December 24, 2012

Hey, Ref: Fall ball gives us chance to test-drive college rules

By Paul Quill

College fall ball is the time when coaches and referees get to review, consider and play under new and prospective rules, and the changes ahead for the college game in 2013 have been a hot topic on all of the lacrosse websites and forums. With all that hype and concern, it was great to get out on the field to see how the latest changes to the rules will affect the game. 

Paul Quill is a youth and high school referee in Eastern Massachusetts.

As expected, the elimination of the sideline horn means that the games moved along at a much quicker pace. No more 20-second breaks to get fresh legs on the field and tired ones off; play is restarted immediately.

On those quick re-starts — and all cases where the ball is being blown back into play — officials will no longer delay a whistle to back a defender up five yards. If an opposing player is within five yards of the player who has been awarded the ball, the official will blow the whistle to start play. The opposing player is not allowed to defend the ball until he reaches a distance of five yards from the opponent. A violation — jumping the player with the ball directly off the whistle, for example — will be a flag down for delay of game. 

This one is absolutely going to take some getting used to. Harmless and otherwise-legal checks got flagged all day because the defender never gave the five yards.

There were more than a few times when we lived through this conversation:

“Hey ref, that’s not a slash!”

“I know; the flag is for delay of game.”

The “get it in, keep it in” call has been removed. Instead, when a team is given a stall warning, a shot must be taken within 30 seconds. The count is administered by the on-field officials and there will not be a visible clock. Officials signal a stall warning, verbally say “shot clock is on,” and the trail official will start his 20-second timer. 

At the end of the 20 seconds — if you are close enough to the ref you will hear the buzzer — a 10-second hand count is administered by the trail official.

Now, teams can no longer continue to “stall” in the box. Players had to go to the goal and create scoring opportunities. In my opinion, this caused more turnovers but it also created more excitement. One down side: Because the clock is not visible, the way the rule is administered prompts a continuous “That has to be 30 seconds” plea from the sideline. 

My favorite change is one that hasn’t been discussed much at all.

The automatic requirement in the last two minutes of the game forcing a team to keep the ball in the box has been removed. It created what I used to refer to as the “two-minute hack fest.” Teams that were winning by a large margin still had to keep the ball in the box at the end of the game. This allowed defensemen to take out their frustrations on attackers who had lit them up all day. With the game out of reach and defenders recognizing that a slashing penalty wouldn’t change the outcome, this was their payback time, and there were a lot of unnecessary cheap shots. Attackmen will be very happy with this change. 

In a close game, officials will simply “put the shot clock on” to prevent the winning team from stalling, but refs will be able to use their judgment in those cases, rather than having it be mandatory. Lopsided games should end in a much more peaceful manner.

Of course, that’s my take after just a few fall games. It is going to be very interesting come springtime to see what types of strategies coaches have come up with to deal with the new changes. It was clear from the fall that they are working things out, and the game will change even beyond what was visible in the fall.

For a complete list of all the new rule changes, visit NCAA.comB is with what I have.”

It’s worked well so far.

This article originally appeared in the November-December 2012 issue of New England Lacrosse Journal.