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NCAA mulling temporary relief waiver, which could mean cutting D-I golf programs

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Is college golf on the chopping block?

In a recent letter sent to NCAA president Mark Emmert, commissioners from the Group of 5 and 22 other non-Power 5 Division I conferences asked for emergency legislative relief to reduce or waive several Division I membership requirements, including the minimum number of sports a school must sponsor.

If approved, non-revenue sports such as men’s and women’s golf figure to be affected most.

“In order to provide NCAA Division I institutions flexibility in addressing the challenges for the foreseeable future, we request temporary relief from several regulatory requirements for a period of up to four years,” the letter read. “A blanket waiver for relief will provide institutions the ability to make prudent and necessary decisions for the financial well-being of the institution.”

The letter comes as schools across the board deal with loss of revenue and budget cuts. The COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of March Madness and the remainder of the NCAA’s spring calendar, and this fall’s college football season could also be affected.

Currently, the NCAA requires Division I schools to field at least 16 varsity sports. The Group of 5, which consists of the American Athletic Conference, Mountain West Conference, Mid-American Conference, Sun Belt Conference and Conference USA, is asking for a four-year waiver from these requirements. The other 22 conferences agree that a two-year exemption with an option up to four years is a better route.

“Nobody wants to cut sports,” Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson told ESPN. “There's the conspiracy theorists who say, 'Oh, this is the opportunity they've been looking for. They've been trying to cut that.' I don't believe that's really the case. If you have to sponsor 16 sports to maintain FBS Division I status, could that number be 14? That's not the intent, though. The intent is to at least sponsor what we're sponsoring now, but maybe not at the same levels required by the NCAA legislation.”

The Power 5s were not part of the request, though they would be subject to new requirements if the waiver is approved.

The NCAA Division I Council plans to meet later this week to discuss the matter, but a vote is not expected during that video conference.

Meanwhile, the Golf Coaches Association of America has joined other non-revenue coaches’ organizations in writing a letter to the NCAA on Wednesday.

“If this waiver passes, it would mean the potential for fewer teams, fewer scholarships and fewer opportunities for student athletes competing in Olympic and non-revenue producing sports,” wrote Gregg Grost, CEO of the GCAA, in an email sent to golf coaches and “The GCAA strongly opposes this drastic measure and has signed off on a letter with other coaches associations that was sent to NCAA President Mark Emmert today.”

The letter included: “The economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic places a lasting burden on both higher education and intercollegiate athletics alike, but slashing opportunities for students is not the solution.”

Click here to read the entire letter.

There are currently 292 men’s and 261 women’s golf programs in Division I.