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NCAA men eyeing 72 holes again to crown indy winner

By Ryan Herrington

LAS VEGAS—Love it or hate it, the match-play component of the men's NCAA Championship will be around for the foreseeable future.

So said San Jose State men's coach John Kennaday and Georgia Southern's Larry Mays, the two members of the NCAA men's Division I championship committee in attendance this week at the Golf Coaches Association of America's annual convention.

Kennaday and Mays, along with NCAA assistant director of championships Donnie Wagner, answered questions from attendees at the Tropicana Resort—a record-breaking number for a GCAA convention, according to CEO Gregg Grost—and reiterated the committee's support for match play in crowning a team champion.

"As far as we're concerned we're going to stay with match play," said Kennaday of the format that's been in place since 2009 where the top eight schools after 54 stroke-play holes compete in a series of head-to-head contests to determine the winning program. "It's going to carry us forward with the hope of possibly attracting TV [coverage of the event]."

That not to say, however, that the committee is done tweaking the championship. Wagner noted that the six-member group has held discussions regarding the possibility of returning the individual stroke-play competition to a 72-hole affair.

At last year's GCAA convention, many coaches lamented the reduction to 54 holes that took place in conjunction with the change to the team competition four years ago, stating that it diminished the prestige—and the excitement—of winning the individual title. Among the ideas the committee has discussed is maintaining 54 holes of stroke-play competition that would determine the qualifying teams for match play, but then adding an extra day of stroke-play competition exclusively to settle the individual title. The fourth round would likely include a smaller number of competitors (the low 60 and ties after three rounds) and would give the race for medalist honors its own spotlight.
 

Related: Herrington: Why force two championships into one tournament?

Further discussions are still necessary, and the earliest anything could be implemented, if agreed to by the committee, would be 2014, according to Wagner, who noted that cost issues in extending the competition would need to be addressed and approved by the NCAA for the change to occur. Wagner, however, was encouraged that in an informal straw-poll vote of attendees there was unanimous support in returning to 72 holes for the individual event.

"It's a way to appease the folks who would like to see a [separate] 72-hole individual tournament," Wagner said. "That's not likely going to happen because of the costs involved, but this is something that seems more reasonable."

Reasonableness seemed to be an overriding theme at the GCAA convention as well as the Women's Golf Coaches Association annual meeting that took place concurrently. Acrimony and frustration were tougher to find than a winning slot machine.

Stephen Clar of the NCAA briefed both associations about proposals set to be addressed at next month's NCAA Convention that could impact college golf. Most notably at the Division I level is Proposal 13-2, which would speed up the time when a coach could have communication (phone calls or electronic correspondence) or in-person contact with a prospective student-athlete from July 1 following the high schooler's junior year to July 1 after his or her sophomore year.

Additionally Proposal 13-3 would eliminate any prohibitions on the number of times a coach could contact a PSA, which are currently restricted to one call per week.

Clar said that the majority of proposals up for vote from the NCAA Board of Directors in January are related to the idea of deregulation and an attempt to simplify the NCAA rules manual by weeding out legislation that is outdated or unenforceable.  

While the NCAA has issues of amateurism front and center at this time, Clar mentioned a more in-depth look at recruiting and the length of the playing and practice season for college sports overall could occur in 2013 as the NCAA circles back on these issues. As you might recall, these subjects generated much debate and angst two years ago at the GCAA and WGCA conventions when the NCAA requested input from the two associations about them, only to then table possible changes in these areas.

Perhaps then we should all enjoy the quiet for now. There's no guarantee it's going to last a whole lot longer.
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