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NCAA Face-Off Rules Changes Coming for 2021

Expected to make the official announcement on Monday, per multiple reports, the NCAA Rule Committee for men’s lacrosse met on Friday to amend and update the rulebook. An emphasis on continued face-off changes seems to have been a major focus of meeting.

From the reaction of players on social media, the two most jarring updates are the removal of the motorcycle grip (both hands oriented on the same side of the shaft, like handlebars) and the ability for a face-off athlete to have either knee on the ground.

A new year means a new set of adjusted lacrosse rules. Similar to past years, the changes this year continue to focus on the face-off. One may wonder, why there is such a continued obsession with critiquing the face-off rules? The only conclusion that this author can think of is that coaches across the board would prefer less lock-ups and less dominant face-off specialists.

I’ve heard the argument made that face-off guys are overly specialized, that they don’t play a big enough role in the settled game, but I ask, why care?

I can list countless players that disprove this way of thinking. My personal favorite is Joe Nardella. I’ve broken down several clips of defenses disrespecting Joe, holding the slide when he enters the box, and then paying for it when Nards finds the back of the net.

My personal opinions aside, the new face-off rule looks to eliminate the “moto grip” and using a knee down stance. Pro lacrosse face-off specialist and instructor of the position Jerry Ragonese was one of the first to weigh in on social media:

Having relied on both of the eliminated techniques at the X I’m torn, but I see the point. Eliminating moto grip and the knee down stance will, in all likelihood, increase the number of loose balls at the X, and limit the number of long tie-ups.

Record-stetting face-off ironman Greg Gurenlian made an interesting observation that there will be an old school feel to 2021 face-offs.

Dozens of young lacrosse players took to social media, calling upon the gurus of the position to come and save the day.

Ragonese was quick to defend a longterm stance on letting accomplished face-off specialists into the conversation, but he’s just another athlete subject rule changes too.

I am in agreement with many of the professional players that the use of PLL face-off rules seems like a logical solution for the college game. John Paul, former Michigan and Atlas boss, and passionate face-off coach tweeted early Friday that the rules for face-offs are too inconsistent across lacrosse levels.

I’m sure that face-off men will adapt and lacrosse will still be amazing to watch, just like I’m sure that next summer we will be discussing another tweak to face-off rules.

The Dive

As for the new crease dive rule, I’m still waiting for the complete details of the rule to come out, but it seems they’ve essentially made it so that if an airborne player is pushed into the crease by a defender and scores there is an automatic no goal, legal or not.

From the start I’ve been a fan of the dive, but I’m not a fan of how hard it is to officiate. We’re asking officials to not only see if a player was pushed, but also where the feet were, the angle of the dive, the location of the player post dive, etc. It’s a lot to handle without video replay.

We either need to simplify the whole dive rule or get rid of it all together, and I don’t think this rule change will do either, but I’m excited to see how it plays out.

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