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Lack of Specificity Still an Issue for New Points of Emphasis

There still isn't much definition around illegal cross-checks, holding, and inappropriate sideline behavior.

Eric Hartline-US PRESSWIRE

I wrote about it last week: The new points of emphasis around "inappropriate sideline behavior" and "illegal tactics while defending" -- pertinently, cross-checking and holding -- seemed like they lacked definition in the recent codification. With a lack of direction inherent in such items, the potential for uneven implementation from officials is a bit of a concern. (Kind of like having an arm growing from your head one morning after you wake up. That level of concern.)

As it turns out, folks associated with these new points of emphasis don't have a great handle on what these points of emphasis should be, either. Zach Babo of Inside Lacrosse sat in on the new rules discussion at the IMLCA Convention and his report, which is based on a video the NCAA produced to highlight prohibited activity, illustrates what could be a big problem in just over a month or so:

Cross Checks and Holds: This is a point of emphasis this year, but the video did little to clear the air. Using clips from previous seasons' games examples of blatant cross checks were highlighted. But the more nuanced calls were left ambiguous — highlighted but not delineated as being legal or illegal according to the new points of emphasis. “Equal pressure” is legal, but a more exact definition of that remains to be clarified, likely leaving it another judgment call.

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Sideline Behavior: Another big point of emphasis this year will be decorum on the sideline. As the game has populated television more, and those broadcasts have become more intimate, some of the ugliness of sideline interaction has become increasingly exposed, and it seems the NCAA wants to nip that in the bud.

“The F-word is out of our game at the first face-off in February,” Kimber said. Language will surely be policed, though without specifics as to who can or can't talk to the ref, what will be considered going over the line, and what particular language is not allowed, other than obviously highlighting the elimination of “the F-word.” Kimber's tone seemed serious and frustrated, as he likely has heard some of the concern over the past two season of the bad impression being made by audible foul language at games and some of the more demonstrative sideline antics as coaches and benches argue with referees.

So, yeah. The NCAA gave officials new charges -- make sure this nonsense stops (or at least try and control it) -- and didn't give them any actionable way to do so in a unified or consistent manner. How can you implement a point of emphasis around what has become ambiguous illegal infractions and then provide ambiguity around how to cut through the ambiguity? That's next-level face-palming; I've dated insane girls that were more direct and understandable than what was detailed from the NCAA.

That general lack of clarification aside, the NCAA did explain a little bit of what it is looking to control in terms of sideline behavior: Officials will be armed with soap this season to wash out the mouths of players that use naughty language. That's fine, I guess; I mean, using F-bombs as commas has kind of gotten out of control. I don't think the NCAA is pushing officials to make players talk like Boston Brahmin at a dinner party, but it's pretty reasonable to ease off some of the especially rough language. What is still unclear, though, is how this will apply in the context of coaches and benches going after referees; "hurt feelings" is pretty subjective, and different officials are going to react differently in these kinds of situations. That's probably not a good thing for some of the more aggressive coaches around the country.