New Name in the Hall of Fame
Coach Francis Baxter talks to University of Central Oklahoma tennis players at the UCO tennis courts (Provided/ UCO Photographic Services)
Former University of Central Oklahoma Tennis Coach Francis Baxter was inducted into the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Men’s Collegiate Tennis Hall of Fame this past May in Athens, Georgia.
“It’s a great honor,” said Baxter. “It’s very rare that a Division II tennis coach ever gets nominated for such an honor.”
Baxter, a UCO graduate class of 1956, started his coaching career after he graduated from UCO.
“I started coaching high school tennis the year I graduated from UCO,” said Baxter. “I coached at John Marshall for four years and then coached at Harding High School for the next eight years before going back to John Marshall for a couple of more years.”
Baxter spent 14 years coaching high school tennis, where he won three state titles with Harding. Following his stint as a high school coach, Baxter received a call that changed the course of his career.
“Dale Hamilton [former UCO Athletic Director] called me and told me that they were doing some changes and that they needed a new tennis coach and if I would be interested in applying for it,” said Baxter. “I said yes.”
Baxter went on to lead the men’s program for 36-years (1970-2006) and the women’s program for 26-years (1980-2006), where he won six NAIA District-9 championships. He took the men’s program to three NAIA national tournaments and the women’s program to one. He guided his teams to eight combined NCAA Division II national tournament appearances, six for the men and two for the women.
Baxter was named Lone Star Conference Coach of the Year for the women in 1998 and men in 2004 as well as NCAA Division II Coach of the Year for the men in 1996. He coached 14-players who earned NAIA or NCAA Division II All-American honors a combined 25-times, including the schools first-ever NCAA Division II national champion, Charl Bornman.
“Until the end of my sophomore year, I had never picked up a tennis racket or seen a tennis court or tennis ball,” Baxter said.
Baxter and UCO hosted the NCAA Division II national tournament four times in the 1990’s, in addition to the ITA/Rolex National Small College Championships in 1993 and 1996.
“The most rewarding part was the interaction with the players and the thought that you are helping them make the transition from high school to college or from college to their careers,” Baxter said.
Baxter is a member of five different hall of fames that includes the following: Oklahoma High School Tennis Coaches, University of Central Oklahoma Athletics, Oklahoma District Tennis, Missouri Valley Section Tennis and the Intercollegiate Tennis.