By Cassie Stein, Golfweek
EL PASO, Texas – The Western Refining College All-America Golf Classic has been cemented in men’s college golf history for 39 years. The who's who of college golf have made their way through El Paso every year, and tournament officials plan to continue that tradition – with some changes.
For the first time in 39 years, the tournament will change its dates to either the last weekend of October or the first week of November to comply with the NCAA. The tournament will have to be included in the playing and practice season, in which each school is allotted 144 days to be divided between the fall and spring seasons.
“All coaches assumed that since it was exempt from the playing days, it was also exempt from the practice days and didn’t have to be including in their playing and practice season,” said tournament director Bob Kimble, who has headed the Western Refining College All-America Golf Classic since 2003.
Last year, a compliance officer from a university contacted the NCAA and wanted to clarify the College All-America Golf Classic’s exemption, because compliance faces greater scrutiny.
“The NCAA said that their position was that not only was it exempt from playing days, but the team did have to extend their practice season through our event because it was on the NCAA competition calendar, and they (the universities) would have to extend their practice days,” Kimble said.
Since the tournament and its committee did not want any coaches facing potential NCAA infractions for having a player participate in the tournament, Kimble and his team sent out a letter to all the coaches that were affected to notify them of the NCAA’s position.
This year, the College All-America Golf Classic had to apply for an NCAA waiver asking if the tournament could operate despite schools' not including the Western Refining dates to fit into their practice and playing schedules.
The NCAA approved the waiver and the tournament was exempt, but this was only a one-year waiver. Next year, this event will have to count toward the fall-season dates.
“We fully expect to continue the tradition of the tournament and make sure all the coaches are able to comply with the rules as stated,” Kimble said.
Said Gary Hanson, the College All-America Golf Classic chairman: “It should be a real blessing for us (the change in dates). We’ve become a little disjointed from the overall fall schedule of college events. We fall three or four weeks after the last events, and to be able to get back at the end of the fall tournament season, the players will be still in prime condition and playing at their best, so I think it will be great for all parties concerned."