New third division highlights improvements to broaden appeal and strengthen integrity
Click here for FAQs about the USBC Open Championships enhancements
ARLINGTON, Texas – When the United States Bowling Congress Open Championships heads to Las Vegas in 2017, the storied event will have several enhancements, highlighted by a new divisional structure.
The new elements for the event come from recommendations of a task force comprised of tournament participants, volunteer leaders and staff. The task force used surveys of bowlers and historical data from the event to make recommendations to the USBC Board, which approved the new components.
The USBC Open Championships also will have adjustments made to policies concerning professional bowlers, scale-room procedures and announcement of lane conditions.
“We are proud of the process that led to creating the future of the USBC Open Championships,” USBC Executive Director Chad Murphy said. “Our customers have been asking for improvements to this event, so we assembled a diverse task force with significant bowler input and came together with a clear consensus on how to move forward.”
The 2017 tournament will feature a new division called the Standard Division for bowlers with entering averages of 181-209. The Regular Division now will be for bowlers with averages of 210 and above, while the Classified Division remains for bowlers who have averages of 180 and below.
All three divisions will have team, doubles, singles and optional all-events, with combined entering averages being used for team and doubles placement.
“Research and feedback showed the task force that our largest demographic at the Open Championships wanted a better experience,” Murphy said. “The 190- or 200-average league bowler wants to compete against others of similar skill. The current scoring gap between the top and bottom half of the Regular Division is not an ideal peer-to-peer competition.”
The task force also recommended a series of adjustments to improve the integrity and fairness of the Open Championships. Starting in 2017, USBC will not publish the lane patterns until after the event. USBC also will discontinue providing information about lane-play strategies, including BowlTV live streaming of complete games and fixed live webcams at the event.
“The task force unanimously agreed that having access to the lane pattern provides an unquestionable advantage to bowlers with access to modern lane machines and centers closely matching the Open Championships lane surface,” Murphy said. “Success in USBC Championships should be based on the skill of the bowler, not whether you live near the right facility or have the resources to build arsenals to match a pattern. This change moves the keys to success back to shot-making and skill, rather than personal resources.”
Part of the more than 110 years of history and tradition at the Open Championships is a focus on equipment integrity, which includes weighing and checking every bowling ball used on the tournament lanes. In 2017, all equipment will be weighed and checked prior to both team and doubles/singles competition.
The task force also recommended making the Open Championships an event fully open to professional bowlers. In 2017, all professional bowlers will be able to compete, within parameters, and only in the Regular Division. The parameters include limits on the number of Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) and Professional Women’s Bowling Association (PWBA) national title holders who may compete on the same team.
The new rules, policies and procedures do not impact the 2016 tournament at the National Bowling Stadium in Reno, Nevada.
In light of the task force recommendations, USBC is implementing additional policy changes related to entering averages. Starting in 2017, Open Championships participants will be required to use their highest average from the following sources:
- Open Championships tournament average based on most recent 27 games since 2008 adjusted utilizing the USBC Sport Average Adjustment Scale
- Past three seasons of USBC certified league play
- Any league average reported as a Sport or Challenge league will be adjusted utilizing the USBC Sport Average Adjustment Scale
Any bowler found using an average below the player’s ability will be disqualified and subject to suspension charges initiated by USBC under USBC Rule 17a, Grounds for Disciplinary Action – Unfair Tactics.
The new rules will require teams to set rosters 14 days in advance of participation, so tournament staff can have time to evaluate and verify averages.
Effective Jan. 1, 2016, USBC national headquarters employees and Championships tournament staff no longer will be eligible to receive prize money, bracket winnings or awards from USBC national events due to USBC’s conflict-of-interest policy.
Starting in 2017, the USBC Women’s Championships oil pattern also will not be published until after the event concludes.
Visit BOWL.com/OpenChamp for more information on the USBC Open Championships.