(January 4, 2017) -- It happens every year. When the fall season turns to spring, some players have to put their clubs into new golf bags. It has the feel of a mid-season trade, like what we may see in professional sports. But there is no swapping of players here.
NCAA Division I golf allows a player to compete for one school in the fall and then, if released, compete for another in the spring.
Most seasons, this goes by practically unnoticed, unless you follow a particular team that is affected by this. However, this year is not the case.
Last week, Golfweek reported that UCLA freshman Spencer Soosman left UCLA after the fall season and is set to play for Texas this spring. Soosman played in three of the Bruins’ four events and is the best-ranked player on the team at No. 69 in the Golfweek/Sagarin individual rankings.
Looking at the Longhorns’ roster, Soosman appears to be a no-brainer to get into the lineup this spring.
After losing in the championship match to Oregon last year at the NCAA Championship, Texas lost only Beau Hossler from that second-place squad. With Soosman in the lineup, Texas gets better.
This is where the issue starts with most. How can a player compete for two different schools in the same playing season? In a recent Twitter poll with more than 1,100 votes, 70 percent were against this being allowed. Why not have the player sit out the spring and continue with the new team in the next playing season?
Here is the NCAA rule on mid-season transfers:
Pursuant to Bylaw 18.104.22.168, a transfer student from a four-year institution, who has received a waiver of or qualifies for an exception to the transfer residence requirement, is not eligible to compete at the certifying institution during the segment that concludes with the NCAA Championship if the student-athlete has competed during that segment of the same academic year in that sport at the previous four-year institution. In the sport of golf, contests that occur in the fall may be considered for purposes of championship selection in the spring.
However, pursuant to Bylaw 17.11.1, the playing season may consist of two segments in the sport of golf. Because the first segment during the fall semester does not conclude with the NCAA Championship, it becomes, in essence, a non-championship segment. As such, if the previous institution separated their playing season into two segments, and the student-athlete only participated in the non-championship segment during the fall term (i.e., the segment that does not conclude with the NCAA Championship), he or she may participate in competition during the championship segment during the same academic year at the certifying (new) institution.
In recent years, there has been a growing trend of transfers in all college sports. And mid-season transfers in golf is something we are likely to hear more of in the future.
You might hear some say this is another chance for the big schools to get better, but it can – and has – worked both ways.
Ball State made an historic run during the 2012-13 season, reaching its first NCAA Championship. A mid-season addition helped the Cardinals do so. McCormick Clouser left a big conference school in Michigan State halfway through his sophomore season to attend Ball State. Clouser played in six events for the Spartans that fall and then five events for the Cardinals in the spring.
“I am in favor of a kid bettering his situation if he is not comfortable,” Ball State coach Mike Fleck said.
Carter Jenkins was a mid-season transfer during the 2014-15 season, though he went from a mid-major to a highly regarded program, leaving UNC-Greensboro for North Carolina midway through his sophomore season.
While playing for the Spartans, Jenkins was the Freshman of the Year in the Southern Conference and won three times in three semesters of competition. In his junior season for the Tar Heels, he was North Carolina’s No. 1-ranked player. Jenkins skipped his senior year in Chapel Hill to turn pro and play professionally.
“We definitely benefited from a mid-season transfer and it worked well for us, but philosophically I would like to see the rule change to where a player cannot play for two teams in one season,” North Carolina coach Andrew Sapp said.
“I felt that way back then too, but the rules allow for it so we welcomed that player to tee it up that spring.”
Fleck, like many coaches, agrees with Sapp: “I am not sure that this is something we want with our sport.”
Baylor coach Mike McGraw perhaps sums it up the best.
“I have had two or three through the years, but it is rare,” McGraw said. “Because it is within the current rules, I have no problem with a coach taking a mid-year transfer. I do believe, however, that it really leaves a coach high and dry when it happens, so I would be in favor of a rule change that would not allow the player to be eligible to compete until the following fall.”
-Editors Note: Story by Lance Ringler of Golfweek