After months of debate and discussion, the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel approved Wednesday afternoon an 80-second visible shot clock in men’s lacrosse for the 2019 season.
The measure was met with widespread support from several Baltimore-area Division I coaches.
“I think it’s a win-win,” Johns Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala said. “I think it’s a really fair compromise.”
Said Navy coach Rick Sowell: “I think it’s a good rule, and I’m looking forward to playing under all these new rules and seeing how it affects our game in the coming years.”
The new regulation gives a team 80 seconds from the time it controls possession of the ball to attempt a shot. A team will have up to 20 seconds to clear the ball over the midfield line, and if the team clears the ball in less than 20 seconds, the additional time would be added to the minimum 60 seconds to take a shot. An over-and-back stipulation — similar to the half-court violation in basketball — will be in effect.
If the offense retains possession off a save or a shot off the goalpost or crossbar, the clock will be reset to 80 seconds. If the 80 seconds expire without the offense taking a shot, the defense will gain possession.
The rule differs from the proposal announced Aug. 10 by the NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Rules Committee that recommended a visible 60-second shot clock after the offense crossed midfield with 20 seconds to clear the ball. The clock would be reset to 60 seconds.
That version stirred up some opposition from coaches who questioned asking officials to manually count down the 20 seconds to clear the ball — the genesis for the term “invisible clock” — and wondered whether the college game should mirror the style and tempo played at the Major League Lacrosse level, which uses a 60-second shot clock.
Willie Scroggs, the NCAA secretary-editor for the rules committee, said the apprehension was heard loud and clear by the committee, which chose to amend the 60-second clock to 80 seconds — a development that was first reported Tuesday by Inside Lacrosse.
“There was some further discussion during the comment period and what we heard from our community, which includes coaches and athletic directors and whatnot, is there really was this desire to have a visible clock all the time,” said Scroggs, who guided North Carolina to NCAA championships in 1981, 1982 and 1986 as the Tar Heels coach. “There was a concern by the coaches more than anybody else that the 20 seconds were being counted down on an invisible clock, that you didn’t see that, and they were concerned about that. They wanted one clock to look at. So we went back and adjusted it mainly on those reasons.”
Sowell, who said he was not in the camp pushing for a shot clock, said he likes that the new rules reward teams that clear the ball quickly by adding time to the shot clock.
“If you get the ball across the midline in 10 seconds, you shouldn’t lose time for clearing the ball faster,” he said. “You should be rewarded with that extra time to do whatever you wanted to do — whether it’s in the transition game or getting into your offense and having that extra time to run your offense. … So I’m glad that the committee made that tweak.”
Pietramala said the Blue Jays practiced clearing the ball against a basic ride within the 20-second window and said they were successful on all but two of about 20 attempts.
“We did feel like that with the personnel we have, we were able to get the ball over in a reasonable amount of time,” he said. “What I did like was we were able to get the ball over fairly quickly and that provided us a little bit more time to sub and get our offense on our field comfortable with running offense comfortably.”
After the 2012 season, the sport introduced a “timer on” rule after stall warnings, in which the offense was given 30 seconds to shoot on goal, the last 10 seconds of which an official counted down. The 2016 season was the first in which Division I programs were required to have a visible shot clock, and Division II and III schools followed a year later.
In addition to Major League Lacrosse, Division I women’s lacrosse programs have been playing with a 90-second possession clock since the 2017 season with Division II and III schools following a year later.
The committee also suggested cutting the 20-yard substitution box in half and re-installing the dive play around the crease.
Not everyone is satisfied, though. While generally in favor of the new rule, Loyola Maryland coach Charley Toomey pointed out that the Patriot League coaches had unanimously voted for a 30-second clock to clear the ball into the offensive box. The box, not the midfield line, had been the standard for a successful clear.
“I’m not a fan of the midline as our clearing line,” he wrote in a text. “I feel it’s a major change to the game’s rules. I think it will be more difficult for the referees than 30 [seconds] into the offensive box [because] the trail official needs to see the ball and clock. All in all, happy to have a visible clock.”
Big Ten Network/ESPN analyst Mark Dixon questioned whether an 80-second reset after a shot is blocked by a goalie or hits the frame of a cage is too long. But the former Johns Hopkins midfielder said the measure approved Wednesday might have the largest amount of supporters.
“We’re going into uncharted territory here with NCAA men’s lacrosse,” he said. “We’ve never had a shot clock before and there are so many questions that need to be answered. Will teams play more zone defense? Will teams still have the time to substitute their specialists into the game? And that’s just two of many. You’re never going to please everybody. That’s the way of the world. Some people are going to love it, and some people are going to hate it, and other people are going to say, ‘Eh, just give me whatever rules I have to work with, and we’ll make it happen.’ ”
The panel also re-installed the dive play in which a player can leave his feet in a direction away from the goal and score if the ball crosses the goal line before he touches the crease. But if the player dives toward the goal, he will receive a one-minute penalty.