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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

2009 National Convention Wrap-Up



?Overall, I?d say it was a big success,? said GCAA executive director Gregg Grost. ?We?ve gotten a lot of positive feedback and I think everyone liked the December dates and coming out west to Vegas.?

In fact, it was so much so that the GCAA?s National Advisory Board voted to bring the convention back to Las Vegas in 2010 with the similar December dates.

GCAA president Mark Crabtree, head coach at Louisville, reported this year -- the first time this convention has been held this far west -- had ?probably our biggest turnout ever? with 192 coaches in attendance from Divisions I, II, III, NAIA and NJCAA. In addition, there were more than 30 companies represented during the convention?s exhibit night.

Still, Grost expressed some concern in that the GCAA has 592 members and encouraged coaches to urge their fellow coaches to consider attending in the future.

Of the GCAA membership, Grost said, ?There is no reason we shouldn?t have 85-90 percent of all the men?s (college) golf coaches out there as members.?

Also during the general business meeting:

-- Southern Cal coach Chris Zambri was named coach of the U.S. team for the 2010 Palmer Cup to be played June 24-26 in Northern Ireland.

 Zambri is in his fourth year as USC?s men?s head coach and has led the Trojans to the NCAA Championships in each of his first three years.

-- Stanford coach Conrad Ray was elected the GCAA?s third vice-president as Crabtree will step down as president this summer and BYU?s Bruce Brockbank, currently first vice-president will assume the president duties.

Also, Dave Jennings of Central Alabama was re-elected to b the NJCAA representative at-large. Elected as Division I directors were Clemson?s Larry Penley (East), Oklahoma State?s Mike McGraw (Central) and Pepperdine?s John Geiberger (West). Jimmy Stobs of Barry was elected Division II director while Dan Ruyle of Southwestern was elected Division III director.

Over the three days, sessions with the NCAA Division I Men?s Golf Committee, with representatives from the NCAA compliance division, the GCAA?s business meeting and a number of educational seminars, produced discussion, but not much in the line of any major controversy or changes.

First from the NCAA Golf Committee:

During the breakout sessions, the Division I Men?s Golf Committee took questions and asked for feedback on the post-season setup. The committee, chaired by Darren Spease, associate athletic director at Charlotte, got plenty of both.

The session opened with a presentation from Mark Lasch of Golfstat, who explained some proposed changes in his ranking system. Following discussion, input and questions from coaches, the committee said it would continue to look at the current system and proposed changes of the new formula for ranking teams.

Once again in 2010, there were be six regional championships with 75 players at each site -- a total of 81 teams and 45 individuals. The NCAA Championship finals, to be played at The Honors Course just outside Chattanooga, Tenn., will begin with a shotgun start practice round on Monday followed by three days of stroke play competition, after which the individual champion will be crowned.

Like last season, the top eight teams after 54 holes will advance to match play, which will now extend over three days (Friday-Sunday).

Among items discussed were whether to keep the present setup on the third day of stroke play where the top 15 teams tee off first and 16-30 play in the afternoon; how to determine the lineups for match play; and the format for the match play portion.

Coaches were pretty much split on the tee time issue for the third and final round of stroke play, many voicing good arguments for their cause.

As for the match play lineups, the current manner is to go by the season-long Golfstat rankings following the three days of stroke play to determine 1 through 5. Due to weather problems, that could not be done last season at Inverness and the lineups were based on the rankings prior to the NCAA finals.

A number of coaches felt they should be the ones who set their lineups, citing their insight and knowledge of their own players. In a straw vote, 41 coaches felt they should make the lineups while 28 were satisfied with keeping things through the Golfstat rankings.

At the last NCAA, the first in the new format of stroke/match play to determine the champion, the match play portion was conducted in strict match play rules -- you won or lost each hole.

Some want to see more of a medal/match format where you keep your score and at the end low score wins the point. The main object here is that everyone would play a full 18 holes. After much discussion, coaches were pretty much split as to their preference.

While the golf committee said it would take all this input and information and evaluate things, it also make it pretty clear that, at least for 2010, things would remain the same at 2009 as any such changes would have to go through the process of the NCAA committee chains.

The convention opened with a session involving the NCAA Compliance office. Stephen Clar of the NCAA went over a few of the new changes and rule proposals. Pretty much the biggest change will come in Division II where it is being proposed to reduce the maximum days of competition from 24 to 21, which is part of Division II?s ?Life in Balance? package.

Clar was followed by Rachel Newman Baker, who gave an insightful presentation on the recent student-athlete survey regarding sports gambling among collegiate athletes, of which golf was the highest in participation.

She showed charts from the survey, taken in 2008 and a follow-up from one done in 2004, and explained the issues and concerns of the NCAA.

While the survey included things like casino and Internet gambling -- also even a category on investing in the stock market -- the NCAA?s main concern is betting on sports, and in the case of golf would even include say a $2 Nassau bet during practice rounds, which is considered a breach of the rules.

In a brief nutshell, NCAA Bylaw 10.3 does not allow student-athletes -- or coaches -- to be involved in sports pools, Internet sports gambling, fantasy leagues, sports wagering involving ?800? phone numbers or the exchange of information on teams and players.

It is not against the rules for a student-athlete to gamble in a casino or on the Internet as long as it doesn?t involve sports betting. And, as far as those $2 Nassaus, it?s still okay as long as it?s not dune during the official 20 hours of a team?s practice and playing time.

Of note, the largest majority in placing bets are among friend with Nos. 2 and 3 being with bookies, fellow students and those off campus. The most bet on sport -- NFL games.

Obviously, there were plenty of questions and discussion from the coaches and a number of them felt the survey might be a little skewed in various respects.

Then, of course, as one coach put it, golf is and has always been a case of honesty and integrity where players so often call penalties on themselves.

?Maybe,? said the coach, ?the reason golf ranked so high is because golfers are probably more honest than the rest.?

Still, sports gambling is, and will be for some time, a major concern within the NCAA.

It?s the same with the GCAA.

?Our board takes this very seriously and so should all you coaches,? said Mark Crabtree, GCAA president and head coach at Louisville. ?We will continue to work closely with the NCAA on this and move forward with it. We are really going to try to make progress with this issue. The main thing is we have to make all our coaches educate their players and let them know how serious this is and can be for them.?

 There were a few rumblings, but certainly no major quakes Dec. 7-9 at the Golf Coaches Association of America?s annual convention at the Riviera Hotel.