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ATHLETICS

UAPB suspends tennis program

The first NCAA Division I school in the state of Arkansas has announced it will be losing one of its athletic programs in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

The University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff announced in a news release Thursday that its men's and women's tennis teams are being suspended for next season.

"This was a very difficult decision, but one that was necessary at this time," UAPB Athletic Director Chris Peterson said in a statement. "Everyone in collegiate athletics is facing unprecedented challenges, and UAPB is no different."

As part of the announcement, the school said it will continue to provide athletic aid for current members of the program so long as they stay at UAPB. Current members are eligible to play immediately elsewhere if they transfer.

UAPB is one of many schools nationally to have cut or suspended at least one of its athletic programs recently, as athletic departments everywhere are facing unique financial challenges brought on by the pandemic and are subsequently looking to tighten their budgets.

-- Trenton Daeschner

HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL

Searcy hires Simpson as coach

Searcy hired Southside Batesville's Kenny Simpson as its new head coach Thursday night.

Simpson, 40, takes over for Mark Kelley, who led the Lions to a Class 6A state championship last season but resigned in May.

At Southside Batesville, Simpson guided the Southerners to four consecutive playoff appearances. The Harding University graduate previously coached at Alabama Christian in Montgomery and Madison Academy in Huntsville, Ala.

-- Jeremy Muck

HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL

Simon pulling double duty

Vilonia didn't have to look far to fill to find a replacement to lead the girls basketball program.

Jeremy Simon, who took over the boys team in 2018, will also coach the girls next season.

Simon is 37-20 in his two years with the Eagles and has guided the team to back-to-back state tournament berths. Vilonia went 20-8 this past season, including 9-5 in the 5A-West. He's taking over for Alvin Riley, who'd previously coached the Lady Eagles for the past 19 years but didn't have his contract renewed by the school after leading the team to a 25-3 record and a conference title in what turned out to be his final season with the team.

Riley, 62, had been at Vilonia since 2001 and had won more than 700 games during a more than 40-year career.

-- Erick Taylor

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