New Rules For College Basketball

Last week, I wrote here about the college basketball rules mavens considering a long list of rule changes for 2021 and beyond.  Fortunately, they steered clear of some of the worst of those suggestions – – but I am not sure they did much to make the game “better”.  Perhaps that is too high a standard; maybe I should expect less.  So, let me go over what changes are going to be implemented this year and use the Hippocratic Oath as a standard:

  • First, do no harm…

There will be 5 changes – one being used only in the NIT on an experimental basis – next Fall.  Only that “experimental rule” would be a major change; the other four are pretty bland stuff.  The first rule change addresses an ongoing problem in college basketball but does not go nearly far enough.

  • Change #1:  Flopping can result in a technical foul.  Flopping is a problem, and previous attempts to “eradicate it” from the game by issuing points of emphasis have been feckless.  This rule change seeks to “up the ante” here by making it a technical foul when a “fake-being-fouled” situation is “clear and obvious”.  However, do not get the idea that the rules mavens are really serious here because this flavor of technical foul would result in one foul shot by the opposing team plus possession and the player doing the flopping would NOT also accumulate a personal foul from the flop.

My guess is that this rule will fade into obscurity unless officials call it early and often in the upcoming regular season.  However, it does no obvious harm…

  • Change #2:  Coaches can use technology for live stats and video for coaching on the bench.  Even if this were to be implemented as stated here, this is a change that would be transparent to fans.  However, the rules mavens would not go even that far.  This change simply allows conferences to make their own rules on this matter and apply those rules only to conference games.  The rule would not be in effect for interconference games or for the NCAA Tournament.

I suspect that this change will be important for a reason that has exactly nothing to do with the game of college basketball; it has important economic potential.  This will allow each conference to strike a deal with Apple or Microsoft or Samsung to have one of those tech companies be “The Official Bench Technology Partner” for a specific conference.  That can benefit Athletic Departments’ profit and loss statement, but that is about all.  Moreover, it does no obvious harm…

  • Change #3:  Schools can install shot clocks that display tenths of a second.  Be still my fluttering heart…  Schools are not required to do this, but they may do it if they want to.

I certainly hope the rules mavens did not spend more than a few tenths of a second pondering the cosmic significance of such a change – – because there is no significance here.  However, it does no obvious harm…

  • Change #4:  When a team calls a timeout, that interruption of play will also serve as the upcoming TV timeout.  This is a significant rule change in terms of maintaining pace of play.  It does not quite address the “interminable final two minutes” issue, but it is a start.  Here is how it will work.  If a team calls a timeout with 14 minutes to play in the first half, that timeout will serve as the TV timeout that would have happened at 12 minutes.  Instead of stopping the game for a timeout after the first dead ball at 12 minutes, the game would continue until the 8-minute mark for the next TV timeout – – unless of course a team calls yet another team timeout.

This change seeks to keep the games inside a reasonable 2-hour time window for television programming purposes.  It is not perfect, but it is a step in the right direction.  In this case, the rule change is better than “not doing harm”, this one looks like an improvement for the game.

  • Change #5 (Experimental in the NIT only):  Players will be allowed 6 fouls before disqualification unless four of those fouls occur in one half.  Since the rules mavens for college basketball only meet every other year, this rule will likely get two years of exposure in NIT games.  That means there will be 62 games by which the rules mavens can come to some conclusion as to the worthiness of this rule.  That is not much of a sample size considering the number of college basketball contests that will be played under the current “5-fouls-and-you’re-gone” rule.  [Aside:  If you assume there are 350 Division 1 basketball schools and each team plays 30 games in a season, that results in 10,500 games with the “5-foul rule” and 62 games in 2 NIT tournaments with the “6-foul rule” until the next meeting of the rules mavens.]

The rules mavens frame this experimental change as an attempt to “keep the most talented players on the floor for the longest amount of time”.  While that is a noble pursuit, it seems to ignore the fact that one of the talents exhibited by the best players is the ability to avoid committing 5 personal fouls.  Also, please recall that a “6-foul rule” existed in the old Big East Conference in the 1990s, but it did not last more than a couple of years.  It did not make the games significantly better – – but it did make them more physical.  I do not like this rule – experimental or not.  I do not think it makes the game better and I think it does harm to college basketball.  Figuratively speaking, I would prefer for someone to drive a wooden stake through the heart of this experimental rule.

Finally, since today has been all about rules – and proposed rule changes – let me close with an observation from Henry David Thoreau:

“Any fool can make a rule.  And any fool will mind it.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………