PGA Championship

Valhalla Golf Club

The Loop

'09 NCAA Championship format still undetermined

WEST LAFAYETTE, IND.--The word regarding what specific format will be adopted for the bracketed portion of next year's new fangled men's NCAA Championship is that there's no word â¿¿ not yet at least.

The six member NCAA Division I men's golf committee, chaired by former Oklahoma State coach/current athletic director Mike Holder, will gather June 18-20 for its annual meeting in Colorado Springs, at which time it hopes to decide how it will conduct the championship once it reduces the field from 30 teams to eight after 54 holes of stroke-play qualifying.

"We're still talking to coaches to try to get their input on what they think would be the best format to conduct the championship," Holder said. "We'll take any suggestions, even up to midnight the night before we meet."

Last September, the NCAA approved the overall change to the structure of the championship to determine a team winner, changing it from a 72-hole stroke-play competition that has been in existence since 1968. In April, the final hurdle for new overall structure was cleared when the NCAA approved the budget request to make the change. (Crowning the individual champion also will be change, as the individual medalist will be determined after the 54 holes of stroke-play qualifying.)

Among the ideas to be discussed regarding how to conduct the bracketed format to determine a team winner are a strict match-play structure between members of two teams; a medal-match mix where a winner is determined by the best 18-hole score between two players; and using an aggregate team score for 18 holes, counting either the top four scores on a team or all five.

In talking to a few people who are watching this closely, the latter format of aggregate scoring is gaining some momentum, specifically counting all five scores on a team. The sticking point there, of course, is if a player on a team is hurt during a round and can't finish or is disqualified under the rules of golf.

Some coaches at this year's NCAA Championship asked about the possibility of changing the overall format from 54 holes and eight advancing teams to 72 holes and four advancing teams. That is not an option, according to NCAA associate director of championships Donnie Wagner, as the 54 hole/eight advancing teams setup is what has been approved from a budgetary standpoint for at least 2009 and 2010.

Another point of discussion at the men's golf committee meeting next month will be the much talked about ".500 rule" that went into place this past season requiring schools to have a winning record in order to receive an at-large bid to the NCAA postseason. There is a chance the rule could be rescinded, but it would require a 4-2 committee vote, which appears at this point to be unlikely. Holder, for one, said that while he was against the rule originally, he now seems more in favor of it as a tool to help raise the level of competition across Division I.

If the ".500 rule" remains in place, Holder said that the committee will then address the need to create specific guidelines to define what exactly is a tournament and  whether a team's schedule needs to be set prior to the fall or spring in order to prevent midseason changes to help bolster a team's overall record.