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New Rules go into effect for spring sports

By Greg Johnson

Several rules changes are planned this season for the spring sports of men’s lacrosse, baseball, men’s volleyball, men’s and women’s track and field, and softball.

The rules committees for each of those sports met last summer to recommend changes to improve the quality of play and enhance student-athlete safety. The Playing Rules Oversight Panel approved those changes, and they are now official rules effective for the 2012-13 academic year.

Following are some of the most prominent changes in NCAA spring sports competition.

Men’s lacrosse

In men’s lacrosse, the stall-warning procedure will include a 30-second timeframe for the offensive team to take a shot.

In the new procedure, when a team is given a stall warning, a shot must be taken within 30 seconds. A valid shot is defined as an attempt to score that is on goal (for example, saved by the goalkeeper, hits the goal cage, goal scored). If the 30 seconds expires without a shot on goal, the ball will be awarded to the defensive team. The previous “get it in, keep it in” call has been removed.

The official will keep the 30-second clock, and no visible shot clock will be used.

Membership feedback on the rule change was positive, but the Men’s Lacrosse Rules Committee and Playing Rules Oversight Panel both received questions about the use of a visible shot clock in addition to the committee’s proposed procedure, which uses the game officials to manage the count.

The panel referred that feedback to the rules committee for further discussion.

Following is the protocol referees will follow:

  1. Officials signal a stall warning and start the 20-second timer.
  2. At the end of the 20-second timer, a 10-second hand count is administered by the official closest to the ball. This official has responsibility for the count until a shot is taken or the time expires.
  3. During the 30-second period, situations where a shot goes out of bounds and the offensive team maintains possession will be handled in this manner:
    • With more than 10 seconds remaining in the count, the timer continues to run and the procedure continues.
    • If the timer expires before the restart, a 10-second count will be administered beginning on the restart.
    • With less than 10 seconds remaining, the official will hold the hand count when the whistle blows and continue the count on the restart. For example, if the ball goes out of bounds with eight seconds remaining on the count, that count continues on the restart. The official will communicate the amount of time remaining on the restart.
  4. A shot that hits the goal cage or is saved by the goalkeeper and then possessed by the offensive team nullifies the stall warning and the game continues.
  5. In a flag-down situation, the shot count will continue until it expires or a shot is taken.
  6. Stalling will not be called during a man advantage.
  7. If a shot hits a defensive team player other than the goalkeeper, it will not be considered a shot on goal.

The Playing Rules Oversight Panel also approved a rule regarding shooting strings. Starting this season, players will be allowed to have shooting strings up to, but not touching, 4 inches from the top of the crosse.

To ensure that all sticks meet these specifications, officials will perform three field tests:

  • The ball will be placed in crosse (perpendicular to the ground) at the throat, then the crosse is tipped forward 90 degrees;
  • The ball is placed in the crosse (horizontal to the ground) at the deepest point of the pocket, then the crosse is tipped forward 90 degrees so the ball rolls out at the tip of the head;

If the stick fails any of these tests, it is an illegal crosse and a one-minute non-releasable foul will be enforced. The crosse will not be used during play and will be kept at the scorer’s table until the conclusion of the game.

The rules committee thought players currently are able to maintain possession of the ball too easily despite being pressured by the defense.

Foul-to-fair calls in baseball

For the umpires to conference in this scenario, the ball must have passed first or third base, be beyond the first or third baseman and originally been called foul. If the call is overturned, it will be up to the umpire crew chief to determine where to place all base runners on the play.

Umpires are currently allowed to conference on several specific types of plays. This new rule is an expansion of the “Getting the Call Right” provisions already in the rules book.

The foul-to-fair call is also one of the plays added to the instant replay experimental rule at the Men’s College World Series. Last year, the committee permitted experimental instant replay reviews at the MCWS on the following:

  • Deciding if an apparent home run is fair or foul. 
  • Deciding whether a batted ball left the playing field for a home run or a ground-rule double.
  • Spectator-interference plays (only on plays involving home run balls).

There were no instant replay reviews during the 2012 MCWS.

Panel members also approved a rule in baseball that calls for all non-head coaching team personnel who are ejected for disputing an umpire’s call to receive a one-game suspension for the first ejection of the season and a three-game suspension for any subsequent ejections during the season.

The Baseball Rules Committee tracked the number of ejections during the 2012 season, and more than 600 combined ejections were reported in all three divisions. Of those ejections, more than half were either assistant coaches or players. This rule will not affect other ejections (for example, tobacco use).

The NCAA Baseball Rules Book states that only head coaches can approach umpires to discuss a call.

Men’s volleyball

The following rules changes are for National Collegiate men’s volleyball:

  • The libero (a designated defensive specialist) will not be allowed to serve this season.
  • Substitutions are limited to six per set at the National Collegiate level. Previously, teams were allowed 12 substitutions per set.
  • Men’s volleyball will amend the centerline rule to mirror the rule in men’s Division III competition, which began last spring. A player is allowed to go over the centerline as long as he doesn’t affect the other team from playing the ball.
  • Also, players will be allowed to pursue the ball beyond the court as long as the play does not extend into the bleachers.

Track and field

In pole vault competitions, all rigid or unyielding items above ground level, or designated landing pit platform surfaces extending beyond the dimensions of the landing area, must be padded.

The Men’s and Women’s Track and Field Committee modified the language of the current rule so there is no ambiguity as to what type of surfaces should be covered. Since many track and field venues are used for other events, objects such as electrical boxes, concrete drainage grates and the corners of pallets where the landing mat sits should have padding.