The NCAA decision allowing tournament play on Sundays won't affect BYU's policies, the Mormon church-owned school says, but it may hamper its recruiting of athletes.
Beginning with the 1998-99 seasons, the National Collegiate Athletic Association will allow championship events to be on Sundays in any sport.The NCAA on Wednesday eliminated the 35-year-old rule, known as the "BYU Rule" that banned Sunday play in most postseason tournaments.
"The board is sensitive to the interests of those schools that have policy prohibiting Sunday competition. Those are legitimate institutional issues," said Syracuse University President Kenneth Shaw, the NCAA board chairman. "However, to single out Sunday as the only day of accommodation ignores the interests of other schools and places a difficult burden on the management of championships competition and the academic best interests of other student-athletes."
BYU and Campbell University, a Baptist school in North Carolina, are the only Division I institutions that forbid their athletes from competing on Sunday.
"This decision will have no effect on BYU's policies against Sunday competition," said BYU Athletic Director Rondo Fehlberg.
BYU has the right to appeal the rule change. "We are reviewing all of our options," said Fehlberg.
In an interview previously, Fehlberg said: "It will have quite a profound impact on all our teams, potentially. We're realistic about it, too. There's been a fairly systematic erosion of playing on Sunday in general. We have to be prepared to accept that. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out what's going on with the restructuring of the NCAA. . . .
"For now, it will have no impact on football and men's basketball," he added. "There is such a lucrative detente between the NCAA and the NFL and NBA. It serves the NCAA's self-interest not to play on Sunday (in those sports). Remember, we're talking about NCAA championships only."
BYU's golf team could be affected as early as next year, the soonest the NCAA golf championships could include Sunday play.
"It just sickens me," said BYU golf coach Bruce Brockbank. "It's really disappointing."
The BYU golf team has usually had several non-Mormons on its squad and some of those players may go elsewhere if they can't compete for the national championship.
"It's going to take a unique individual to come in here and say `I want to play for BYU no matter what,' " said Brockbank.
"That's the only tournament that's important all year," said freshman Billy Harvey. "If it came down to where they did it on Sunday every time, I don't know what I'd do."
Johnny Miller, who played for BYU in the 1960s, says the ruling "won't affect the Miller boys" referring to his sons Andy, the reigning WAC champion, Todd, who will join the team next year, and Scott, who will return from an LDS mission next year. But Miller doesn't necessarily believe the NCAA will start playing its tournament on a Sunday.
"I just can't imagine the NCAA (playing on Sunday)," he said. "It makes them look bad if they exclude somebody."
Tennis, track and field, and baseball also could be affected.
"The discouraging aspect of this is that BYU will have teams that will qualify for postseason competition and may not be able to play," said BYU President Merrill J. Bateman.
And that would be exactly the case. "If one of our athletes gets through the qualifying heats to make the finals, and if the finals are held on a Sunday, he won't compete in the finals," said BYU men's track coach Willard Hirschi.
Baseball and men's and women's basketball already have Sunday competition in regional tournaments, but those sports have always made bracketing and scheduling allowances for qualifying BYU teams.
Hirschi said track athletes view the NCAA meet differently than golfers do. "One meet isn't that significant for our athletes. It would not be that big of a deal for our international athletes, and for our LDS athletes, it comes down to `Choose you this day whom ye will serve.' "
At least, the Cougars apparently will not have to worry about their own conference scheduling them into Sunday conflicts.
"Even though it has not been addressed, I'd anticipate we would continue to honor BYU's policy," said WAC Commissioner Karl Benson.