News & ToursJanuary 13, 2009

All you need to know about Proposal 2008-53

A calculator isn't necessary to add up the number of the people who know what Proposal 2008-53 is all about--two hands and a foot (if that) will suffice.

However, with the NCAA beginning its annual convention tomorrow in Washington D.C., it's worth becoming a bit more conversant with what advocates of junior varsity golf/expanded playing opportunities hope is the first step toward making such practices less confusing, more appealing and more sensible for schools around the country.

Specifically, the proposal seeks to change the definition of when a school has used one of its 24 "dates of competition." The current NCAA bylaw (17.12.5.1.2 for those keeping score at home) states that merely having one student-athlete in a tournament triggers an institutional date of competition. Proposal 2008-53 tries to increase the number to five or more student-athletes or any number of student-athletes that allows a school to post a team score at a tournament.

What does this have to do with junior varsity golf? Well, because Bylaw 17.12.5.1.2 says a school uses a date of competition if only one golfer is competing, coaches had to become inventive if they wanted players at the bottom of their rosters to have any chance of seeing any real tournament action. Thus, they created JV squads, which allowed them to get around the bylaw by using different NCAA legislation and interpretations already on the books (Got to love the NCAA, don't you?!?). As it turns out, so long as no more than 50 percent of the golfers participating in a tournament compete "primarily on the varsity level" (which is determined by its own cumbersome formula), the tournament can be considered a JV contest and thus not count against the 24 dates of "varsity" competition.

It's about this time that most people's eyes start to glaze over, which is exactly why some coaches (Texas A&M's J.T. Higgins, UCLA's Derek Freeman, Washington's Matt Thurmond, among others) are trying to clear things up by changing legislation. Tracking whether players are competing in JV or varsity events, and whether a player is technically a JV or varsity player, is so confusing most schools haven't bothered creating a JV team in the first place. That said, letting players who aren't qualifying for a school's starting lineup get the chance to play as individuals in other tournaments appeals to many coaches. (Who doesn't want to let their players get a chance to play? Maybe they'll see a player develop who might otherwise not.)

To accomplish the latter requires overhauling the former. The big picture solution favored by many coaches is to streamline the NCAA rules to state that schools be allowed 24 dates of competition as a team for qualification toward the NCAA postseason and that individual players be allowed no more than 24 dates of competition, but that those 24 dates don't have to be one in the same. If a player is slumping and fails to make the starting lineup for School A's varsity event, but can play in another tournament that wouldn't count from a team standpoint but might help him work his way out of the rut, why not let him do it?

For the bigger picture change to be made, however, first the coaches needed to adjust Bylaw 17.12.5.1.2. Backers of Proposal 2008-53 (it was sponsored by the Big 12 Conference) say if it passes--a "big if" by the way--they'll then likely craft another proposal in the future that gives teams and individuals their separate 24 dates of competition.

"If we can't get this [passed], we probably can't get the next one," David Batson, Texas A&M's director of athletic compliance and the principle author of Proposal 2008-53 told me last week. "[The second idea] a much more cumbersome concept and you really need the golf committee, and the championships committee behind that one."

(Opponents of such changes, or JV golf in general, argue that allowing this kind of flexibility would given an advantage to bigger budget schools, who can afford to send players to tournaments where they're playing merely as individuals, over smaller ones.)

Back to the "big if" on whether Proposal 2008-53 will pass. At the NCAA Convention this week, it will go before the Legislative Council along with hundreds of other proposals, but only after having been battered around late last year by the NCAA Championships/Sports Management Cabinet. (Originally, the proposal tried to delete Bylaw 17.12.5.1.2, but that was opposed by the cabinet. The proposal was then modified last October to its current form in hopes getting approval.)

"I think this is a nice compromise between the two," Batson said, "and I think it accounts for what the Championships cabinet's concern was and maybe even goes further to capture some of their concerns. I think it will get support, but there is no guarantee in this process."

In other words, stay tuned.

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