May 5, 2010

By Greg Johnson
The NCAA News

The NCAA Men’s and Women’s Basketball Rules Committees voted to change the penalty for elbow contact above the shoulders for the 2010-11 season.

If approved by the Playing Rules Oversight Panel in June, the change would require men’s and women’s officials to assess either an intentional or flagrant foul on a player who swings an elbow and makes contact with an opponent above the shoulders. If the foul is deemed to be intentional, the team whose player was struck would receive two free throws and possession of the ball. If the foul is deemed to be flagrant, the player who threw the elbow would be ejected.

Previously, such contact called for as little as a common foul or as much as a flagrant foul to be assessed. Under the new proposal, though, officials would no longer have the option of calling a common foul. A player who swings the elbow and makes contact below the shoulders would still be subject to a common foul, an intentional foul or a flagrant foul, depending on the severity and intent.

While 2010 is a non-rules-change year for the basketball rules committees, which met May 2-4 in Indianapolis, NCAA policy does provide committees with the ability to recommend items with a significant need for immediate implementation. The committees felt this immediate change was necessary to better protect the student-athletes.

PROP could approve the change as early as its next conference call on June 2.

“Excessive swinging of the elbows is something both committees felt strongly about penalizing differently,” said men’s rules committee chair Bobby Lutz, the former coach at Charlotte. “We both feel we have a significant safety concern, and there are other ways to make a basketball play that does not include swinging or throwing an elbow, especially above the shoulders.”

Both committees hope the increased sanction deters players from swinging their elbows.

“This is a play that has always existed, but some things are being taught in terms of a player being tough with the basketball,” said Amy Backus, senior associate director of athletics at Yale and chair of the women’s committee. “But you can still be on offense and be aggressive without the elbows going into a dangerous area. The defensive player has the right to gain position. We want to discourage an elbow going above the shoulders.”

Committee members want the rule to have a similar impact as the current fighting rules, which require a player involved in a fight to be ejected from the current game and suspended for the next one. A player involved in a second fight is banned for the season.

“We saw fighting go drastically down after that rules change,” Lutz said.

No other rules will be altered in the 2010-11 season as part of the NCAA’s two-year playing rules process.

Three-point line and the arc in the lane

The men’s and women’s rules committees also recommended experimental rules for the 2010-11 season.

The women’s committee, in a continued effort to examine the distance of the three-point line, proposed that during all exhibition games and 40-minute game-like scrimmages, the current men’s three-point line of 20 feet, 9 inches, be used as the three-point field goal distance. The current distance for the women’s three-point line is 19 feet, 9 inches.

“The committee reviewed the pros and cons of moving the three-point line back to 20 feet, 9 inches,” Backus said. “The data collected from all three divisions supports the fact that more than 60 percent of three-point shots are being taken from behind the men’s line with comparable shooting percentages. This experimental rule will allow the committee to augment data for future consideration.”

The women’s rules committee also seriously discussed the possibility of adding a 10-second rule to cross half court. A survey of coaches showed a split on whether this change should be made in the future.

“Those who want the 10-second rule in women’s basketball believe it will speed up the game and create a more exciting style of play,” Backus said.

The group will gather more specific feedback from the coaching community in the upcoming year.

On the men’s side, members recommended adding a restricted area arc two feet from the center of the basket on an experimental basis in multi-team events and exhibition games next year. The experiment would extend last year’s rules change making it illegal for a secondary defender to take a charge underneath the basket.

“We are responding to coaches who wanted a visible line on the floor,” Lutz said. “The committee feels the rule we passed last year acted as a deterrent and cleaned up the late and dangerous contact beneath the basket. Some coaches felt that area needed to be extended, so we will take a look at it on an experimental basis.”

In other items on the committees’ agendas, both groups are instructing on-court officials to emphasize calling the game as it is written in the rules book.

“We feel we have a great game, and our point of emphasis is to have the game called as the rules are written,” Lutz said.

Leslie Claybrook, the senior associate athletics director at Rice, was named women’s basketball rules chair, and Mike Brey, the head men’s coach at Notre Dame, was elected chair of the men’s committee.