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2015 NCAA Faceoff Rules
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2015 NCAA Faceoff Rules Explained and Defined

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Last weekend’s Seatown Classic in Seattle, pitting Team USA against Notre Dame, gave the west coast its first glimpse of the new 2015 NCAA rules, at least as they have been proposed so far.

There are new or updated rules on timeouts, visible shot clocks, centerline over & back and a minor wording change on the crease dive play. But perhaps the most visible changes are on faceoffs, both in mechanics and the allowable moves.

2014 Seatown Classic NCAA Lacrosse faceoff
Team USA’s Brendan Fowler and Notre Dame’s PJ Finley faceoff in the 2014 Seatown Classic.

This game between the Pros and the NCAA finalists would let us see firsthand what impact, if any, these changes would have. Today, we are just focusing on these new 2015 NCAA faceoff rules and mechanics.

There are three categories of changes to the faceoff rules:

  • Administration mechanics
  • Using the back of the stick
  • Contact between crosse and body parts

Veteran officials Steve Miller and Spike Decker flew out from Upstate New York to officiate the game and provide training to local referees concerning the new rules.

So far we’ve found that these changes impact the mechanics for referees probably more than the actual players” said Miller, speaking to the Washington Lacrosse Officials Association.

Miller and Decker had already been working high-end fall ball games and had as much hands-on experience as anyone to date.


Administration Mechanics

2014 Seatown Classic NCAA Lacrosse faceoff
Referees explain the new faceoff rules and procedures to the players before the 2014 Seatown Classic.

To start the faceoff, the referee will hold the ball in his/her hand, and point to the area of the ground where the faceoff is going to occur. The players will get down in position on their own, lining up their sticks with that spot on the ground.

There is no longer a “Down” call from the referee.

Once the players are down, the referee steps in and aligns their sticks, physically grabbing and adjusting them as necessary.

It’s a lot like referring a youth game” remarked Aaron Koransky, a local Washington referee selected as the third member of the Seatown Classic crew, “you adjust their sticks for them to get them aligned properly.

Finally, the referee places the ball between the sticks, calls “Set”, at which point the players cannot move at all. The referee backs out of the play, and blows his/her whistle starting the faceoff.

Another change in the mechanic is that a 2nd referee is positioned close to the faceoff so that there are two sets of eyes in close, watching for infractions.

In the accompanying video, you get a good look at these new mechanics, especially as Miller reaches down and tugs players’ crosses to vertical and parallel.

There are still some things to be worked out, or that will work themselves out over time.

Referee positioning has the potential to be an issue. Current mechanics have two referees in close to observe the faceoff. The referee conducting the faceoff places the ball, and calls “SET” while backing quickly away. Another referee places himself diagonally across the faceoff but close enough to observe infractions.

The referees are getting in the way right now,” reported an East Coast D3 Fogo, who wished to remain anonymous, “so far, it’s been pretty annoying. Maybe as everyone gets more experience things will become more clear.

Since the rule changes are designed to create more faceoff groundballs, wing players will be more involved and will sprinting hard towards the ball. So you’ll have six players crashing towards the ball, two referees trying to get out of the way, but stay close enough to make the calls.

Using the Back of the Stick

By far the most controversial rule change is the prohibition against carrying the ball in the back of the stick.
The NCAA rules memo states:

A faceoff player may still clamp or pinch the ball in the reverse side of his crosse. The difference, with this rule, is that he must move, rake, or direct the ball immediately after gaining control of the ball. . . If a player gains possession on a faceoff in the reverse side of his crosse and fails to move, rake, or direct it (to a teammate or himself) and takes more than one step, a faceoff violation has occurred.

How much this actually affects the “pinch and pop” players remains to be seen. Certainly, the days of running downfield with the ball in the back of the head are over.

Contact between Crosse and Body Parts

The new rule states, in part:

IT IS NOW ILLEGAL FOR A PLAYER TO USE A BODY PART (forearm, elbow, head, etc.) TO INITIATE CONTACT WITH AN OPPONENT’S CROSSE OR HIS OWN CROSSE. On a faceoff, neither player may initiate contact with ANY body part TO the crosses. This rule clarifies the previous wording that stated ON the crosses.

This seems clearly designed to eliminate the protective left elbow that is often thrown to block the opponent’s crosse or stick from contact with yours.

There has been some discussion this fall concerning the implications of the word “Initiate” in the rule, for example what call is made if your forearm knocks your opponents elbow into his own stick. In practice, we didn’t see any of these types of calls in the Seatown Classic, but that’s an admittedly small sample size.

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So what were the effects of the rule changes at the Seatown Classic?

After the game, Team USA’s faceoff aficionado Brendan Fowler offered, “I didn’t have much problem adapting to these rules, good players can play with anything, as long as the rules are the same for both players.

As you can see in the accompanying video, there were a couple of violations where the ball stayed clamped in the back of the head for more than a second, and a procedure was called. Fowler in particular was called for several kicking of the crosse violations.

These all seem like they are good rule changes” Fowler said, “You’ll definitely get the wings more involved in the faceoffs, but overall, I don’t think these changes are that big of a deal.

What is already clear, at least from watching this game, is the era of the 45-second grinding spin battle at midfield is over. So is the “clamp it and wait for a wing to get free before you scoop it to him.”

2014 Seatown Classic NCAA Lacrosse faceoff
Team USA’s CJ Costabile and Brendan Fowler receive pregame coaching on the new NCAA faceoff rules.

Whatever other difficulties arise from these changes seem like they will sort themselves out after fall ball and winter practices, and will probably not be an issue in the regular season.

Referee Miller noticed “With the referee backing out as he calls “SET,” the players were all trying to jump early” and later added, “and they were both leaning their sticks quite a bit, perhaps without a ball there for reference, it’s harder to keep it vertical.

Assuming they are officiated consistently, of course. The average fan in the stands might not even remember the old rule, come June.

Make sure to take a look at the video to see live faceoffs with the new NCAA rules and mechanics in play.

Don’t miss the rest of the great coverage from (Game Recap, Highlights & Photos) and as we celebrate the 2014 Seatown Classic!