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The Shot Clock Debate Comes Down To ONE Thing

Do we need a shot clock? Is it feasible?

This fall the NCAA experimented with some rule changes in a number of Division 1 scrimmages, and one of those changes was the implementation of a shot clock.  Many in the lacrosse world have been clamoring for a shot clock lately, and the movement has certainly gained support in recent years.  The basic idea is that college lacrosse (specifically at the D1 level) has become too slow, and too much of a coaches’ game, and that a shot clock would fix this perceived problem.

The merits of the shot clock purely as they relate to the style of play on the field can be debated until the Purple Cows come home, and neither side will ever be 100% correct.  It could certainly speed up the game, but it could also force teams to take bad shots, and that could actually lower scoring.  Quint Kessenich says that a shot clock also requires a 2-point arc to keep teams from just packing it in on D, and he might be right, and he might not.  That debate will continue through the day we see it in action and on a regular basis.

But whether or not a shot clock will work, or if it requires a 2-point arc shouldn’t even be discussed yet!

First we need to find out if it is feasible financially.  This simply HAS to be STEP 1.  But why can’t we just play around with it now, and then figure out exactly how it will be done later?  Because if it turns out that teams NEED visible shot clocks, ALL of that effort would be wasted, because visible shot clocks are not feasible.

In my opinion (and in Jac Coyne’s opinion) physical, visible shot clocks, like you would see at a basketball court, present a huge obstacle: they are expensive.  For the D1 teams this probably isn’t a big deal, but as Jac points out, when D1 adopts a rule, so does D2, D3 and the MCLA.  So the question should be looked at from a wider perspective than just the D1 lacrosse.  In the end, lacrosse is already an extremely expensive sport.  Adding an additional cost and technological responsibility does not speak to the true nature or goal of college athletics, and this is especially true of a sport like lacrosse, whereas it may not be as true of basketball or football, where teams can actually generate revenue.  But Jac goes into all that, and he kills it.

Tack on the fact that spending more money on Men’s Lacrosse does NOTHING to help our sport with Title IX.  So let’s nip that idea in the bud right now.  Physical, visible shot clocks should be a non-starter.  We need to find solutions that don’t require more money.  Haven’t we learned anything from the US economy?

However, that doesn’t mean that the shot clock couldn’t still work.

If the refs kept the time with a simple buzzer, like they do for clears, it could work.  Teams would need to get used to playing for shots within 60 or 75 seconds of a turnover, and clearing clocks would also disappear. It would take teams some time to adjust to this change, but it would be an adjustment people could definitely make.  And we would definitely see a whole new set of strategies brought into the game.

This would also allow refs to still keep the time, no new costs would be added on (other than outfitting each ref with a new buzzer, but that’s better than buying all new shot clocks!), and teams would still be responsible to manage their own invisible clock, just like they do now during a clear.  NO one would have more responsibility, NO one would have less, and the shot clock could still be used.  Anytime there is a turnover,  the ref clicks his buzzer to reset.  75 second shot clock is on.

And now we can start talking about that two point line again…

But until the people in charge (NCAA & Division 1 Coaches) decide on HOW the shot clock would be installed with no additional costs, there is almost no point in even experimenting with it.  Even if, according to IL, people seemed to love it.  Of course not all the reviews were positive.

The bottom line is that the sport of lacrosse is exploding right now, and while I want to make sure that the product on the field is enjoyable to play and watch, I don’t want to rush into something expensive just yet, especially when there are so many less cost-heavy options out there.  Like Jac Coyne, I just hope the NCAA and Division 1 lacrosse thinks about the rest of the people who play the game when the changes finally do come.