Some Flip Out Over New Rule


This Year, Coin Toss Is Replacing The Traditional Jump Ball

December 15, 1991|By Glenn Graham

There I was, covering my first high school basketball game of the season at North Carroll last Tuesday.

I jotted down the two teams' lineups (the North Carroll girls were playing host to Glenelg), stood for the National Anthem and listened as the public address announcer gave the starting lineups.

Before I knew it, the game began.

But something was missing. Some noticed, others didn't.

There was no jump ball to start the game.

This year, high school referees throughout Maryland are tossing a coin at midcourt instead of a basketball to start the game.

The flip occurs moments prior to the start of the game. Captains of both teams are present along with the head referee.

A visiting captain calls "heads" or "tails" and the winner has the option of taking the ball from out of bounds or defending.

Sounds like football, huh?

It's all part of a one-year experiment by the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association.

"A number of states are experimenting with the coin toss," said Jacky Loube, Maryland state basketball rules interpreter.

"By giving the ball out of bounds, you have alleviated the problem of the possession arrow from the start. That's the rationale of the experiment."

The idea is that the scorer'stable -- in charge of the possession arrow -- knows prior to the start of the game where the possession arrow should be, thus eliminatingany possible confusion.

From then on, all subsequent possessions,including overtime, are determined by the possession arrow.

Another concern eliminated by the coin toss was the referee's toss of the ball, said Ned Sparks, executive secretary of the MPSSAA.

But whatabout tradition?

In the early days, back in the late 1800s and early 1900s, a jump ball at center court was used after every basket.

That rule was changed in 1938, giving the scored-upon team the ballat half court.

In 1982, the college level began using the possession arrow only after the opening tip. High schools soon followed.

Some of the Carroll high school coaches are not bothered by the new rule. In fact, some Carroll teams have had great success -- and luck -- with the coin toss.

"The two times we've won the coin toss, we've won the game," said North Carroll boys coach Pete Litchka. "I thinkit's pretty fair and (it) hasn't fazed me one way or the other. We haven't run any practices on coin flips yet.

Litchka said more fundamental changes like the three-pointer and the time clock have had a bigger impact.

Liberty's boys coach Scott Kohr doesn't mind the change since the time he won the toss, his team won the game. He said he would tend to be in favor of eliminating the jump ball because Liberty traditionally has small teams.

The coin toss is acceptable also for Coach Jeff Cook of Key, whose only win in its first three gamescame on the road when they won the toss.

"I don't see any major problems with it," Cook said. "Someone's going to win the toss just like they're going to get the tip."

On the flip side, North Carroll's girls coach Greg Knill doesn't like the idea of breaking the tradition.

"I don't like their (MPSSAA) reasoning. The wording they usedwas that it was 'ceremonial, not having an effect on the game,' " Knill said.

"I disagree with that. If a game comes down to two points and we have someone who can get the tip, it could be the difference. I would like to see it come back."

The MPSSAA can petition to the National Federation to continue the coin toss for two more years asan experiment.

Right now, the jury is still out.

I'm all for tradition -- imagine a football game without kickoffs -- and, besides,it's rough not being able to write "Tip-off time is 7 p.m."

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