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NCAA Mulls Shot Clock for College Lacrosse...Do We Like This?

Virginia came up short last season, falling to Notre Dame in the NCAA Quarterfinals.  That was a bummer.
Virginia came up short last season, falling to Notre Dame in the NCAA Quarterfinals. That was a bummer.

College lacrosse is moving closer to an official announcement of a rule change instituting use of a shot clock. The Rules Committee recommended the change yesterday as part of a list of rules clarifications and alternations. , The Playing Rules Oversight Panel just needs to approve the recommendation, which our friends at College Crosse believe is a done deal.

Here's how it'll work: Currently, when the refs don't see the offense working toward a score, they issue a stall warning, which forbids the team from taking the ball outside a 35 ft by 40 ft box around the goal. Under the new rule, the issuance of a stall warning would start a 30-second countdown; failure to shoot within that time frame would result in a turnover. The NCAA's description of the rule is below. (Note that only a goal, save by goalie, or a ball off the cage resets the 30-second countdown)

1. Officials signal a stall warning and start the 20-second timer.

2. At the end of the 20-second timer, a 10-second hand count is administered by the official closest to the ball. This official has responsibility for the count until a shot is taken or the time expires.

3. During the 30-second period, situations where a shot goes out of bounds and the offensive team maintains possession will be handled in this manner:

a. With more than 10 seconds remaining in the count, the timer continues to run and the procedure continues.

b. If the timer expires before the restart, a 10-second count will be administered beginning on the restart.

c. With less than 10 seconds remaining, the official shall hold the hand count when the whistle blows and continue the count on the restart. For example, if the ball goes out of bounds with eight seconds remaining on the count, that count continues on the restart. The official shall communicate the amount of time remaining on the restart.

4. A shot that hits the goal cage or is saved by the goalkeeper and then possessed by the offensive team nullifies the stall warning and the game continues.

5. In a flag down situation, the shot count will continue until it expires or a shot is taken.

6. Stalling will not be called during a man advantage.

7. If a shot hits a defensive team player other than the goalkeeper, it will not be considered a shot on goal.

The NCAA wants to keep college lacrosse attractive to casual fans, who won't sit in front of their TVs for an afternoon to watch teams play stall ball. This is a big change - is it a good one?

Well, it makes sense. College basketball hasn't always had a shot clock either; now, nobody clammers for the "good ole days" when teams could pass the ball around for large portions of the fourth quarter. Lacrosse is an analogous case; though refs do have the opportunity to issue stall warnings, it hasn't stopped the offense from passing the ball a 1400 square foot area for 5 minutes while fans snooze. The shot clock is just a natural progression of the game, and it makes sense.

Before you cry, "You dirty pacist!" remember, the shot clock often poses a reward to teams for playing defense, forcing a turnover. Additionally, good defense for a few minutes will suffice; as it stands, offenses score off defensive letdowns that occur deep into offensive possessions. Anyways, Virginia lacrosse traditionally plays fast; we aren't in the Tony Bennett camp here.

In fact, Dom Starsia is a long-time advocate of the shot-clock. First of all, he believes it is important to the growth of the game. And secondly, he has a suspicion it will help fast-paced teams like the Cavaliers: "In the Virginia games we don't need a shot clock.[...] I'm afraid the game overall needs a shot clock. Why are we afraid of doing what basketball did 25 years ago by instituting a shot clock and doing other things over the years like putting in a 3-point line and taking away the jump ball?"

So it is a necessary rule that will make stall warnings actually have their prescribed effect and could benefit UVA. What could go wrong? After all, the MLL utilizes a 60 second shot clock on each possession, and look how great it's doi....wait, scratch that.

Strategic changes must be considered. If the offense can no longer stall, the defensive now has an incentive to do so. Expect to see lots of zone defenses, as teams pack it in, preferring to allow long shots and keep the clock ticking. The incentive to step out and force turnovers just won't be there. The intent may be to force the two teams to go at each other and play lacrosse, but it could lead to unintended and opposite effects.

Also, I sense the lack of a countdown clock will annoy fans at least a few times this year. The rules state that officials will use a hand count for the final 10 seconds. Am I missing something? Why is the time remaining top secret? Are we taking lessons from (non-NCAA) soccer?

What does everyone think? What will the proposed (and presumably forthcoming) rule-changes do for the sport and for the Hoos? (Sorry, that's five consecutive questions, oh well).

By the way, there are other proposed rule changes - they are boring and involve restarts, stick grips, substitutions and the like, so go ahead and check 'em out.