LAS VEGAS – Nearly every conversation at the recent college golf coaches conventions at Planet Hollywood concerned the future of the NCAA Championships and TV.
College golf is preparing to step onto the biggest stage in the sport’s history. Golf Channel will televise the NCAA Division I Men’s Championship this spring, and the NCAA Division I Women’s Championship will be aired in 2015.
Mike McCarley, Golf Channel’s president, and Tom Knapp, the senior vice president of programming, told coaches that 18 hours of live coverage would occur over three days at each of the championships.
“We want to raise the profile of college golf,” McCarley said, “and college golf is a place we need to make a bigger impact.”
Golf Channel’s coverage will not be limited to the championships, McCarley said. The network is planning to add coverage of the sport throughout the year.
Though being televised might seem to be the ultimate prize for college golf, attendees at the Golf Coaches Association of America and the Women’s Golf Coaches Association events shared other concerns. Although the women have yet to decide on a format for the 2015 NCAAs, the men have a revised one in place. Golf Channel would like to see the women adopt the same format as the men.
This spring at Prairie Dunes in Hutchinson, Kan., the men will compete for six days. Three days of stroke-play qualifying will be used to determine the eight teams that will advance to match play. The fourth day will be an individual-only day, during which the top 40 individuals and ties will play to determine an individual national champion. The fifth and sixth days will feature match play to determine the team champion.
The biggest topic of concern is with the fourth and fifth days. An individual-only day has not been well received by most of the coaches, who want the focus on the team aspect. And the fifth day will require two matches played the same day, which was done in 2009 at the first championship that used match play, but was quickly abandoned.
For the men, this format is locked into place. However, the women have yet to decide. Sure, they all want TV – who wouldn’t? But, most do not want it at the expense of changing the way they have always operated.
Over the past five years, the women have been sitting back, watching the men’s side adapt to match play. In my discussions with many of the women’s coaches, they wanted no part of the constant bickering or tweaking that they have seen on the men’s side. The women think they got it right by playing 72 holes of stroke play to determine the individual and team champions.
However, that will change beginning with the 2015 women’s championship at The Concession Golf Club in Bradenton, Fla. This spring at Tulsa (Okla.) Country Club, the women will continue with 72 holes of stroke play.
The NCAA Division I Women’s Golf Committee will have to decide the 2015 format before the NCAA Championship/Sports Management Cabinet meets in February.
There are two models being examined. The first, dubbed the “4-2 model,” is the one the men will use this spring. The other model (3-3) is the one the men used in each of the past three years: 54 holes over three days to determine eight teams advancing to match play and the individual champion. And then three days of match play to determine the national champion.
“I really hope you give the 4-2 model a shot,” Knapp said while addressing the women’s coaches. “Continuity is important to the viewers.”
Any debate about the championship format is a minimal distraction compared with the reward of a televised national championship. The coaching body simply wanted more freedom with the format choice.
Carol Reep, the NCAA’s associate director for championships, might have summed it up perfectly: “This is not a money maker for the NCAA. This is an opportunity.”