At the start of the week the NCAA announced a set of rules changes for men’s and women’s basketball that will take effect immediately for the 2013-2014 season. Rules changes happen every year and are often met with mixed reactions however this year’s rules changes will likely be met with enthusiasm by most fans who have been calling for these things for years. As someone who officiated high school basketball before I moved to Australia, I have often found myself with differing views on rules and officiating than the average fan. In today’s article I take a look at the rules changes from both the perspective of a fan and that of an official.
The first set of rules changes concern the use of replay in a game. In a move that should please lots of fans, officials will now for the first time be able to use the replay monitor to confirm a shot-clock violation or determine who caused the ball to go out of bounds on a deflection involving multiple players, however this rule only applies in the final two minutes or regulation or overtime. Fans have been calling for an increased use of replay for years and the deflected ball going out of bounds is probably one of the situations where fans have most wanted replay to be used; well it seems the NCAA actually listened to fans for a change and responded. In general I think this new expansion of the replay rules seems like it will be a good thing, both the shot clock violation and deflected ball plays are bang-bang plays that are tough to call in real time and which replay can greatly improve the accuracy of the call. The thing I do not like about this rule is that it only applies in the final two minutes of regulation and overtime. While I understand the need to keep replays from happening too often, this new rule just furthers the mistaken idea that the final minutes of the game are special and should be called differently than other parts of the game. Yes, an incorrect call made in the closing minutes gives the teams less time to respond and overcome that mistake but imagine the following situation: team A is in the middle of a big run early in the second half and has all the momentum and the crowd behind them when team B hits a big three pointer as the shot clock expires only to have the shot waived off due to a shot clock violation that turns out to be in error and which could have been fixed had the officials been able to go replay. Instead of quieting the crowd and disrupting team A’s momentum, team B is still on the wrong side of a scoring run and team A and its fans are probably even more fired up now and have even more momentum on their side; do you think team B would still say that the missed called was less important than one that might occur in the final two minutes?
It is the football offseason and that means it is time for the NCAA rules committee to come up with its annual recommendations for rules changes. This year’s set of recommendations was released this week and has already caused a lot of controversy and discussion. Before I moved to Australia for work last year I was a high school football official in Michigan so in this column I take a look at these proposed changes from an official’s perspective, as well as a fan’s.
The biggest, and by far the most controversial, proposed rule change concerns the rule about targeting of a player above the shoulders. The current rule states that it is a foul when a player target’s and initiates contact to the head or neck of a defenseless opponent with his own helmet, forearm, elbow, or shoulder; the rule also states that if there is doubt in the official’s mind about whether or not it is a foul, then it should be considered a foul. While there is no change to the wording of the rule, the penalty is changed from a 15-yard penalty to a 15-yard penalty and an automatic ejection from the game. This proposed change is obviously based on player safety which has become a major point of emphasis at all levels of football in recent years. Considering the growing evidence about the long term damage caused by repeated blows to the head, even those that do not cause concussions, more does need to be done to cut down on the number of hits to the head that players sustain.