Time for shot clocks to be visible on lacrosse fields

February 28, 2014|Mike Preston

Visible 30 second shot clocks will soon appear on lacrosse fields, but not soon enough for a lot of college coaches.

Everyone liked the new rule implemented a year ago that allowed officials to give a stall warning, forcing an offense to either score, shoot and hit a pipe, force a rebound or a goalie save in 30 seconds.

By popular demand, it sped up the game. But the one consistent problem that has emerged is that officials aren't consistent in keeping track of the time.

Sometimes 30 seconds have become 33 or 34 and with more seconds there are more shots. And with more shots there are more goals, and some teams that should have won eventually lost, and some teams that should have lost came back to win.

It was just as confusing for Loyola coach Charley Toomey, who lost to Virginia, 14-13 in overtime on Feb. 6, and Navy coach Rick Sowell, whose Middies lost to Georgetown, 9-8, in overtime nearly a week later.

They want visible 30 second clocks.

"It's time. It's a win-win-win situation," Sowell said. "It helps the players on the field know how much time, it helps the coaches, the fans. It's also one less thing that the officials have to worry about. When they give their signal, somebody pushes the button on the shot clock and now they don't have to worry about hand motions, they don't have to worry about waiting for their buzzers to go off. So it seems to make sense. "

"There's no downside to it because right now, the 30-second shot clock is not 30 seconds. It's 34 or 35 seconds," Sowell said. "They're not giving the signal and turning on the timers simultaneously. What they're doing is, they're giving the signal and then they're going down to their timers, which could be three or four seconds. So it's not a 30-second shot clock, and those few extra seconds can make a difference."

Those few seconds can turn the momentum of a game. Those few seconds can be the difference of a team making or not making the postseason tournament.

In some cases, it can be the difference in a coach retaining his job or getting fired.

"I think we did a great job in speeding up the game, but now the focus has to be on getting it right, making the right call," Toomey said. "There is just too much technology out here for us not to improve on this situation."

Toomey is right. In the current system, the officials make the call and then they start the time. After 20 seconds they shout out a warning and give a hand signal when 10 seconds remain. But that in itself puts a lot of pressure on officials who still have to call the game.

And if the teams play in a stadium that is large and loud, it makes it difficult for players and coaches to always hear or see officials.

A lot of college teams already play in football stadiums and have play clocks. Plus, with the sophisticated editing and timing devices on videos, referees might someday be allowed to look at instant replays just like in college or pro basketball, or pro football officials.

"I am all for it," said Duke coach John Danowski of visible shot clocks. "The game is evolving, on so many levels, I think this is the next logical step at the college level. My concern would be at the high school level."

A shot clock would definitely help the players and fans. It's always exciting to watch a basketball player hit a basket as time is about to expire. In lacrosse, the only people who know when the shooting time is down to a final second is the official with the buzzer.

It's just obsolete.

UMBC head coach Don Zimmerman is on the NCAA Rules Committee for lacrosse, and he has seen the list of proponents for a visible shot clock grow.

After each season, the committee gives out surveys and questionnaires for input for the committees' three days of August meetings in Indianapolis.

Zimmerman has faith in the committee on which he has served the last six years.

"As a coach, I am in tune with the situation and the committee will take everything into consideration," Zimmerman said. "There are some people who have talked about the cost of adding visible clocks, and there will be discussion about who will operate them: will it be an employee of the host school or do we add another official?

"I think in the end we will do what is good for the game just like we did in implementing the new stalling rule and I think everybody was pleased with that rule. We want to continue to make lacrosse a better game."

They will, it's just a matter of time. Toomey says lacrosse could be without shot clocks for another three years because of the rules committee's implementation system.

Like Toomey and most other coaches, Sowell wants visible shot clocks as soon as possible.

"Geez, I don't know how much these clocks cost, but I can't imagine that they cost all that much," Sowell said. "I've heard that argument, and I just can't buy that argument. You're telling me that an athletic department can't come up with an extra however-many dollars to have the shot clock? Who runs it? Is it a student? An administrator? But those are small kinks to work out."

"I think the coaches are certainly clamoring for it," Sowell said. . "When the rules were first instituted, that was one of the things that we thought we needed right then and there, and then this past year at our coaches' meetings, once again the topic came up and I don't know who is against it. I know that when the rules are set in place, there's a two-year probation before they can make adjustments. So maybe the rules committee will be more apt after evaluating the benefit of having it now."

mike.preston@baltsun.com

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