The NCAA rules committee’s decision on Thursday not to recommend a shot clock for the 2015 season drew a mixed reaction from a pair of area Division I men’s lacrosse coaches.
A shot clock had been a heavily debated topic as players, coaches and fans bemoaned the slower pace of play associated with a game that has been called "the fastest sport on two feet."
But the committee, which met Tuesday through Thursday in Indianapolis, instead suggested by next spring the installation of a visible shot clock for the 30-second warning issued when officials rule that an offense is stalling and not making a concerted effort to attack the net.
"I'm surprised because I did think there had been enough conversation and a lot of proponents for the shot clock," Johns Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala said. "So I am surprised that the committee did not move to a full shot clock given the amount of support there was for it. However, I do believe that they have been very consistent in the way they've done their business.
"The way I see it is, the rules committee has taken gradual steps to implementing things. A year ago, they put in the stall warning and the 30-second clock, but there was no visible clock. This year, they took the next step and put in a visible clock. It seems to me that the next step would then be a visible clock on every possession."
In support of not advocating for a shot clock, the panel argued that a shot clock could actually lead to a more deliberate pace of play by offenses and encourage defenses to settle into zones, which would discourage a quicker tempo and curtail creativity.
“I think everybody is intrigued about a shot clock idea with the benefits being the benefits that we all hope for,” Maryland coach John Tillman said. “But I think the committee had enough concerns that they felt like this was a very significant change, so have we considered everything? I think there was enough there that made them hesitate and I think that’s a group of really bright people and a well-rounded group of people and some of the things that they pointed out are certainly thing I hadn’t thought about.”
The panel proposed that a visible shot clock for the 30-second warning be placed on both ends of the field. If only one clock is available, it must be located in the middle part of the field opposite the benches and preferably elevated. Division I programs must have the clocks installed by 2016, and Division II and III schools are required to display the clocks by 2017.
This past spring, when a 30-second warning was called, the officials had a clock on their belts that they used. After the first 20 seconds, officials would hand-count the final 10 seconds. The recommendation would remove that responsibility from the officials.
"A visible clock will enable everyone to see the start and stop of the clock when stalling is called," Jon Hind, who chairs the rules committee, said in a news release distributed by the NCAA. "We continue to refine and improve the methods used to deter teams from stalling."
In addition to the shot clock, the panel also suggested outlawing winning faceoffs or carrying the ball from faceoffs with the back of the stick. Faceoff specialists may use the back of their sticks to clamp the ball, but the ball must be moved or directed immediately.
"Picking up and carrying the ball on the back of the stick is contrary to the intent of the faceoff," said Hind, who is also the athletics director at Hamilton College in New York. "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."
Pietramala expressed surprise at the proposed change and predicted that the ban would lead to more physical play.
"I think you're going to see more 50-50 ground balls," he said. "It's going to create much more ground ball play, which will create more bang-bang plays. It's also going to create more physical play because the ball is going to be loose. So I don't know if it's a positive impact or a negative impact."
The committee also recommended that only a team in possession of the ball or entitled to possession is permitted to call a timeout prior to restarts within the field of play. The suggestion is designed to give offenses a chance to run plays without giving defenses making substitutions with ease.
The panel also proposed that in plays around the crease, if a player releases the ball before landing in the crease and his feet were grounded prior to the shot, the goal will be allowed.
And defensive players are prohibited from possessing the ball in the defensive half of the field if the ball crosses the midfield line after the offense has cleared the ball unless the ball is the result of a deflection or a save.
Defensive players may bat the ball to a teammate or the offensive side, but possessing the ball will lead to a turnover and a quick restart.
All rules proposals must be approved by the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel, which will discuss the proposals Sept. 10.