The Yale men’s golf team is currently under investigation by the NCAA for receiving improper benefits during its annual preseason fundraising trip to Nantucket. Players on the team will likely be required to level the balance by donating money to a charity of their choice, according to men’s golf head coach Colin Sheehan ’97.
For years, the men’s golf program has covered all expenses for the players participating in the two and a half-day trip, including transportation, lodging and the greens fees for one recreational round of golf. The NCAA determined that the coverage of greens fees for all players was a violation of NCAA compliance rules, according to Sheehan. The coverage of all other expenses for incoming freshmen were also ruled to be a violation, as freshmen are not officially student-athletes during the trip.
“The bottom line for everyone on the team is that we understand there was a mix-up, and [the NCAA is] going to do everything that [it] can to help us give back what we owe, either monetarily or with community service,” said captain Will Davenport ’15. “As long as it doesn’t affect our tournament eligibility, that’s the bottom line for us.”
The team’s trip to Nantucket is a fundraiser for the Yale Golf Association, which covers many of the team’s operating costs. Yale alumni from the area promote the event and play the round of golf with the players, Sheehan said.
Sheehan said that the team had initially cleared the trip with Amy Backus, the former Senior Associate Athletics Director for Compliance. But Yale’s current director of compliance, Dan Silverman, determined the trip to be a violation when a person outside of Yale brought it to his attention last week. Silverman is leading Yale’s role in the investigation.
Silverman said that no relevant compliance rules have changed since the team began the annual fundraiser.
“They can attend these fundraisers year round, they can sell raffle tickets, they can travel, they have their expenses covered, but they can’t participate in the golf [without paying greens fees],” Sheehan said. “It wasn’t a competition, just a friendly round.”
The donation required of the players will likely range from 85 to 285 dollars, Sheehan said. Many players on the team plan to donate to the ALS Association, the coach added, as well as the Human Rights Watch and First Tee of Chicago.
Those penalties have not been confirmed, however, as the NCAA has full discretion and is still deliberating. Sheehan said the sums of money may turn out to be less than the amounts currently expected by the team.
“The NCAA office has been good about helping us through this process and making it easier on us,” Davenport said. “Originally we wouldn’t have been eligible to play in a scrimmage this [past] weekend, and they’ve tried to accommodate us as best as they can.”
The team’s main goal is to confirm its eligibility before the annual Doc Gimmler Tournament begins on Friday in New York, according to Davenport.
Though the team has not heard the final result yet, that seems likely as the situation is “completely resolving itself,” Sheehan said.
The team does not know how the ruling will impact a similar trip to Nantucket in the future, but Davenport said that the players will likely fight to maintain the tradition by having the players cover the costs that had been provided improperly in the past.
“It’s a short trip, so it’s affordable, but if you account for all costs, especially in the freshman year, it’s enough money that it requires us to make a decision on whether it’s something that we’ll continue doing,” Davenport said.
Davenport said that news of the violation last Thursday was initially stressful for the team because the players did not know what the magnitude of the penalties would be.
Now confident that the penalty will most likely be a donation, the team is more relaxed.
“Players have done a very good job of leaving it off the golf course,” Davenport said. “Everyone has handled it very maturely.”
The team did seem to be focused during its home scrimmage against Cambridge this past weekend, easily defeating the British squad 16–0. Jonathan Lai ’17 shot a 65 at the event, and Joe Willis ’16 did the same in a team qualifier last week.
Yale placed second at the Ivy League Championship last season, finishing with a national rank of No. 71.