The University of Michigan captured its first Big Ten title over the weekend with sophomore Monet Chun setting a new conference scoring record (8-under 205) en route to her first collegiate victory. It was a long-awaited sweep for a Wolverine team that entered the championship at Fox Chapel Golf Club in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, as the No. 1 seed for the first time in program history.
The team that hoists the trophy at the Big Ten Championship, however, isn’t always the same team that wins on paper in the eyes of the NCAA. The conference has long used a 6-count-4 format, which isn’t accepted by the NCAA Division I Women’s Golf Committee.
The official results that are used for rankings purposes actually use the traditional 5-count-4 format. Before the tournament begins, coaches must designate a non-counter for the tournament. On paper, Michigan State won the 2022 Big Ten title by five strokes over Ohio State and Michigan finished third. That’s how it was tabulated in the rankings, too, which play a part in who gets selected to the NCAA postseason.
Augusta head coach Caroline Haase-Hegg, who both played and coached at Purdue, would like to see the cloud of secrecy and doubt that surrounds the Big Ten’s format disappear.
“There’s just something about that asterisk that it always gets skewed,” she said, “that you have to see who actually quote unquote won.”
HISTORY IS MADE!
🏆🏆 2022 B1G CHAMPIONS 🏆🏆
FIRST TIME IN PROGRAM HISTORY!
— Michigan Women's Golf (@UMichWGolf) April 24, 2022
For the past three years the championship was held, the team that took home the trophy at the Big Ten, wasn’t the same team that won in the 5-count-4 format. In 2021, Michigan State won the 6-count-4 format, but Nebraska won the 5-count-4. In 2019, Ohio State won the trophy, but Illinois and Purdue shared the official win. Or unofficial depending on how one looks at it.
How can there be two champions and two scoring systems at the same event?
Even more perplexing is the fact that the men’s Pac 12 Conference Championship has used a 6-count-5 format for decades and the NCAA men’s committee accepts those results, along with several regular-season events that do the same.
Michigan coach Jan Dowling was blown away to learn just recently that a 6-count-5 format is acceptable in men’s college golf. Michigan State coach Stacy Slobodnik-Stoll felt the same, believing it to be a Golfstat software issue until she inquired over the weekend.
The lightbulb went off when Spartan assistant coach Caroline Powers-Ellis learned from her husband, who coaches on the men’s side at MSU, that 6-count-5 is an NCAA recognized format in men’s golf.
Why can’t it the same for the women?
“I would really like the committee to reconsider,” said Dowling, “and would be curious to know why they haven’t in the past.”
Julie Manning, chair of the NCAA Division I Women’s Golf Committee, said that in her five years on the committee, she has yet to see a request from coaches that the rules be changed. The 6-count-4 format has been in place for decades, but Manning said she isn’t aware of why it wouldn’t have been supported in the past.
Big Ten players obviously aren’t told when they’re the designated non-counter. Coaches keep that secret. The whole idea to play six came about to give an additional player an opportunity to compete for a conference title. Now that substitutes are allowed in the postseason, Slobodnik-Stoll believes the 6-count-4 format to be even more helpful in prepping her team.
Part of Dowling’s recruiting message at Michigan was to tell potential players that they could come be part of the first Wolverine team that lifts the Big Ten trophy. For a player like fifth-year senior Ashley Kim, that was on her goal list all five years.
And they did it. The Wolverines have the trophy.
It’s time the NCAA sees it that way, too.