The NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel, which met via conference call last Wednesday, approved rules proposals in swimming and diving, including a “no-recall false start” proposal that goes into effect for the 2011-12 season.

Softball committee pitches changes
Swimming committee proposes changes

The panel also approved proposals in softball, track and wrestling.

The no-recall false start rule means that unless a false start is blatant, the race would be allowed to continue and the student-athlete committing the false start would be disqualified after the event is finished. The false start must still have dual confirmation from the starter and the referee.

This rule is already in effect for international, national and high school swimming events. Previously, NCAA swimmers had to return to the starting blocks when false starts occurred.

PROP also approved a recommendation from the Men’s and Women’s Swimming and Diving Committee that any swimmer found wearing an illegal swimsuit will be disqualified from that event. The disqualified swimmer will be allowed to compete in another event in a dual meet or on another day in a multiple-day meet, so long as he or she wears a swimsuit that complies with NCAA regulations.

In 2009, the committee placed restrictions on high-tech swimsuits for collegiate competition. Suits cannot extend past the knee; men’s suits must stop at the waist, and women’s at the shoulder. Materials must be completely permeable to air and water and be no more than 0.8 millimeters thick.

The panel approved two other swimming and diving rules changes for next season:
• A track-style starting block with wedges is allowed for collegiate competition. These starting blocks, which will not be required but will be allowed, began appearing about two years ago. Research shows that there is no significant advantage to using this style of starting block.
• Swimmers may wear tape during competition if the referee determines it does not give the participant a competitive advantage. Before the start of the competition, the referee must receive a letter from a certified athletic trainer or doctor stating that the tape is being worn for a documented medical purpose. (The concern previously had been that some tapes with elasticity were being worn to gain an advantage.)

The Playing Rules Oversight Panel approved rules changes for 2012 in softball that include a “delayed dead ball” in cases when a runner leaves a base before the ball leaves the pitcher’s hand.

Umpires will still signal that the runner left the base early but the play will continue. The defense will then be allowed to choose the result of the play, or it could opt to have the runner called out and a no pitch where the count would return to what it was on the hitter before the pitch was thrown.

For example, if the hitter lined into a double play, the defense could choose to take the two outs. Previously if a runner left a base early, the play was considered immediately dead and the pitch didn’t count.

The panel also approved a rule that coaches will be required to provide to the umpires before the game a printed copy of the current NCAA Approved Softball Bat List with all of their team’s bat models to be used in the game highlighted and the number of bats of each model indicated. The list will be used to conduct the umpires’ pregame bat inspection.

The Softball Rules Committee agreed earlier to predetermined dates for bat manufacturers to make any changes to their bats as listed on the NCAA Approved Softball Bat list. Dates for the 2012 season are Jan. 15, March 15, April 15 and June 15.

Other rules changes that go into effect for the 2012 season in softball are:
• A batter hit by a pitch that is completely inside of the batter’s box will not be required to attempt to get out of the way of the pitch in order to be awarded first base.
• Brick, wood and cement backstops and home-run fences are required to be padded by the 2016 season.
• Host teams must provide 12 softballs, two of which need to be brand new, before a game begins.

Women’s Lacrosse
The panel approved significant changes to the carding structure for players and coaches in women’s lacrosse.

When a player receives a yellow card, her short-handed team is required to play one person down on the offensive and defensive ends of the field below the 30-yard restraining line. In other words, four players must remain above the restraining line in the defensive zone.

The NCAA Women’s Lacrosse Rules Committee believes this will encourage safer play.

Additionally, all yellow cards are two-minute releasable penalties. For example, if a player on Team A receives a card and Team B scores before the two minutes are served, the player on Team A will be allowed to return to the field after the goal.

If a team has multiple players serving yellow cards, only one player will be released after a goal.

Previously, players with yellow cards were required to serve a non-releasable three minutes.

Players issued yellow cards must serve their penalties behind the substitution box, which is located five yards on both sides of midfield near the scorer’s table. Any player who returns to the game before her penalty is up will have to start serving another two-minute releasable penalty.

Any yellow card issued to the bench will be given to the head coach instead of the individual who may have been called for the infraction. Any time a head coach receives a yellow card, that team must have a player serve a two-minute releasable penalty.

Track and Field
The Playing Rules Oversight Panel also approved a rules change in pole vault that requires schools to ensure that if a helmet is worn (helmets are permissive equipment), it must be specifically designed for pole vault competition and manufactured to comply with American Society for Testing and Materials standards.

However, the panel referred back to the Men’s and Women’s Track and Field Committee two recommendations the committee had made regarding pole vault. One would require schools to place suitable padding around the base of the pole vault standards and reasonably cover any hard or unyielding surface around the perimeter of the landing pad. The other would allow schools to place suitable padding around the vaulting box and extend into the box as long as it does not affect the bend of the pole.

The Playing Rules Oversight Panel, though, wants the committee to clarify where the pads should be placed.