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NCAA Rules Committee Releases Recommendations; Visual Clocks Proposed

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Right now these are proposals, but they are the proposals on the table for a mid-September vote.

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

There were two big questions entering this week's meeting of the NCAA lacrosse rules committee:

  1. Would the committee do anything regarding a shot clock?
  2. Would the committee do anything about faceoff play?

In the end, the answer to the first question is "Sort of!" and the response to the second is "Yuppers!"

The NCAA's full release on the rules committee's proposals -- these proposals will go to the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel for a vote on September 10, 2014 -- detail both the proposed changes that the committee is recommending and some insight into the thought processes that drove the committee's endorsements. The proposals cover a lot of ground -- from both stalling procedures to faceoff tweaks to timeout utilization to how uniforms should look -- and illustrate a measured reaction from a committee operating under a high level of scrutiny from coaches, players, media, and fans.

Shot Clock

The lede in the NCAA's release is built almost exclusively on laying the foundation for the committee's recommendation on stalling postures:

The NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Rules Committee recommended several changes to its stalling rules and faceoff tactics Thursday.

The committee, which met Aug. 12-14 in Indianapolis, recommended a visible clock be used to time the 30-second stalling segment in facilities capable of displaying the clocks. That change would take effect in spring 2015.

It also recommended that two clocks be used at either end of the field; the use of one clock, however, will still be allowed. When one clock is used, it should be located midfield opposite the benches and elevated if possible, the committee recommends.

All Division I men’s lacrosse programs will be required to have the clocks displayed by the 2016 season, and Division II and Division III will be required to have visible clocks by the 2017 season.

All rules proposals must be approved by the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel, which will discuss the men’s lacrosse rules proposals Sept. 10.

If the proposals are approved and a facility is not capable of displaying a separate clock or clocks when a stall warning is called, officials will use the game clock to manage the 30-second countdown for the offensive team to take a shot on goal.

If the offense does not take a shot on goal before the 30-second countdown expires, officials will award possession to the other team. If the committee’s recommendation is approved, officials would no longer use a 20-second timer and make a hand count in the final 10 seconds of the stall procedure. Additionally, the 30-second period would start and stop in sync with the game clock.

"A visible clock will enable everyone to see the start and stop of the clock when stalling is called," said Jon Hind, committee chair and director of athletics at Hamilton College in New York. "We continue to refine and improve the methods used to deter teams from stalling."

The disappearance of the invisible shot clock -- if that's even a possibility under the law of physics -- is likely a universally welcomed change to the current system. While the 2015 season may not feature the totality of Division I offering a shot clock after officials call for a stalling posture, it will permeate the entirety of the cohort by the 2016 season. This recommendation obviously erases the possibility of a pure shot clock in the college game over the next two seasons and still puts the onus of recognizing stalling postures on the officials, but it is a measured step that balances the financial responsibilities of programs while also attempting to control the various impacts -- both positive and negative -- of a hard shot clock.

In fact, the committee was identifiably concerned about the impact of a pure shot clock on every possession, providing five bullet points that drove the conversation about the implementation of a hard clock. Among those points were concerns about impact to style of play, the potential impact on pace of play, and whether a pure shot clock would heavily promote packed-in zone defenses that could suffocate the game.

It's a half-step toward something that could come into fruition starting with the 2017 season, but it does show pragmatism in a situation where unintended consequences could sully the goals that a pure shot clock is intended to achieve.

Faceoffs

This is either going to cause people to throw a temper tantrum or cry out in unmitigated joy:

Under the proposal, a violation would be called if a player picks up or carries the ball on the back of his stick. It would still be illegal to clamp the ball with the back of the stick, but the ball must be moved, raked or directed immediately.

"Picking up and carrying the ball on the back of the stick is contrary to the intent of the faceoff," Hind said. "Faceoffs continue to be an important part of the game, but the committee feels that some of the current tactics being used are contrary to the spirit of the rule."

It would also be illegal to use a body part (forearm, elbow, head, etc.) to initiate contact with an opponent’s stick. It remains illegal to kick or step on an opponent’s stick.

Big Faceoff -- the official lobby for faceoff specialists -- threw a fit in the last rules recommendation cycle about the potential abolishment of the motorcycle grip, eventually getting that proposal removed from the committee's initial proposals. It's not unreasonable to believe that the same cats are going to start unleashing their rhetoric in the near future (if it isn't happening already).

Other Stuff

It's somewhat odd that the committee's other recommendations are as interesting as the big ticket items that the committee proposed. There are four important ones:

  • Change to allowing goals/stall procedure to be satisfied on the release of the ball instead of the ball crossing the plane of the goal line.
  • By the 2016 season, all uniform numbers must clearly contrast the color of the uniform. A white or light-colored uniform must have dark colored numbers; a dark-colored uniform must have light-colored number.
  • When the ball returns to the defensive half after the offensive team has cleared the ball (other than a deflection or rebounded shot), this will result in a turnover and quick restart instead of a stall procedure or clearing clock. Defensive players may bat the ball to keep it in the offensive half, but if a defender possesses the ball from the defensive half, it is a violation.
  • 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.

I never understood the goal-must-be-across-the-goal-line rule for timing purposes. How the hell could that be easily officiated or recognized by players, even with television review? The adjustment to that rule -- it'll apply in end-of-period situations and shot clock scenarios -- makes more sense, tying the timing consideration to the release of the bean. The turnover provision relating to the ball crossing midfield after possession has been established in the box is a smart proposal that could create some bonkers transition opportunities on quick restarts seeking unsettled chances. As for the contrasting numbers requirement: Praise Allah! I only wish the committee had gone even further and required all jerseys to have sleeves.

That's all that I got. The comments are yours to uncork your feelings.