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Why NCAA will move soccer championship match to Monday if BYU beats Santa Clara

NCAA has a long-standing rule to respect BYU’s request to avoid Sunday play, so championship would be moved from Sunday to Monday

Members of the BYU women’s soccer team huddle after game against Missouri on Sept. 11, 2021 at South Field in Provo.
Members of the BYU women’s soccer team huddle after game against Missouri on Sept. 11, 2021 at South Field in Provo. The Cougars will face Santa Clara in the semifinals of the College Cup on Friday.
Ryan Campbell, BYU Photo

If the No. 4 seed BYU women defeat No. 1 seed Santa Clara in the NCAA College Cup (Final Four soccer) semifinal on Friday, they will not play the scheduled title match on Sunday.

Instead, if BYU advances to the final match, the NCAA will move that game to Monday at 5 p.m. in Stevens Stadium in Santa Clara, California.

Again, BYU will not budge on its “No Sunday play.

Again, the NCAA will respect that and make an accommodation.

It’s called cooperation and compromise.

A novel idea.

This is how it has been for most of half a century when BYU is involved — except for a brief burp in 1998.

It is how it will be this weekend if BYU wins Friday, and it is how the NCAA Basketball Tournament Committee handled things last year in the Big Dance when the Cougars qualified for a COVID-19 tournament in Indianapolis.

BYU athletes, coaches, and fans can thank former BYU president Merrill Bateman for the so-called “BYU rule” reinstatement by the NCAA back in 1998 after an NCAA committee voted to ban that 312-decade rule after deciding it was too disruptive.

Bateman spearheaded a movement among other university presidents who objected to the ruling, which had allowed accommodations for schools like BYU and Campbell University that refused to play games on Sundays.

Before 1998 the NCAA had allowed the “BYU rule” to help determine championship dates and exemptions for 35 years.

In the summer of 1998, Bateman was able to get a petition to reverse the ruling with signatories from all Utah’s in-state Division I schools (Utah, Utah State, Weber State), Navy, Air Force and blue-blood powerhouses Georgia, Michigan, Nebraska, Stanford, Texas A&M, plus South Carolina, Baylor and Duke. In all, 99 NCAA member schools got onboard.

Said Bateman at the time, “The NCAA has recognized that colleges and universities should not have to sacrifice athletic opportunities in order to maintain their religious tenets.”

The last significant time this issue cropped up and made headlines was in the 2021 NCAA basketball tournament last spring when the Cougars qualified and plans were in place to switch dates of the East and Mideast Regional if BYU made the Sweet 16.

When this issue came up in May 2016 with the BYU women’s golf team, the NCAA made a change in the NCAA championships, allowing the Cougars to play one of the rounds on a different day to avoid Sunday play. Those scores on that day were then added to the team total at the end.

A few months later, BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe addressed the issue with the Deseret News, and stated:

“People might look at BYU and say, why do they send kids on missions, why do they have an honor code, why do they not play on Sunday? But that’s who we are, that’s what we thrive on, that’s why people come here. The closest thing I can say is that the mission of our athletic department is aligned with the mission of our school, and that makes it easy to keep what matters in focus.”

Does this BYU rule cause some inconvenience to NCAA championships?

Yes.

Does it get under the skin of some presidents, athletic directors and coaches?

Yes.

Does it negatively impact BYU’s seeding, especially in the NCAA basketball tournament? History tells us it does.

Does it have to be a big issue?

No, because it can be accommodated, adjusted, tweaked and worked around with a little thought and consideration.

That’s the conclusion made by the Big 12 this past summer when that Power Five conference’s presidents and chancellors voted to add BYU to that league.

It raised some eyebrows, but it was not the hurdle some thought it might be.

And that’s a good thing — people working together to protect religious beliefs.

Perhaps one of the most publicized cases of a BYU athlete refusing Sunday play was when All-America tackle Eli Herring made it known before the NFL draft back in the 1990s, that if selected, he would not play on Sunday.

It wasn’t a grandstand move, it wasn’t a pious, self-righteous ploy to get attention or notoriety. It was simply a young man deciding that there are some parts of his religious faith he would not comprise because it didn’t feel comfortable to him personally.

Somehow, in today’s world of political division, the rise of out-of-control cancel culture of which our college campuses are not immune, this single simple agreement on the part of the NCAA and BYU and like institutions stands out as something to smile about.

Wrote C.S. Lewis, “A dogmatic belief in objective value is necessary to the very idea of a rule which is not tyranny or an obedience which is not slavery.”

Former NBA coach Larry Brown concluded, “You have to do something in your life that is honorable and not cowardly if you are to live in peace with yourself.”