Former Maryland Terp and Chesapeake Bayhawk, Ian Healy ’05, has been inspired to write a Jerry Maguire-esque mission statement about the state of lacrosse. More specifically, Healy dives deeper to unravel the new proposed NCAA Lacrosse rule changes.
Shot/Clock and Timing Changes:
Good intentions here, but the implementation is overly complicated. This puts a tremendous burden on officials to keep track of a lot of variables. I believe that a longer duration shot clock (60 seconds or more) from the time a team gains possession or gains the offensive half makes a great deal more sense and would be much easier on the officials. The rules as they stand are overly complicated. As the rule changes will be eventually adopted by high schools, the NCAA committee needs to consider the impact this will have across the board, not just on the college game. Lacrosse is extremely hard to officiate and this will only compound it. The restart rule is a good idea, this will speed up the game and is EASY to implement. Ultimately I think the committee has the right idea, but did not think it through well enough. Simplify the process so it’s easier on fans watching the game and refs officiating it.
I couldn’t believe what I was reading when I went through these rule changes. The proposed changes are completely idiotic, and in my mind, demonstrate the rule committee has a fundamental disconnect with the modern game of lacrosse, particularly the technology involved and the ripple effect rule changes have throughout various levels of lacrosse. Coach Hind indicated that the intent of these changes is to make it harder to carry the ball, but these massive changes would only be partially successful in that.
Shooting String Rule – complete asinine, poorly thought out, hard to officiate, and ultimately only going to inspire resentment within the college ranks and beyond. The intent here must be to limit the amount of hold a player has on the ball, however clearly the committee has a poor understanding of how sticks work.
Thought 1: You can still have a ridiculous amount of hold with only horizontal shooters; in fact, with this change, many sticks might end up with more “whip” type snagging of the ball at the top of the stick. The U and V shooters often serve as effective gradual steps for the ball coming out of the stick and they channel the ball effectively along a tighter line, not as major hold increasers. The 90 degree test already exists to make sure the hold isn’t too severe. Without the ability to provide a gradual progression of tension in the shooters and a tight release channel, players will have sticks that are more inconsistent in their releases.
Thought 2: Pockets break in and stretch with use. This means that when initially strung, a shooter might conform to this absurd rule, however after some break in time or in wet weather, a shooter might find itself beyond the 3.5” line. Furthermore, how exactly is this measured? Are refs going to pull the mesh taught and measure then? Are they going to just stick a ruler in the stick and try to eyeball the alignments of 3.5” with shooters in the stick? This would be extremely difficult to officiate well. Think about this in conjunction with my earlier observations about officiating lacrosse.
Thought 3: This rule reeks of “the good old days” logic. I feel the committee was a little too nostalgic in thinking about the way things used to be in constructing this rule. The days of laser high walls with 5-diamond traditional and horizontal shooters are over. This is not a problem, the game is evolving, and the committee should be looking to embrace the explosive nature of the modern lacrosse athlete, not impede him with ridiculous rules.
The Ball in the Back of the Crosse Rule – Words cannot easily express how stupid this is. In lieu of going on a major rant I’ll simply provide an example: late in a game, Billy the attackman scores a big goal (game tying, winning, etc,). The refs check his stick and the ball doesn’t fall out of the back of his head under this test. His stick is ruled illegal, the goal is taken away. His team ends up losing. Good job, committee, you have now taken something away from a player and a team because his head didn’t pass a test for something he would NEVER do in a game (he is an attackman). This rule chance is idiotic, ill-
conceived, and the entire committee should be embarrassed that it was proposed.
Other Thoughts on Sticks – Keep in mind the ripple effect, stringing from the college level down will have to change if these rules were put in effect. That’s years of refining stringing techniques thrown out the window, because the committee is unhappy that people have such easy carrying the ball. Oh, and since leather/traditional/hybrid sticks aren’t addressed (only shooting strings), people will be able to string sticks with monumental hold and channels, they’ll just be in a different style than before (pita pocket as opposed to mesh with Us and Vs). It will just be harder for people to string, more time consuming, and engender a lot of hatred toward the rules committee, and have to be addressed with future idiotic rules. One of the great things about modern equipment is that you can string up and break in a mesh head quickly and be back to being comfortable with your stick in a hurry. This is a HUGE positive that is in jeopardy under these rule changes.
Furthermore, they left alone head dimensions, offset, and pocket depth; so, a player can still have a big old bag and run through traffic while holding his stick vertically. So at the cost of telling thousands of people the way they have learned to string is wrong and illegal, teams potentially losing games because of a head being illegal in a way that has nothing to do with the game, and pissing off lots of people involved with the sport, these rule changes would effectively… make it a little harder to toe- drag or box fake?
Faceoffs – I agree with what was written by my college teammate and FOGO, David Tamberrino. He dissects these ridiculous changes.
Eliminating the horn may make sense, although it will impact the specialization of players (there are arguments for and against this). I do like the idea of keeping games moving. Doubling the size of the box is a MAJOR change, would like to see how it works in practice before we commit to it. Could be very interesting in conjunction with the addition of a shot clock and the elimination of the horn, but it’s hard to say without seeing it at work. The cross-check hold isn’t actually in the rule book right now, so how it is a point of emphasis is somewhat confusing to me?
The proposed rule changes are monumental, and frankly, poorly thought out. The committee should focus first on incremental change and address what is the biggest problem in the game right now: pacing. The MLL has a functional model for keeping the pace of the game fast: a simple shot clock that is easy to officiate. The NCAA solution should be identical or similar, because it has been tested over the course of a decade. Beyond that, the committee should be focused on what is best for the game as a spectator sport moving forward.
Today’s lacrosse is not the lacrosse of the mid 90s and earlier. The equipment has changed. The athletes have changed. The coaching has changed. The guys playing the game now are bigger, faster, stronger, and better than ever before. It is a sight to see when a great player slices his way through a slide and buries a goal. It is not nearly as interesting to watch an errant pass, goal retracted due to illegality, or penalties on faceoffs.
The stick rule changes are aimed at making it easier to dislodge a ball from an offensive player’s stick and I would ask the committee… WHY? Do we really want more loose balls? Do we really want to make it more difficult to make great individual plays? I would say categorically NO. It’s 2012 and lacrosse wants to become an even more watched spectator sport. The answer to being more appealing on TV and as a live sport is not to handicap great athletes carrying the ball. I frankly think that the NCAA is headed in completely the wrong direction with the rule changes. Instead of looking at how to “return the game to its roots,” the committee should be looking at how to make the game even more exciting to play and WATCH.
Again, I think cues should be taken from the MLL here. Allow cross checking on the ball as long as it isn’t to the head or neck area. Then the ambitious offensive players who go hard to the cage can be dealt with without employing dangerous and illegal techniques. Cross checking is legal in the MLL ranks and in indoor lacrosse and the games aren’t unnecessarily dangerous because of it. A legal cross-check will invite more physicality, but not dangerous head shots into the game. It will continue to allow brave and talented players to attack the goal recklessly, but give defenses more ways to defend them. “Cross-check” seems to be a dirty word to the NCAA rules committee, but they should recognize that an effective cross-check is not a dangerous act; it is a controlled way to leverage control of an offensive player. Legalizing the cross-check will allow for more effective positional defense and remove some of the instances where out of control dangerous body checks would be employed.
The committee needs to look forward, not backward in trying to change the sport. The proposed rule changes as a whole seem to want to set the game back several decades (easier to dislodge the ball, more two way players, less specialization, etc.). I’m sorry, but I do not believe that’s a good or logical answer. Rule changes should look to embrace the evolution of the sport and refine problem area, not make a massive overhaul and return the game to its “roots.”