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NCAA Releases New Rulebook and Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

This is exciting stuff! Wait. No.

Choking is a violation.
Choking is a violation.
Eric Hartline-US PRESSWIRE

In real life I spend my days reading statutes and regulations, interpreting them for clients and the like. It's a pretty good job; people pay me to be really smart and not totally screw up their existences. The thing about it, though, is that statutes and regulations aren't all that exciting. You can't imagine statutes and regulations fighting dinosaurs while robots whip human slaves into submission in front of knights riding unicorns, shooting lasers at unsuspecting grizzly bears wearing pork pies hats. It's pretty dry stuff, which is why I'm not exactly pumped about the fact that the NCAA recently released the new rulebook for the 2013 season.

I'm sure that there are people that are excited about the new rulebook -- referees for one; people with heavy glasses and no social life for another -- but I'm not one of those people. The rules, as they were originally released, are the rules, and the simple codification of those rules isn't making me want to rush out and get a copy so that I can put my highlighter to good use. There are two things in the codification, though, that I think are somewhat interesting: The points of emphasis on illegal defending tactics and sideline behavior.

Here is the language for both:

Illegal Tactics When Defending (e.g., Cross-check/hold)
Growing concern with certain defensive techniques has led the committee to make the cross-check/hold a point of emphasis. In particular, when a defensive player thrusts the crosse into an offensive player, this is a violation. More stringent enforcement will be supported by the committee in this area.

Sideline Behavior
The committee remains concerned that in some areas inappropriate sideline behavior in NCAA lacrosse contests. The committee asks coaches, players, officials and administrators to conduct themselves in an appropriate and professional manner.

These are, admittedly, only points of emphasis, but I do have some concerns about the implementation of these points of emphasis:

  • What constitutes "inappropriate sideline behavior"? What is "an appropriate and professional manner"? What may fly as acceptable for one referee or program may not fly for another referee or program. Is Maryland's mosh pit acceptable sideline behavior? (I would think so, but what if an opposing coach sees this as "rubbing it in" and complained to an official?) How will this impact some of the -- how should I say? -- "aggressive" coaches in the country (not naming names) that tend to get mouthy with referees? Basically, what's the scope of this point of emphasis and how will it be administered? Are there keywords? Actions? Is this targeted almost exclusively at sidelines mouthing off at each other? This could be an important thing to keep an eye on, especially if there is uneven implementation or if a team loses a game because of it in a questionable manner. I'm assuming that the implementation will be consistent with Rule 5, Section 4: Unsportsmanlike Conduct, but it's unclear given the fact there is a very opaque definition in the point of emphasis on its own.
  • Cross-checking and holding has simply become part of the defensive mentality these days and if a referee wanted to call an infraction on every defensive situation he could. I have no idea how officials are going to address this point of emphasis, simply because of how pervasive it is. There a very clear rules on these violations already on the books -- Rule 5, Section 5: Unnecessary Roughness, Rule 5, Section 11: Cross-Check, and Rule 6, Section 4: Holding, etc. -- but this may be another example of possible difficulty in implementation: How far does a defensive player need to go to draw a referee's ire and will all referees approach this the same way? The problem with this point of emphasis is how far away from the rulebook play has come and now officials are being charged with reeling it all back in. Can you imagine a situation where, say, Johns Hopkins' Phil Castronova gets clipped for a cross-check, Dave Pietramala pops on an official, and the result is two violations on one play due to the new points of emphasis? Fun times.