The constantly changing climate in the world of professional sports has prompted the Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) to return to a competitive environment that will re-open the doors to its national tour to all aspiring professional bowlers.
Changes in competition rules, announced to the PBA membership at the start of the PBA World Series of Bowling, will mean the end of the “exempt tour” concept the PBA has employed since the 2004-05 season and a return to a “non-exempt” Tour program for the 2012-13 season.
“Over the past few years the definition of an PBA Exempt Tour player has changed fairly dramatically,” said PBA Commissioner Tom Clark. “For the current season, the number of exempt players was reduced from an original field of 57 to 49 with only two events (Carmen Salvino Classic and the Pepsi PBA Elite Players Championship) that fit the traditional Exempt Tour model.
“With the goal of setting the PBA on a new trajectory, following discussions with many players and industry leaders, the PBA is announcing a rules change that eliminates the Exempt Player designation beginning next season. All tournaments during the 2012-13 season will be open to all players – as most of them have been the past two years – with the PBA Tournament of Champions and the new PBA Elite Players Championship being the exceptions.”
While competing to earn Exempt Player status is no longer an incentive, earning a high position in the PBA competition points list during the 2011-12 season will still be extremely important. Competition points will determine which players are eligible for the season-ending Dick Weber PBA Playoffs and will also be a major factor in determining the field for the PBA Elite Players Championship, which will consist of players who have won major titles in the two most recent seasons plus players who rank high on the previous season’s points list to round out an exclusive field of 36.
“We have changed the name of this year's Pepsi PBA Exempt Players Championship – which will be part of the PBA World Series of Bowling currently underway in Las Vegas – to reflect the changes. The event will now be named the Pepsi PBA Elite Players Championship, launching a new Elite Players Championship tradition,” Clark said, “and every player in the Pepsi PBA Elite Players Championship will cash.”
In conjunction with the rules changes, the PBA will revive the former Touring 1 and Touring 2 classifications which identified players by the number of events they entered. Those classifications will include specific membership benefits and exposure similar to the Exempt Tour model.
Touring 1 status will be earned by players who bowl 80 percent of the PBA Tour events, including the World Series of Bowling, two additional majors and three Xtra Frame Tour events. Touring 2 status will be earned by those who bowl 60 percent of the Tour schedule including the World Series, one major and one Xtra Frame Tour event. Players also must maintain a minimum average of 190 in PBA Tour competition to retain their eligibility for the following season.
“We hope the rule change concerning the dissolution of the Exempt Player designation and continued focus on the value of the PBA Tour point list will give more opportunities for players to grow as top PBA players and remove any confusion over what being exempt entails,” Clark concluded. “While elite status may be awarded to fewer players, the rewards for achieving that status will have greater value than it has in the past.”