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Rules committee recommends moving women’s basketball games to four-quarter format

Better flow of game, fewer stops in play align with other levels of the sport

NCAA women’s basketball games could be played in four 10-minute quarters next season.

The NCAA Women’s Basketball Rules Committee recommended the proposal following its meeting May 12-15 in Indianapolis. All rules proposals must be approved by the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel, which is scheduled to discuss the recommended women’s basketball rules changes via conference call June 8.

Before the vote, committee members thoroughly debated the concept of moving the game away from the 20-minute halves format that women’s basketball has always used in NCAA competition.

The committee believes the four-quarter format will enhance the flow of the game.

“The rules committee is very excited about the change to the four-quarter format for the 2015-16 season,” said Michael Shafer, chair of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Rules Committee and women’s basketball coach at the University of Richmond. “We believe this change, along with the associated changes to the timeout and foul rules, will address flow of the game and physicality. The overall format will strengthen the connection of college basketball with women’s basketball globally.”

The proposed format change is also endorsed by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association Board of Directors.

“What a great step forward for our game,” said University of Connecticut women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma, who has led the Huskies to 10 national championships, a record in NCAA women’s basketball. “As the game becomes more global each year, it’s important that we start the process toward standardizing the rules. This is just the beginning of what I hope are many other changes to improve this great game.”

WBCA President Sue Semrau, women’s basketball coach at Florida State University, added: “The coaches appreciate the meticulous effort the NCAA Women’s Basketball Rules Committee puts into developing the women’s game. We are excited to see how these rules will elevate our game to new heights, while forcing coaches to reevaluate their play-calling.”

If approved by the Playing Rules Oversight Panel, the four-quarter format will bring other changes to the game:

  • Teams would reach the bonus to shoot two free throws on the fifth team foul in each quarter. In the current format, teams reach a one-and-one bonus on the seventh team foul of each half and reach the double bonus (two shots) on the 10th team foul.
  • In the proposed four-quarter format, team fouls would be reset to zero at the start of each quarter. However, if a team reaches the bonus in the fourth quarter, that team would remain in the bonus in any additional overtime periods.
  • Media timeouts in televised games would also be changed to one in each quarter. Media timeouts would occur at the first dead ball under the five-minute mark of each quarter and at the end of the first and third quarters. However, if a team calls timeout before the five-minute mark, that would be treated as the media timeout.

Media timeouts now occur at the first dead ball under the 16-, 12-, eight- and four-minute marks. So, going to quarters means two fewer stops in play.

In the proposed format, teams would have four timeouts (three 30-second timeouts and one 60-second timeout). A team may use the 60-second timeout at the discretion of the coach during the first or second half of the game. Teams would be allowed to carry over only two of those timeouts into the second half. Each team would be awarded one 30-second timeout in each overtime period, plus any unused timeouts remaining from the second half.

Under the current format, teams have five timeouts (four 30-second stoppages and one 60-second stoppage) with only four of those carrying over to the second half.

In non-televised games, teams would have five timeouts (three 30s and two 60s). Four of the timeouts would carry over to the second half.

Advancing the ball

The committee also recommended teams be allowed to advance the ball to the front court following a timeout called after made baskets in the last 59.9 seconds of the fourth quarter and any overtime periods.

Teams also would be allowed to advance the ball to the front court after securing the ball from a rebound or a change of possession and calling a timeout before any advancement of the ball (dribble or pass).

In these scenarios, the ball would be inbounded at the 28-foot mark on the side of the court where the scorer’s table is located.

Because teams would no longer be required to go the length of the court, committee members feel this change would add more excitement to offensive possessions at the end of games.

10-second backcourt exceptions

NCAA women’s basketball implemented the 10-second backcourt rule during the 2013-14 season.

For the upcoming season, the committee is proposing a team not receive a new 10-second backcourt count when a throw-in results from the following:

  • The ball is deflected out of bounds by the defense.
  • There is a held ball and the possession arrow favors the offensive team.
  • A technical foul is called on the offensive team while the ball is in its backcourt.

Post defense

The committee recommended defenders be allowed to place a forearm or an open hand with a bend in the elbow on an offensive post player with the ball whose back is to the basket.

Bands/Amplified Music

In an effort to improve the overall fan experience, the committee recommended bands or amplified music may be played during any dead-ball situation. Current rules allow music to be played only during timeouts and intermission.

What they are saying:

“The Women’s Basketball Rules Committee made several bold adjustments, and I applaud the moves that will help with the pace of the game. The game from high school to the professional and international levels will now be using the same four-quarter format, which makes sense globally. That, combined with the option to advance the ball to the front court, will provide a new dimension to team strategy that will be more exciting to watch.”

– Anucha Browne, NCAA vice president, women’s basketball championships


 “The move to four quarters allows women’s collegiate basketball to align with all other levels of play and will be an exciting change for the future of the game. Having also been involved in the game at the Olympic and international levels, it is a positive move to see that all will be playing within the same basic structure going forward.”

Dru Hancock, chair Division I Women’s Basketball Committee


 “The NCAA Women's Basketball Rules Committee has diligently reviewed recommendations from all corners of our game. The committee's composition of coaches and administrators spanning Divisions I, II and III provides a depth of experience and perspective necessary to guard and advance our playing rules. The WBCA Board of Directors is pleased that the rules committee heard its recommendations. Our women's basketball coaches look forward to the continued evolution of our game, compliment the work of the rules committee, and commit to the betterment of our sport through leadership and service.”   

Danielle Donehew, WBCA executive director

“The WBCA Board of Directors Playing Rules and Officiating Working Group is grateful that the NCAA Women’s Basketball Rules Committee is in support of the selected recommendations. Working collectively is vital in growing the game of women’s basketball and keeping fans engaged. We are thankful that the NCAA Women’s Basketball Rules Committee is receptive to our input.” 

Matthew Mitchell, University of Kentucky women’s basketball coach