This week, there was news out of the NCAA proposing drastic rule changes to football and basketball.
The first seems a fait accompli and some of these will almost certainly happen. The NCAA has moved beyond mere proposals and into the beta phase for a host of changes to basketball. There are four major ones that will players and fans will see as the experiments are rolled out for this year’s NIT:
— The three-point line will be extended by approximately 1 foot 8 inches to the same distance used by FIBA for international competition (22 feet 1.75 inches).— The free throw lane will be widened from 12 feet to 16 feet, consistent with the width used by the NBA.
— The games will be divided into four 10-minute quarters as opposed to two 20-minute halves. Teams will shoot two free throws beginning with the fifth foul of each quarter.
— The shot clock will reset to 20 seconds after an offensive rebound instead of the full 30 seconds.
Said the NCAA of the experimental rules, which are meant to more closely mirror that of international play:
The style of play in men’s college basketball is healthy and appealing, but the leadership governing the game is interested in keeping the playing rules contemporary and trending favorably,” Dan Gavitt, NCAA senior vice president of basketball said in a statement.
Speed. Speed. Speed. As football has increased its pace of play, so too will basketball. The loss of 10 seconds on the shot clock following an offensive rebound will particularly be a hard pill to swallow for half-court teams now forced to increase their tempo. The result is bound to be increased scoring for sure, but also a lot of sloppy melees and turnovers during the adjustment period.
Barring some sort of St. Louis miracle, Alabama fans will get to experience these firsthand in about 10 days.
Football is also looking at radical changes to its rules as well. Like basketball, some of these address pace of play, though there is an alleged emphasis on player safety as well. More on that in a moment.
According to Greg Johnson of NCAA.org, the NCAA Football Rules Committee proposed a rule that would give the kickoff receiving team a touchback on any fair catch inside the 25-yard line.
”The committee made the proposal to address player safety on the kickoff and to address tactics that attempt to pin the receiving team close to its goal line,” Johnson wrote. “All other aspects of the kickoff play will remain the same.”
Most of the changes, like a 40-second play clock following a score, are fairly benign. But granting a team a touchback fair catch anywhere inside the 25, when a player has already made an initial boneheaded decision to play the ball in a bad position, seems especially drastic -- in essence granting the returning team a second chance to rethink their decision and gain extra yards of field position in the process. This rule greatly penalizes teams with speedy gunners, accurate kickers and sure tacklers that create bad field position for its opponents. Lest I need remind you, last season, Alabama and Georgia were No. 1 and No. 4 respectively in manufacturing poor field position for their opponents on kick coverage.
It is hard to take seriously the notion that this one tweak is meant to address safety on returns, when the rest of the return rules remain intact.
So, what do we think of these?