I am not a collegiate national champion. I have not won a U.S. Amateur Championship. I am not (nor have I yet to be) an elite amateur golfer. Yet I know how Bryson DeChambeau and his SMU teammates must feel regarding his 2015-2016 golf season.
That feeling is a sense of victimization from the NCAA, the supreme reigning empire of collegiate athletics.
Bryson and teammates, I am sorry you must endure this.
DeChambeau, the champion of the 2015 NCAA Championship and August’s U.S. Amateur, is not going to be eligible to defend his NCAA title he earned as a member of the Southern Methodist University golf team.
First, some background. Under SMU’s previous coach Josh Gregory, the men’s golf team had been investigated for “multiple violations involving recruiting and unethical conduct.” Apparently, Gregory had been texting recruits before the open season, along with a few other allegations including reduced price on merchandise and booster contact with recruits.
No-no’s on behalf of Gregory.
Gregory is no longer the coach at SMU, having resigned in 2014 after allegations came to the surface and the turmoil around the Mustangs began growing. But as the sanctions come down, it appears as it is innocent kids paying the penalty.
This is another example of grave injustices at the hands of the NCAA.
Gregory is being punished as well. He is unable to coach in collegiate golf until 2019 and he has not thought ahead to whether or not he will resume coaching. But is the NCAA taking this issue too far, especially considering SMU’s chances at success? Innocent kids paying the price.
I can identify, to some degree, with these athletes.
I played golf for the University of Sioux Falls in South Dakota from the years of 2008-2012. We had some success as the first team in school history to qualify for the NAIA National Championship in 2010-2011. We then went NCAA Division II as a university, including massive changes for the golf program.
In the fall of 2011, I began working at a small level for this company, USGolfTV. I loved golf, they [USGolfTV] were a growing, budding company and it was nice to start planting a foot in the real world, preparing for my life post-college. It was an opportunity to work in the industry and gain knowledge. I was excited.
That excitement came to a fast halt in the spring of 2012– the spring of my senior season– as according to the NCAA, I was using my expertise in golf to benefit in a way prohibited by the governing authorities. I was ineligible, and the spring portion of my senior season was in serious jeopardy.
With the help of my coaches Brett and Jenny Coluccio, and my school’s compliance offers, we were able to put together a plan to rectify the issue and re-submit my eligibility to the NCAA. I was completely at their mercy. My senior season, my final semester was at the discretion of people who didn’t even know me. I was none other than a file and a name on a piece of paper on their desk.
Thankfully, after weeks of deliberation, I was granted my eligibility.
In that spring of 2012, in the final tournament of my college golf career, I won the Drury Invitational. It was a fitting end to my college career and the only win. It was the most-special day in my golf career.
My story ended well, and the NCAA did the right thing. But in the process, I felt small, insignificant and left to the power of the NCAA’s unbeknownst hammer. They could have taken it all away from me, just like they have the Mustang golfers.
As I read about the players on SMU’s golf team, I think back to when I waited in peril during those weeks. It’s a frustratingly, nerve-racking feeling where all control is lost. It was all due to something I was unaware of.
Just like the Mustang golf team.
The NCAA’s penalty was too harsh. To take away their chance to compete in the post-season, considering the status of their top golfer, isn’t serving justice. It’s overreacting to an issue instigated by a different person, who has now since left.
Now what is the answer? I don’t know. Maybe a fine for the university. Take the scholarships. Suspend the coaches. I don’t know the answer. But this can’t be it.
Hang in there, Mustangs.
P.S. Turmoil around SMU athletics is nothing new. How about Larry Brown this year and the basketball team? And remember this?