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New policy could help USF at NCAA Championship

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If 18th-ranked South Florida can reach the NCAA Championship, it may enjoy a significant advantage thanks to a new rule that allows only the host school to practice at the NCAA venue during the season.

The policy, which went into effect Aug. 1, prohibits other coaches and players from practicing at the NCAA finals course in advance of the men's and women's championships.

Violations of this policy could result in team or individual disqualification. 

USF men's coach Steve Bradley, whose school is hosting this year’s championship, said Tuesday at NCAA media day that his squad has already made three trips to Concession Golf Club, with two more visits planned in the next few weeks. (Concession, located in Bradenton, Fla., is about an hour away from USF’s Tampa campus.) The Bulls cannot practice or play there beginning May 12, or 10 days before the start of the women’s championship. 

The Bulls, a three-time winner this season, are already considered a strong contender for one of the eight NCAA match-play spots, but this new rule gives the team even more of an edge. (Note: USF must qualify for the NCAAs by finishing in the top five in its regional tournament.) 

Concession is an unknown to many of the top players and schools. One of the few exceptions is a team like No. 3 Illinois, which has played in the Big Ten Match Play Championship there over the past few years. This year’s event, however, was moved to Hammock Bay in Palm Coast.

The rule may aid USF, but it also helps level the rest of the playing field and ensures that teams don’t have a competitive advantage based on a school’s proximity to Florida or travel budget.

Next year’s impact could be even more pronounced, with the NCAAs at Eugene Country Club, one of Oregon’s home courses.