Remember that time you were arguing with your friend about the pace of college lacrosse games and how they've become mind-numbingly slow? Yes, of course you do. That time was called "all the damn time." In fact, you're arguing about it right now. Good thing you're reading this website right at this very moment.
Personally, I wasn't 100 percent positive that college lacrosse games had slowed down significantly over the last few years. My uncertainty was based on the following positions:
- People that complain about how things are now and how they used to be are part-believable and part-batshit nuts. The talking-out-of-your-ass quotient was potentially through the roof on this one because . . .
- . . . nobody other than me collects possession data. So, my skepticism as to whether these affirmations about pace were accurate was grounded in the fact that I wanted to get my arms around hard, actual statistical information before coming to a conclusion.
I sat down and collected data going back to 2009 (anything beyond 2009 is difficult to completely aggregate). As it turns out, everyone was right: The game is being played at an almost leisurely pace. It's slow-pitch softball-like in tempo. Now, we should be careful with this information -- it's only a three-year picture -- but it is enough to show that Princeton and everyone else that hates running is grinding college lacrosse into the ground.
* "Tempo" means total possessions per game.
Here's some additional information thoughts:
- In 2009, 31 of the 59 Division I teams played below the national pace average for the respective year.
- In 2010, 45 of the 60 teams playing in Division I played at a tempo below the 2009 national pace average. In 2010, 31 teams played below the national pace average for the respective year.
- In 2011, 46 of the 61 teams playing in Division I played at a tempo below the 2009 national pace average. 39 of the 61 teams playing in Division I played at a tempo below the 2010 national pace average. In totem, 29 teams played below the national pace average for the respetive year.
- The national average has lost just about two possessions per 60 minutes of game each year since 2009. I'm not sure what this is a function of other than assuming that teams are adopting a "monkey see, monkey do" approach.
- Look at the slowest of the slow in 2011. That is appalling. In fact, there are a total of 13 (!) teams in 2011 -- the five listed above plus Towson, Pennsylvania, Hofstra, St. Joseph's, Lafayette, Rutgers, Loyola, and Fairfield -- that are playing slower than Princeton did in 2010 (the runaway slowest team in that year).
- Teams that play slow are playing even slower each year, dragging the national average into the tank. What's worse, more and more teams are going to this style which is creating a tempo anchor among Division I.
I don't know what the answers are to resolve this. You can't hit potential resolution items -- instituting a shot clock, restricting substitution activity, outlawing particularly offensive and defensive strategies like the zone defense, limiting the number of long-sticks on the field, etc. -- until you ask an important question first: Should this game be a coaches game or a player's game?
Once you answer that question, I think you can start discussing resolution items. Regardless, the college game is stuck in the mud and it's only going to get worse in 2012.