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Lacrosse Rule Changes For EVERYONE!

So I guess this week is “lacrosse rule change” announcement and discussion week!!!  The NCAA is experimenting with new rules in some of the fall D1 scrimmages, and good ol’ Quint Kessenich is offering up his solutions to speeding up the game over on IL.  Both the NCAA press release and Quint’s think piece were good reads, and the lacrosse nerd in me was fascinated by some of the implications these potential rule changes could have down the line.  Let’s look at this a little deeper…

We’ll start with the NCAA changes since they’re actually going to be used.  We’ll get to Quint’s bright ideas a little later!

The NCAA will try out the following rules for the UMBC – Georgetown scrimmage this Saturday:

1) Horn substitutions only.  Nothing on the fly or non-horn out of bounds situations.

2) 20 seconds over half field to clear, 10 seconds to get into the box. Instead of 30 seconds to clear AND get it in the box.

3) When a team is given the stall warning, a 30 second shot clock begins.

4) Any violating player on a face off must leave the field, creating more 3 on 2 situations.

5) Defensive teams don’t have to start with the ball outside the box on the clear.  It is now a quick restart from the point of the foul.

I’ve always been a proponent of the idea to get rid of sideline horns, and leave everything else in.  So I am insanely interested to see how this plays out.  NO on the fly subs?  That means a middie playing D that creates a turnover HAS to play on offense, unless his coach calls a timeout and make a sub.  I don’t know that this will speed up the game, but it will trap offensive and defensive players on ends of the field they aren’t used to, and this will FORCE middies to be two-way players.  I definitely like that!  And how do you get an LSM off the field after a turnover?

The clearing times could be interesting to see, but it’s not a huge change really.  It just lets teams load their clears up on their defensive end and then dash for the box.  If anything, it actually gives riding teams the opportunity to form a trap between the midline and the box, and we all remember what the trap did for hockey… nothing good.  So I’m not sold on this change yet.  Maybe if they made it 10 seconds and 10 seconds instead of 20 and 10.  If they’re trying to create transition, I think a 10 and 10 would be worth a shot.

I like the concept of the shot clock starting upon the stall warning being given.  I don’t know that the rule is fully tweaked yet, or that 30 seconds is enough time, but you can be sure that teams will not want to be forced into a shot clock…and they DEFINITELY don’t want to face a 30 second shot clock.  This should force teams to press the cage more out of sheer necessity.  This is actually one of the more effective sounding changes to the stall warning that I have heard offered up.  The details are important though.  How is the count handled?  Are any further warnings given, like a 10 second call?

The face off rule sounds like a good one, but I’m not so sure it will come up all that often.  Plus the wording isn’t very clear.  I think it only applies to wing players, and they don’t cause that many violations.  And how long does the 3 on 2 last?  When CAN the infracting team bring a player back on?  This rule may need to be better defined and seen in practice to be judged.

Syracuse University's Jake Moulton flipping the ball out during a faceoff with Army's Sean Reppard.
Face offs are always under a lot of scrutiny

Photo courtesy

The last rule is simple, and I think it will be effective.  When an offensive teams turns the ball over because of a moving pick, etc, the defensive team can pick the ball up and just clear the ball.  They no longer have to take the ball outside the box to restart.  If d-mids are smart, as soon as a whistle is blown, they will fly up the field on the break.  This creates a huge opportunity for heads up play.  Love it.

For the UNC – OSU scrimmage on Sunday in Maryland, there will be a shot clock.  Yes, a shot clock.

In the first half, teams will be required to put a shot on cage within 60 seconds of gaining possession.  In the second half, the shot clock will be increased to 75 seconds after the gaining of possession.  So if your team is on D, and gets a takeaway in the corner, you would have to pick up the ball, clear the ball over midfield, get it into the box AND get a shot on cage… all within 60 seconds.  Seems like a tall order, but I’m interested to see it play out.  75 seems a little more realistic, and it won’t diverge quite as far from what we’re used to, but it may be enough time for coaches to sub off d-mids, get O-mids on and then run their sets.  If that is the case, but the game speed still increases, the shot clock will have done its trick.  If it just results in a lot of sloppy shots and easy saves, it will have to be revisited.  Or coaches will just have to adapt.  All are possible outcomes.

The NCAA has been under a lot of fan pressure to add a shot clock in men’s lacrosse, and it’s not without good reason.  As Quint pointed out in his article, it worked in basketball when the game got slow (I still don’t love the bball to lax analogy when you really look at it), and the MLL uses a shot clock and has proven it can keep the game fast-paced.  I’m glad the NCAA is trying the shot clock out, but the idea still has some MAJOR holes that would need to be addressed before it could be added to the overall college game.  I’ll get into that in a bit.

And now my friends, it’s on to Quint Kessenich’s ideas…

For the most part, I like Quint’s take on things.  And he starts off super strong with Fixing the Sticks.  He wants wider heads, with less ball retention.  Someone in the comments brings up the fact that sticks were narrowed because there were too many turnovers.  Good point.  So let’s just find a happy medium, shall we?  Well, I have the definition for you right here!!!  EVERY head has to be at least as wide as the original Brine Edge.  BOOM.  Done.  Quint is right, I’m a genius, time to move on.  It’s offset, narrow enough, wide enough and perfect for any position.

Ryan Powell playing with a Brine Edge back in the day at Cuse

Quint then goes on to both lose me and keep me with his second point: Shot Clock.  I like the idea of a shot clock a little, and LOVE the idea of a 2-point arc.  I don’t love the shot clock by any means, and I don’t know that the game NEEDS a shot clock, but I think it could be a decent idea.  The problem wit the shot clock however is the cost.  Yes, D1 schools can afford to put in shot clocks.  Do can most D2 and D3 Schools.  So can a lot of the bigger MCLA programs.  But not everyone can.  And that isn’t going to help us Grow The Game one bit.  When there are other options out there, choosing a relatively cost heavy option first (in an already expensive sport) just doesn’t add up.

And what happens when you play a game at a high school that doesn’t have shot clocks?  Or on a field that doesn’t have power?  What if one of the shot clocks breaks?  Do the refs just keep the time themselves with a buzzer?  Does every ref now need a 60 second buzzer?  Can coaches then ask the ref how much time is on the shot clock?  Does a team need to hire someone just to run the shotclocks?  Is that person another ref?  There are just SO many unresolved issues around the shot clock, and with the immediate and recurring expenses they incur, more research MUST be done before they are touted as some magical fix to the perceived slowness of the game.  And this issue goes WAY beyond Quint… a lot of people are clamoring for shot clocks, but they might not be thinking it through all the way.

Will a shot clock get you more shots per game? More QUALITY shots per game?

I really like the two point arc idea.  Someone in the IL comments said that it was a bad idea because kids these days just want to rip and won’t learn any of the other skills if the 2-pointer is an option.  Well, if you’re a coach and one of your players takes three 2-pointers which are all popcorn, bench him.  Don’t blame the rules for bad coaching and playing.  Blame the coaches and players, ok?  I’ve played in tourneys with 2 point arcs and it’s awesome.  This one is a matter of opinion on its own, but I happen to like it.

Quint is absolutely right when he says that the 2-point arc is required with a shot clock however.  Teams will pack it in (and not necessarily in a zone) with a shot clock, so a 2-point arc will help pull them out of the shell a bit.  Good complimentary idea right there, QK!

Quint says to get rid of the sideline substitution horn.  I could kiss him for that.  HUGE proponent of this idea.

No February games according to Quint?  Sounds like a plan to me!  March 1st is early enough thank you very much.  Want to play lacrosse in the winter?  Get your school to put down turf after they cut your hockey team and create an NCAA box lacrosse league.  February lacrosse games are uncalled for.

On his next point, Quint and I couldn’t be further apart.  He says, “Tweak Title IX” by taking football out of the equation because it has no female equivalent.  And while this sounds great in theory for a million different reasons (revenue creating sports vs. non-rev sports included), in practice it is engaging in Separate But Equal style policies and is completely unacceptable, and probably unconstitutional.  Men and women are treated the same, but men also get football, and women get… nothing.  That dog won’t hunt.

But there is a solution that involves football and Title IX!!!! Want to hear it?  Probably not, but I’m going to say it anyway!  REDUCE the number of football scholarships by 30.  NO football team in the country needs 85 guys on full scholarship.  That. Is. Ridiculous.  And even with the 30 scholarship reduction, schools would still have FIFTY-FIVE players on full scholarship.  That’s STILL more players than an NFL team has on its game day roster!!!  Now why Quint can see that college lax rosters are inflated as compared to the MLL, but can’t see that college football rosters are inflated when compared to the NFL is beyond me.  Especially when you consider that he is a sideline reporter for college football…  Oh.  Now I get it.

college football sidliine
EVERY player in this photo plus FIFTY more could be on full scholarship. Crazy.

He goes on to say that the College Championship weekend should host everything EXCEPT the National Championship game, which should be held a week later.  This could work, but why break with a great tradition when thing have been going so well already?  This is one of those, “since it’s already working perfectly, why fix it?” scenarios.  He’s being creative, and I love that, but I’m not on board with this idea.  That weekend is magical.  There, I said it.

Enforce cross checks is his next point.  Good call.  That kind of stuff is out of control.  I’m of the belief that they should either a) call it like it’s written or b) just let guys do it and make it legal.  For now, if you don’t like getting crosschecked?  Wear more pads.

Quint wants to bring the freeze rule into lacrosse on face offs.  If you violate, you have to “freeze” until the other player picks up the ball and the ref blows the whistle for play to resume.  I like the idea, but I am against bringing the “freeze” aspect into men’s lacrosse, because it looks silly, and in the end, wouldn’t actually be effective.  Quint’s gripe with the current situation is that a fogo violates, runs off the field and the team with the ball only gets 2-3 seconds of 6 on 5 break.  Good point.  But by having a player freeze, a team gets maybe 4-7 seconds of 6 on 5 break, and coaches are just not willing to take a risk like that most of the time.  So Quint’s proposed change simply is not drastic enough.

Here’s how the rule should look: If there is a violation on the face off, the player who caused the infraction must get off the field immediately.  A replacement player is not allowed on the field until 15 seconds have passed from play being resumed by the ref’s whistle.  15 second man up starting from midfield for face off violations.  Meaningful, practice-able, consistent and enforceable.  I’m on a roll today.

Quint’s next point is NO recruiting sophomores.  I’m on board 100%.  Kids should have TWO years of HS under their belt before they start getting recruited for college. The current set up only creates a more competitive and hostile recruiting environment where academic priorities are more easily lost.

Improve the NCAA selection process for the tournament is up next.  I like it!!  But I’d also like more transparency about Super PACs, and the BCS.  Let’s put this on a wish list.

His final idea is a High School National Championship.  A bunch of state champs from the hot bed states and then 4 “outsiders”.  Personally, I think a regional play off FIRST and then a National Tournament would be better.  EVERY state that offers the sport gets to enter a team… You want to represent New York?  Well then beat the Class A and B champs too.  Then you’re the champ of NY.   This is Grow The Game 101.  I don’t want to see West Islip playing Farmingdale for the National Championship, even if they were hypothetically the two best teams in the country.  Each state gets one Champ.  Kids from NY and MD don’t need to be babied here.  They can duke it out for state supremacy like everyone else.  Let’s be fair and promote the sport to new areas as well, okay?

Overall, I think that both the NCAA and Quint have some solid ideas on how to change some rules, improve the game, and keep things interesting, skilled, intelligent, athletic AND fast-paced.  Big time fist bump to Quint for sharing with the world, and a high five to the NCAA for experimenting, letting people know they’re experimenting, and seeing what comes of it.  I’ve got my tweaks to their ideas, and I’m sure you have your tweaks to all of our ideas… so let’s hear them!!!!