After postponing a move to add a 60-second shot clock to its game, the NCAA Men's Lacrosse Committee can expect pressure to eliminate the rule change in the coming months.
The nine-person committee, which had voted in July to add a shot clock in the 2001 season, recently elected to delay the change until 2002.
The committee decided that visible shot clocks must be present on the sideline, and discovered that not enough schools had available funds to purchase clocks - which cost about $3,000 - for the start of next season. It also heard some unfavorable reviews from coaches who had begun to experiment with invisible shot clocks at fall practices.
"Can you imagine basketball without a visible shot clock?" said Notre Dame coach Kevin Corrigan, who tried it on the practice field last month. "I can't imagine playing or coaching without it. Every fan, official, player and coach would be worried about how much time is left on the clock with every possession."
The argument over the need for a shot clock, visible or not, promises to intensify, with the vast majority of Division I coaches opposed to the idea. The impetus for a shot clock addition originated in the Division II and III ranks, at schools like Washington College, where committee chairman Bryan Matthews works as the athletic director.
Numerous smaller schools have complained that the game is too slow, with too many inferior teams holding the ball for too long in an effort to compete. Matthews said the committee wants to speed up the game and force more offense into the action.
"There has been no change in our philosophy, but we have changed our timetable. We've still recommend to the [NCAA] management council that shot clocks be mandated," Matthews said. "We just weren't comfortable with the way the mechanics and logistics were falling into place."
Shot clock opponents argue that the new rule will damage the game, for example, by forcing teams to take bad shots purposely to maintain possession. Then there is the hazy definition of what constitutes a shot. The NCAA defines it as "a ball propelled toward the goal by an offensive player in an attempt to score."
Towson coach Tony Seaman recalled a winter meeting among the nation's lacrosse coaches, at which "95 percent of us [Division I coaches] said no, we didn't want a shot clock and we didn't need one.
"But the committee just gave us this rule change and said we hope it works. Unbelievable. Almost all of us [teams] get off shots in 40 to 55 seconds anyway. I'm thrilled to hear the committee took a step back, but a lot of coaches are going to try to convince them not to put in a clock for 2002."
Navy coach Richie Meade praised the NCAA for backing off temporarily on the rule change. He also hopes the committee re-examines the notion of having a shot clock. Meade drew a comparison with the Major Lacrosse League, which uses a 45-second shot clock.
"We're not the MLL, and I hope we never have the MLL in college lacrosse," Meade said. "I like college lacrosse. I don't think running up and down the field just shooting the ball and playing poor defense is good lacrosse."
Added Corrigan: "The only consensus [last winter] was we didn't need a shot clock. I've never heard a player or coach or anyone say we needed one. If it comes down to the whim of nine people in a room, we can invent new games all day long."
Matthews said he is eager to hear from schools, such as Division I Hofstra, which are running fall tournaments with a shot clock.
"We're going to get some great feedback on this in the fall," he said.