The NCAA Committee Needs to Look to the Future, Not to the Past: An Evaluation of the Proposed 2013 Lacrosse Rule Changes.

Posted on August 7, 2012 by

Categories: Coverage

May 15, 2011; Denver, CO, USA; Villanova Wildcats midfielder Nolan Vihlen (5) does a flip to win a faceoff against Denver Pioneers midfielder Chase Carraro (left) in the first quarter during the first round of 2011 NCAA mens lacrosse tournament at Peter Barton Lacrosse Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Fielding-US PRESSWIRE

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.

NCAA Mocks Lacrosse Players

Stick Specifications:
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.

Other Rules:
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?

Final Thoughts:
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.”

Posted in: Coverage

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  • Anonymous

    Enjoyed reading your take on the proposed changes. Definitely seems like there is a lot left up in the air still with many of the rules.

  • Anonymous

    Enjoyed reading your take on the proposed changes. Definitely seems like there is a lot left up in the air still with many of the rules.

  • Guest

    Nice article. These new rules are not going to be taken lightly across the lacrosse community by a large amount of people, because they affect a broad range of people involved with the game. What the NCAA needs to realize is that they are changing the game too much for the people involved. I am a face-off specialist and a defensive midfielder entering my first year in the college game. Personally, if these new rules were to take effect this year, I may never see the field because I will have to change my traditional motorcycle grip to a regular grip which I have never used before in my life, and the elimination of the horn destroys the ability for D-mids to be subbed into the game most of the time. Changing the face-off rules seems unnecessary and the NCAA needs to put more thought into those who they are affecting. Most face-off guys are moto now a days and it is simply a preference based on comfort, such as being right or left handed. It has no bearing on who will win the face-off.

  • Guest

    Nice article. These new rules are not going to be taken lightly across the lacrosse community by a large amount of people, because they affect a broad range of people involved with the game. What the NCAA needs to realize is that they are changing the game too much for the people involved. I am a face-off specialist and a defensive midfielder entering my first year in the college game. Personally, if these new rules were to take effect this year, I may never see the field because I will have to change my traditional motorcycle grip to a regular grip which I have never used before in my life, and the elimination of the horn destroys the ability for D-mids to be subbed into the game most of the time. Changing the face-off rules seems unnecessary and the NCAA needs to put more thought into those who they are affecting. Most face-off guys are moto now a days and it is simply a preference based on comfort, such as being right or left handed. It has no bearing on who will win the face-off.

  • Pat Mcdevitt

    A well composed article!! The rule committee has gone over the top on this one. As a coach I have to say  that I would like the width of the heads to become larger, so when a defenseman lands a clean check, the ball comes out. I understand the evolving of the athlete and the game itself, but being 30 years old and playing (still do) since 1st grade, I have witnessed the growth of the game.  I am in favor of the No horn. The specialization is crazy. Keep the LSM though ,because allowing him on the field ( with no horn) creates a risk/reward situation, that could be very interesting.   NO horn, in my opinion, would allow for more athletes to participate in the game itself. Being well conditioned would be even more important. As a coach, you could spot a kid on the other team, see he is exhausted and have your team attempt to exploit that.  The faceoff and shooting string rules are crazy. The other thing is, in hockey the sticks change mostly in length as the kids get older, that is it. Why in lacrosse do we have NFHS heads and then they get different at college?  USA lacrosse needs to step up. USA hockey would never allow the NCAA committee to dictate the rules of the game to them. We should demand the same.

  • The Truth

    Pathetic… lots of whining and not enough understanding of the impact of rules on the game.

    Any Rules are only as strong are their enforcement by Officials

    Cross-check is ILLEGAL currently but is never called… Why?

    Until you get to the answer of why that is, all rules changes are pointless!

    *******
    Coaches have too much power over Officials
    Manufacturers have too much influence over Rules

    The culture of “If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying” is wrong

    “If you are cheating – YOU ARE CHEATING!”

    Play to the Rules

    Make Officials Independent 

    Let Players Play

  • The Truth

    Pathetic… lots of whining and not enough understanding of the impact of rules on the game.

    Any Rules are only as strong are their enforcement by Officials

    Cross-check is ILLEGAL currently but is never called… Why?

    Until you get to the answer of why that is, all rules changes are pointless!

    *******
    Coaches have too much power over Officials
    Manufacturers have too much influence over Rules

    The culture of “If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying” is wrong

    “If you are cheating – YOU ARE CHEATING!”

    Play to the Rules

    Make Officials Independent 

    Let Players Play

  • Bifish50

    i agree.  I am entering my junior year of high school as a face-off specialist with ambitions and potential offers ranging from all devisions.  In a nut shell, i will not play lacrosse in college if the grip is changed because, like you said, the grip is solely based on comfort.  If a person is going to cheat they will find a way to cheat regardless of the grip.  It is just as easy to cheat with the traditional underhand grip as well as the moto grip so changing the rules will affect many peoples ambitions of playing college lacrosse.

  • Bifish50

    i agree.  I am entering my junior year of high school as a face-off specialist with ambitions and potential offers ranging from all devisions.  In a nut shell, i will not play lacrosse in college if the grip is changed because, like you said, the grip is solely based on comfort.  If a person is going to cheat they will find a way to cheat regardless of the grip.  It is just as easy to cheat with the traditional underhand grip as well as the moto grip so changing the rules will affect many peoples ambitions of playing college lacrosse.

  • Bifish50

    i agree.  I am entering my junior year of high school as a face-off specialist with ambitions and potential offers ranging from all devisions.  In a nut shell, i will not play lacrosse in college if the grip is changed because, like you said, the grip is solely based on comfort.  If a person is going to cheat they will find a way to cheat regardless of the grip.  It is just as easy to cheat with the traditional underhand grip as well as the moto grip so changing the rules will affect many peoples ambitions of playing college lacrosse.

  • Mike Rogers

    I am a referee and the cross check hold, while illegal, is in reality legal and not called because it is a controlled action on part of the defender. When the cross becomes a weapon or is planted on the head or neck it is usually called. I was once a hard liner on face-offs as a tradition of the game but now only would like to see them at the beginning of every quarter and during the last 5 minutes of a game if the score is tied. All other goals should result in the ball being placed goal line extended within 20 seconds and off we go the other way. As a ref I spend way to much time setting up and enforcing endless face-off rules and managing two guys who are doing everything they can to cheat. This one rule change of restarting 20 seconds after a goal will elevate the game to a new more exciting level. All the other rule changes to the stick stringing is I agree out of touch it the more the ball goes on the ground the more pushes from the rear, illegal picks, interference, and bone crushing hits will happen. Keep the ball in the stick moving and going up the field. 

  • Mike Rogers

    I am a referee and the cross check hold, while illegal, is in reality legal and not called because it is a controlled action on part of the defender. When the cross becomes a weapon or is planted on the head or neck it is usually called. I was once a hard liner on face-offs as a tradition of the game but now only would like to see them at the beginning of every quarter and during the last 5 minutes of a game if the score is tied. All other goals should result in the ball being placed goal line extended within 20 seconds and off we go the other way. As a ref I spend way to much time setting up and enforcing endless face-off rules and managing two guys who are doing everything they can to cheat. This one rule change of restarting 20 seconds after a goal will elevate the game to a new more exciting level. All the other rule changes to the stick stringing is I agree out of touch it the more the ball goes on the ground the more pushes from the rear, illegal picks, interference, and bone crushing hits will happen. Keep the ball in the stick moving and going up the field. 

  • Mike Rogers

    I am a referee and the cross check hold, while illegal, is in reality legal and not called because it is a controlled action on part of the defender. When the cross becomes a weapon or is planted on the head or neck it is usually called. I was once a hard liner on face-offs as a tradition of the game but now only would like to see them at the beginning of every quarter and during the last 5 minutes of a game if the score is tied. All other goals should result in the ball being placed goal line extended within 20 seconds and off we go the other way. As a ref I spend way to much time setting up and enforcing endless face-off rules and managing two guys who are doing everything they can to cheat. This one rule change of restarting 20 seconds after a goal will elevate the game to a new more exciting level. All the other rule changes to the stick stringing is I agree out of touch it the more the ball goes on the ground the more pushes from the rear, illegal picks, interference, and bone crushing hits will happen. Keep the ball in the stick moving and going up the field. 

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  • FL

    There needs to be a way to differentiate cross checks in black and white terms. Simply shoving someone with a cross check in the hip or upper arm vs cloths-lining him on a slide.

  • FL

    There needs to be a way to differentiate cross checks in black and white terms. Simply shoving someone with a cross check in the hip or upper arm vs cloths-lining him on a slide.

  • FL

    There needs to be a way to differentiate cross checks in black and white terms. Simply shoving someone with a cross check in the hip or upper arm vs cloths-lining him on a slide.

  • FL

    There needs to be a way to differentiate cross checks in black and white terms. Simply shoving someone with a cross check in the hip or upper arm vs cloths-lining him on a slide.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jake.mccampbell Jake McCampbell

    You are right about the shooting strings. If you have a channelled pocket straight shooters are very whippy and inconsistent. In my mind they should probably outlaw wax mesh. That stuff has a ridiculous amount of hold if used properly

  • http://www.facebook.com/edward.chang3 Edward Chang

    Very well thought out and written article. Especially the part about cross checking. Never thought of it that way. Agree with your thoughts on the stringing rules: way too many variables.

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