College golf’s ongoing saga over whether to allow substitutions during tournament play has taken another awkward twist. The NCAA Division I Competition Oversight Committee has tabled a recommendation from the Men’s D-I Golf Committee that would allow coaches to replace players in their lineups at postseason events, referred to by some as the “Beau Hossler” rule after the University of Texas All-American had to sit out of the NCAA Championship match last spring with a torn labrum, leaving the Longhorns with only four players to compete against eventual champion Oregon’s five.
The Oversight Committee noted that it had received support for the “substitution concept” in match-play competition, but the same was not the case for the stroke-play portion of tournaments. Because of the difference in opinions for the two formats, both of which are used at the NCAA Championship, the Oversight Committee announced that it has held off on taking any action.
Arguably, the decision to table the recommendation might best reflect the current messy split among coaches regarding the idea. In concept, the ability to replace an injured player in a lineup is something many coaches support, particularly after seeing what happened to Texas last spring when it had to play four on five in the championship match. But defining what constitutes an injury that would allow for a change in the lineup is a sticking point, one that was so difficult that the Men’s Golf Committee decided to avoid it entirely by stating that replacements could be made at coaches’ discretion.
The recommendation the Men's Golf Committee had made included liberal implementation of a policy upset many men’s coaches who philosophically are for the change, explaining the mixed signals the Oversight Committee was hearing. No doubt the Oversight Committee was also influenced by the fact the NCAA Women’s D-I Golf Committee did not submit its own proposal for a substitution policy, in part because several women’s coaches had reservations about allowing for replacements during stroke play competition.
The ruling does not mean the substitution debate is over. The Oversight Committee specifically noted that the Men’s Golf Committee can submit another recommendation that could be acted on in early 2017 and allow any policy change to go into effect for the 2017 postseason.
Interestingly, the Oversight Committee also voted against the Women’s Golf Committee’s recommendation to require teams to have a .500 or better record against opponents during the regular season in order to be eligible for at-large berths into the NCAA post-season. This .500 rule has be in force for the men’s championships since the 2007-’08 season. The Oversight Committee noted a concern that including the .500 rule would negatively impact scheduling by potentially weakening, rather than strengthening tournament fields.