The NCAA Baseball Rules Committee recommended an experimental 20-second pitch-clock rule with runners on base for the 2016 season.

All rules proposals must be approved by the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel before they can be implemented. The panel will discuss the baseball rules committee’s experimental proposal on a conference call Aug. 26.

If approved, any conference from the three divisions would be able to apply to the committee if the conference wishes to implement the rule. The Baseball Rules Committee will collect feedback from conferences that choose to use the rule next season. Umpires will keep the time on the field; however, a conference can use a visual clock if it chooses.

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Under the proposal, a pitcher would be allowed 20 seconds to throw each pitch. The pitcher does not necessarily have to release the ball within 20 seconds. Instead, the pitcher must begin his windup motion or begin the motion to come set in a stretch position in order to comply with the 20-second rule. Additionally, batters must be ready to hit within the 20-second timeframe.

On the first violation by either a pitcher or a batter, a warning would be issued. If the pitcher violates the pitch-clock rule again, the umpire will award a ball to the count. If the batter violates the pitch-clock rule any subsequent time, a strike would be awarded to the count.

The timer will start for the first pitch of an at-bat when the pitcher has possession of the ball in the dirt circle surrounding the pitcher’s rubber, the catcher is in the catcher’s box and the batter is in the dirt circle surrounding home plate.

After a pitch, the timer would start when the pitcher has possession of the ball in the dirt circle surrounding the rubber and the catcher is in the catcher’s box. If the pitcher feints a pickoff or steps off the rubber with runners on base, the timer would reset and start again immediately.

The committee’s rationale for the pitch-clock rule proposals stems from the way the sport tends to slow down when runners reach base. Committee members hope creating a timeframe to increase the pace of play will enhance the sport for everyone involved.

“We want to keep the pace going at a proper speed for the fans’ benefit without touching on the integrity of the game from the players’ and coaches’ perspectives,” said committee chair Dick Cooke, baseball coach at Davidson College. “Our game is not fast by nature. We know that there are going to be moments where things can be a little tedious, but we don’t want it to become so slow that people lose interest in what we’re doing.” 

The committee knows adding a steadfast timing element to the game could rankle baseball purists, which is why they want to study this rule on an experimental basis.

“This is probably like when they put the shot clock in basketball,” Cooke said. “I’m sure there were people saying, ‘I can’t believe we’re doing this.’ Now, everyone thinks it is fine.”