Maryland public schools athletics officials have adopted major changes in several sports for the 2017-18 school year, including adding a 35-second shot clock for boys basketball and expanding the girls and boys lacrosse tournaments from three to four classifications.
The changes were approved by the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association Executive Council and Board of Control last week while attending the annual State Athletic Directors' Conference in Ocean City.
Additional changes include a "mercy rule" for girls and boys basketball to have a running clock when a team leads by 35 points and expanding wrestling's dual meet championships from two to four classifications. In golf, individual awards will be given in two separate classifications rather than just one overall group of top 10 finishers.
Andy Warner, executive director of the MPSSAA, said those are a lot of major changes for one year, but that none of them were controversial.
He said the basketball changes have been considered for a while.
"This is not something that's just crept up recently. This is something the basketball committee has talked about for a little while now," he said. "They even surveyed some of their schools regarding the shot clock for boys and there was a strong majority of coaches who were interested in instituting a shot clock for boys."
Girls basketball in the state public schools has used a 30-second shot clock for about 30 years. The boys Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association and Baltimore Catholic League adopted a 35-second shot clock in 2012.
To Warner, the "mercy rule" is a good addition along with the shot clock.
"In the boys game if you're speeding up the scoring, there is the ability for some games to get out of hand and I think the 'mercy rule' kind of goes hand-in-hand with that in certain instances, because the shot clock would still run and it would help take care of some of those issues where there's a big scoring differential."
Lacrosse has crowned state champions in three classifications rather than the maximum four, because it wasn't offered in as many schools as most other sports.
However, the addition of Prince George's County and its 22 teams this spring brings to about 170 of the 200 MPSSAA schools participating in the sport. Warner said that's about the same as sports such as soccer, football, baseball and softball, which have four classifications.
"It's exciting to see the growth of lacrosse into different areas of the state," Warner said. "We're excited about this expansion. It creates more playoff opportunities. ... You essentially have 32 more schools participating in the second round of the tournament than previously."
Warner said he also hopes the jump from two to four classifications for the wrestling dual meet championships will provide opportunties for more students to compete.
"I really think this might be something to help our smaller schools as well," Warner said. "When you're trying to fill out your 14 weight classes and you really feel there's an opportunity that you can make one of those remaining regional spots, it may encourage coaches to really get into their schools and identify students who could benefit from this type of participation and hopefully, we'll see participation growth as it relates to the team aspect of wrestling."
In golf, teams compete in two classifications, but the individual awards were presented to the top 10 boys and girls finishers overall. Now there will be a boys and girls medalist in each classification with awards presented to the top five boys and girls in each.