August 14, 2014
Winning a face-off by carrying the ball in the back of your stick will be against the rules if today's NCAA recommendations are adopted in September for the 2015 season. (Kevin P. Tucker)
Winning a face-off by carrying the ball in the back of your stick will be against the rules if today's NCAA recommendations are adopted in September for the 2015 season. (Kevin P. Tucker)

NCAA Rules Recommendations: Breakdown and Reaction

by Sean Burns | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

LaxMagazine.com Assistant Editor Jac Coyne contributed to this story

In making its recommendations for rules changes that will be voted upon by a rules oversight panel in early September, the NCAA Men's Lacrosse Rules Committee went for incremental change rather than bold moves, as announced on Thursday afternoon.

Rather than go with a full-on shot clock, the committee recommended keeping the same 30 second 'timer-on' system in place, with an actual clock on the field to show the countdown. A bit more drastic, but still short of what some were hoping, they suggested making picking up and carrying the ball with the back of one's stick a violation, as well as using a body part to initiate contact with an opponent's stick.

There will be an on-field clock for timer-on situations in 2015 if today's recommendations are adopted in September, but not the full shot clock that some fans advocated. (Brian Schneider)

Several other rule changes were suggested, which we'll get into below. As one might expect when anything that alters the fundamental structure of the game is brought about, reaction was mixed.

"I commend the committee, they dissected the issues at hand inside and out," said Bill Tierney, who was in the meetings as a representative of the IMLCA, along with officials representative Tom Abbott. Both were able to participate in the discussion of any suggested changes, but did not have a vote when the decisions were made.

"They had nothing but the best interests of the game in mind. They wound up going conservative, incremental with the changes they suggest, because they didn't want to make a mistake."

Stevenson head coach Paul Cantabene, who wasn't a part of the decision-making process, which will affect all three divisions of NCAA play, was less on board. "It was kind of disappointing not having some kind of shot clock, just because we are leaving so much in officials' hands still," he said. "I think it's the biggest thing coaches complain about: leaving so much up to the officials instead of just letting them officiate the game. We didn't take anything off the officials, we just made a visible shot clock for the timer-on."

John Danowski, head coach of the two-time defending NCAA champion Duke Blue Devils took a even-keeled approach to his reaction. "To me, the game is the game, and whatever the rules are, we'll play by them," he said. "Guys will adjust, guys will figure things out...Until we start practice, nobody knows what the actual effects are going to be,

On social media, there was even more expression of dismay, from face-off specialists feeling another attack on their trade (the last rules update in 2013 took away the 'moto' grip) to fans of high-paced lacrosse believing that a shot clock is the way to speed up the pace of the game, which will lead to more fan-friendly action and provide the ubiquitous 'grow the game' action which all supporters of the sport wish to see continue.

Here's a breakdown of the key recommendations, along with some reaction from Tierney, Danowski, Cantabene as well as Le Moyne (DII) coach Dan Sheehan.

Stall Warning/Shot Clock

Do you agree with the timer-on/shot clock recommendation?
Yes, this improves the existing rule without too drastic a change.
Yes, in that it paves the way to a proper shot clock in 2017 when they meet again.
No, give me a shot clock, or give me death.

View Results

Recommendation: A visible clock be used to time the 30-scond stalling segment in facilities capable of displaying the clocks. Two clocks should be used at either end of the field, however one clock will be allowed, located midfield opposite the benches and elevated when possible. All DI programs will be required to have clocks displayed by 2016, all Division II and III programs by 2017.

Also, stall procedure can be satisfied on the release of the ball rather than crossing the plane of the goal.

What does it Mean: Essentially, it means that the stall ruling will remain at the discretion of the officials, rather than setting up a system with a set amount of time to take a shot such as in Major League Lacrosse, or in NCAA basketball. The only difference is that there will be a visible countdown when in a timer-on situation rather than the officials counting it off themselves. And the last bit means that a shot that goes off before the end of the timer-on doesn't need to be in the net before the clock strikes zero. As long as a shot is off, you're good.

Thoughts from the Coaches

"It surprises me a little bit that they didn't go to a shot clock scenario. I think that the visible shot clock needed to happen, and happen in a hurry. I know we here at Le Moyne are going to make sure that it is in place for the start of this year. It's one of those things where it is appropriate to give folks the time to get the financial side of things in order so they have time to do it right."
-Dan Sheehan

"Going in, I was a shot clock guy, but I was impressed with how [the committee] went about their business – still moving forward and addressing the issues that need to be addressed. The conversation came down to, what are we really looking for? Do we want a shot clock or do we want to find ways to increase the pace of play. It's pretty well understood that a shot clock is beneficial more to the defense than it is the offense. There's plenty of time to be boring and sub if you want to once you cross the line with a 60-second clock.

"With a shot clock, there's a lot of possibility still for coaches to dominate the game... The only time a shot clock would really speed the game up is if you did a 30 second clock from time of possession...I think with a 60 second clock, there's no reason to go to the goal quickly... We've got 50 man rosters and five days a week to practice.

"We don't want to be the MLL... Once you put a shot clock in, do you add a 2-point line?"
-Bill Tierney

Timeout Adjustment and Over-and-Back

Do you agree with the backcourt/timeout recommendation?
Totally, this will make for lots of fast breaks.
Maybe - we'll see how the refs call it.
No, why don't the defenders get a chance to save the ball or re-set on a dead ball?

View Results

Recommendations: When a dead ball occurs and the restart will be in the field of play, only the team in possession or entitled to possession is allowed to call timeout.

AND

When the ball returns to the defensive end after an offensive team has cleared (other than a rebound or deflection), it will result in a turnover. Defenders can bat the ball to keep it in the offensive zone, but if they possess it, it will be a turnover.

What does it mean: I lump these two together because they are related to speeding up the game alongside the shot clock debate. Essentially the latter of the two means that there is a back-court violation in lacrosse now. If you clear the zone and then the ball goes back over the midline, you don't get to re-clear if a defender can pick it up and get the ball back to the attack. It is unclear if that means it will be a whistle immediately once the ball crosses the midline, but ultimately, it will make for more turnovers and transition play.

The timeout call is also designed to speed things up – basically if it's an out of bounds call, the team on defense can't call a timeout the way they can now. So, if a team has a re-start with a chance for a fast break, you can't save yourself by burning a TO to get your defense out there in position.

Thoughts from the Coaches

"I think the back court rule is a chance to make situations where a team can gain a possession, and if the other team can't call a timeout in that split second when you pick it up, that'll lead to fast breaks."
-Tierney

"The way the game is evolving, I think those two [changes] are subtle, not being able to use a timeout and the backcourt. But I think those are going to add more excitement and more transition, and that's a good thing."
-Danowski

Face-Offs

Do you agree with the face-off reccomendations?
Yes, it helps keep a dominant 1-on-1 guy from running the game.
No, if a guy is that good, he deserves the advantage.

View Results

Recommendations: It will be a violation if a player picks up and carries the ball on the back of his stick. Clamping with the back is legal, but it must be moved, raked or directed immediately. It would also be illegal to use a body part to initiate contact with an opponents stick.

What it means: The popular 'clamp and pull the ball out to win the draw to yourself and keep it in your pocket upside-down until you can pass it off with some space' move is gone if this one goes through.

Thoughts from the Coaches

"It was somewhat expected. A lot of the conversation has been that the faceoffs used to be a 3-on-3 scenario, and the last couple of years, it's been one-on-one. I think the [rule modification] is appropriate... as many kids we can keep involved in play, the better off we'll all be."
-Sheehan

"I think it's tough not to have the ball in the back of your stick with the technology now. It's not necessarily a players thing, but a manufacturers thing with how they're made. It will bring more strategy into the game – that part, I like. It will bring back more of an old-school feel where you have to have a top, a rake, a clamp and all these different things. That's more my style of facing off, and how I think it should be taught, so there will be more coaching in the faceoff game. I also like that it seems like there will be a quicker whistle and we're not trying to trick the players."
-Cantabene

"The face-off thing, all the kids are going to have to adjust to, but they'll figure it out."
-Danowski

"If the rules do what the committee hopes they will, it'll create more groundballs and more relying on wing play. I have a sense that these face-off guys are pretty clever and will figure some things out to still make it a face-off guys game, and I'm not sure that's a bad thing. I'd just like to see that if somebody's a specialist, he's a specialist in a good way, not a cheating way."
-Tierney

Return of a partial dive?

Recommendation: In plays around the crease, if a player releases the ball before landing in the crease, the goal shall count, provided his feet are grounded.

What does it mean: I'll have to go in for some clarification here, but doesn't this sound like a player can now land in the crease as long as they don't leave their feet and the ball is out of their stick before they land? It certainly doesn't bring back the high-flying dodge from the wing or X and launch yourself into the goal, but it does give guys in tight a bit more freedom to work an angle without having to avoid the crease at all costs.

Uniform Numbers with Contrast

Recommendation: By the 2016 season, all uniform numbers must clearly contrast the color of the uniform. A white or light-colored uniform must have dark numbers and vice-versa.

What does it mean: No more white uniforms with white numbers with a narrow dark outline. Presumably more for the referees than anyone else, if you've ever tried to watch or cover a game where a team has numbers that nearly match the color of their shirt, you know how frustrating it can be.

The final recommendation was that Bob Scalise, Harvard's athletic director, be named new chair of the committee, which goes through this process every other summer.

Hopefully this helps clarify things a bit, though I expect the debate will drag on as people weigh the war on FOGOs, crease diving and the rest. Let us know if you've got a strong take in the comments, or by tweeting us @LacrosseMag


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