 1 college tennis facility in the country by Tennis Magazine, the Hurd Tennis Center hosted the NCAA Tennis Championships in 2015.

Playing collegiate tennis can provide young athletes with experience in high-pressure situations, expanding their skillset both on and off the court. It offers opportunities to develop leadership and teamwork skills which can pay off when students enter the professional world. In a recent Forbes Interview podcast, Hurd described the challenges of strategic decision-making at the chief executive level and how the discipline and time management skills he learned while playing tennis at the collegiate level have benefited his career in the technology industry.

Hurd notes that Oracle recruits with a background in college tennis are “unbelievably talented young people” and the company has a reputation for supporting college graduates. Oracle has created new initiatives to capitalize on the drive and talent of recent college grads through new recruitment efforts, exemplified by the Class Of program. Since Mark Hurd started the Class Of program in 2013, thousands of recent graduates have joined Oracle’s engineering and sales teams. The initiative has expanded into the Oracle Digital Class Of and now draws students from across the country to Oracle’s campus in Austin, Texas, and Oracle’s other digital hubs for rigorous training to jumpstart their professional careers. Continuing Oracle’s commitment to supporting students, Oracle’s partnership with the ITA is an opportunity “to invest in college students, who are key to Oracle’s future,” says Hurd.

Oracle is partnering with the ITA to create new tournaments and opportunities for American collegiate tennis players. Both Mark Hurd and Oracle Chairman of the Board and CTO Larry Ellison are strong supporters of the sport and are active in growing interest for tennis in America. The annual Oracle ITA Masters tournament in Malibu, California, provides college players more chances for competitive play, with champions earning a spot in the Oracle ITA National Fall Championships. 

Oracle has also partnered with Universal Tennis to create the Universal Tennis Rating system, an algorithmically-generated unifying standard for players regardless of age, gender, or geography. Powered by Oracle, the system uses Oracle’s cloud services and machine learning capabilities to seed collegiate tournaments such as the Oracle ITA Masters. Describing the partnership, Hurd said that “Oracle is committed to helping grow the game and interest of tennis in America.” Oracle and ITA are providing opportunities for a new generation of players and fans to engage with the sport and become lifelong supporters. Ultimately, says Hurd, “The college game attracts a broader set of people who learn about the sport. It’s a big positive.” Hear more on tennis from Mark Hurd on Facebook or YouTube.

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