2004: Confusing NCAA rule a mixed bag

Rules are rules. Sort of.

An obscure NCAA rule that prohibits athletes from competing in noncollege events with school-issued apparel or logoed equipment has been waived for those who played in last month’s Dixie Amateur and Arizona Silver Belle women’s events.

For years, players have carried their school’s bag or worn team uniforms at amateur events without repercussion. College men occasionally have walked the fairways of Augusta National at the Masters, wearing school colors on national television. Women have done the same during Florida’s annual Orange Blossom Circuit. Violations rarely, if ever, have been enforced.

Last month, women doing the same at pre-holiday amateur events were later told by their respective universities that they were in violation of NCAA bylaws 14.02.6(b) and 17.02.8(b) and would be forced to sit out one event during the spring, which could impact All-America status, individual rankings and team regional seeds.

Sound confusing? Many coaches believe so.

Both bylaws state that “intercollegiate competition occurs when a student-athlete in either a two-year or four-year collegiate institution competes in the uniform of the institution or, during the academic year, utilized any apparel (excluding apparel no longer utilized by the institution) or equipment received from the institution that includes institutional identification.”

The NCAA says the rule was adopted to prohibit student-athletes from promoting their university for recruiting purposes. But the bylaw was put in place 10-plus years ago, as football and basketball were becoming big-money sports. With the edict not being sport-specific, it filtered down to golf and other nonrevenue sports.

“It’s not a rule that has any merit,” Georgia coach Todd McCorkle said. “It would be different if there was some kind of competitive advantage. There clearly is not.”

Those players who carried team bags and wore school uniforms during noncollege competitions – players from top-ranked schools Auburn, Georgia and Florida, among others – were penalized one day of competition this semester for every day the infraction occurred. Several schools filed grievances with the NCAA asking for the bylaw to be waived and explored for validity.

In a Jan. 20 letter to the schools involved, the NCAA Division I Administrative Review Subcommittee obliged, saying, “The staff has granted a blanket waiver for Division I women’s golf student-athletes who participated in these two tournaments to not count as dates of competition while using institutional-issued golf bags with institutional identification, not purchased by the student-athletes. The staff granted the waiver based on the type of competition at the tournaments, the timing of the tournaments (winter vacation period) and the permissibility of using the equipment during the summer vacation periods.”

Florida coach Jill Briles-Hinton was relieved to hear the NCAA’s verdict. Sophomores Aimee Cho and Tarah McNaughton both carried Gators bags at the Dixie Amateur and were prepared to sit out an event this spring.

“When I heard that it was a blanket waiver, it was all I needed to hear,” Briles-Hinton said.

Some coaches are seeking clarification and simplification of the rule, because they say there are too many varying interpretations. Pursuing a rule change is also an option. The topic almost certainly will be discussed at this week’s coaches convention in Orlando, Fla.

NCAA spokesperson Kay Hawes said the proper way for member schools to petition the NCAA for a rule change is through their respective conferences. It cannot be done by individual institutions. The conference would then present the matter to the Division I Management Council, then to the NCAA’s Board of Directors, which would make the final decision.

“No one is trying to break the rules,” said Pepperdine coach Laurie Gibbs, a member of the NCAA Division I Women’s Golf Committee. “We’re all trying to find out what the rules are and abide by them.”

Welcome to Golfweek.com's comments section.
Please review the posting guidlines here: Golfweek.com Community Guidelines.
All accounts must be verified using Disqus email verification