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New rules go into effect for winter sports

By Greg Johnson

College basketball season officially begins today, but college referees have been preparing for the season for weeks.  

NCAA National Coordinator of Officials John Adams and Secretary-Rules Editor Art Hyland have been conducting educational sessions at regional rules clinics to help college basketball referees to make charge/block calls more accurately this season.

When evaluating the officials who worked the 2012 Division I Men’s Basketball Championship, Adams said officials made the right call around 90 percent of the time on all infractions. However, on charge/block calls, Adams said the accuracy rate was about 65 percent.

That’s natural, Adams said, given the nature of the play. He evaluated more than 100 charge/block calls from the 2012 tournament and found about 25 percent to be inconclusive, even on slow-motion replay.

“And I’m looking at these plays in a sterile, controlled environment with no one around, “ Adams said. “I can’t tell whether it was the right call or not on a quarter of them. The size of our court hasn’t changed, but look at how much bigger and faster the players are. They are trying to get to the same spot, and it is hard to tell who got there first in so many cases.”

To improve the accuracy rate on those calls, men’s officials are being asked to apply the following guidelines, which the Men’s Basketball Rules Committee approved in May:

  • Before the offensive player (with the ball) becomes airborne, the defender must have two feet on the floor, be facing the opponent and be stationary to draw a charge. Otherwise, it should be a blocking foul.
  • Secondary defenders (help defenders) moving forward or to the side are also in violation and those should be blocking fouls.
  • Contact that is “through the chest” is not de facto proof of a charge. The rule in its entirety must be considered before determining a foul.
  • In some cases, it appears a defender is being rewarded solely for being outside the restricted-area arc, without considering the other aspects of the rules.

Before the 2011-12 season, a restricted-area arc three feet from the center of basket was added to the rules. That is the area on the floor where a secondary defender cannot legally take a charge.

Being outside the arc isn’t the only factor an official should consider when making a charge/block call.

Adams wants to see improvement on plays involving secondary defenders in or near the restricted area by ensuring communication between the official making the call and the center official, who is not making the call but is close to the play. Adams wants the center official to feel empowered to approach the calling official with definite information relative to the position of the defensive players involved.

“We want our officials to have a better understanding about what is and what isn’t legal guarding position,” Adams said. “Once a player establishes legal defensive guarding position, we want our officials to understand what that defender can do to maintain it.”

The best way for officials to become better at making these calls is through educational efforts at the regional clinics and gaining experience by officiating more games, Adams said.

“We can make sure our officials understand the principles of the calls they make,” Adams said. “We can try to engrain in their minds from the first time they referee a game to the 500th time, and somewhere in between they get better.”


A sportsmanship initiative from the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Basketball Rules Committees will be implemented this season. It calls for more stringent adherence regarding bench decorum by coaches and bench personnel.

Basketball rules committee members believe the following behaviors hurt the image of the game and should result in a technical foul against the coach or other bench personnel:

  • Comments directed at or referring to any game official that question the integrity of an official (repeated references to the number of fouls called against each team; suggesting an official is “cheating” a team, etc.).
  • Profane, vulgar, threatening, or derogatory remarks or personal comments relating to race, ethnicity, religion, gender or sexual orientation directed at or referring to any game official or opposing player/bench personnel.
  • Prolonged, negative responses to a call/no-call that are disrespectful or unprofessional, including waving or thrashing the arms in disgust, dramatizing contact by re-enacting the play, or running or jumping in disbelief over a call/non-call.
  • A negative response to a call/no-call that includes approaching/charging an official in a hostile, aggressive or otherwise threatening manner, emphatically removing one’s coat in response to a call/no-call, or throwing equipment or clothing on to the floor.
  • Continual criticism during a game regarding the same incident after being warned by an official.

Committee members understand there will be spontaneous reactions to calls, but they don’t want prolonged responses to harm the game environment.

Basketball court-surface rule

This season a rules change requires temporary decals and logos placed on the court to be “of a consistent surface” as the rest of the floor.

The change is intended to enhance the safety of men’s and women’s basketball players. While this past spring was a non-rules change year for basketball, policy permits rules committees to make changes in off years if safety issues are involved.

The new rule calls for the playing court to be of a completely finished manner that is consistent throughout.

The rules change does not restrict the use of decals and logos, but it does make clear that those marks must be similar to the rest of the court. That includes the three-foot area outside each sideline and the six-foot area behind the end lines.

The host game management will be responsible for ensuring the court is of a similar finish, including any logos or decals that are legally allowed on the floor. Game officials will have the authority to suspend play if the surface does not comply.

Men’s and women’s ice hockey

New rules aimed at increasing offensive opportunities in men’s and women’s ice hockey go into effect this season.

Among the changes is to allow some displacement of the goal posts as long as the posts remain in contact with the pegs or pins. For a goal to be awarded in those situations, the posts must have been displaced by the actions of a defending player. The referee must determine that the puck would have entered the net between the normal positions of the goal posts.

Additionally, goals that ricochet into the net off an attacking player’s skates will be allowed, unless the referee determines that the puck was intentionally kicked.

The Men’s and Women’s Ice Hockey Rules Committees have issued a number of interpretations in this area recently, and members believe this clarification removes any judgment or doubt for the on-ice officials.

Another rules change for next season is that all hand passes, including those in the defensive zone, will be illegal. The referee will stop play on any hand pass, and the faceoff will be in the offending team’s defensive zone. Additionally, if the team commits the violation in its defensive zone, that team will not be able to change players before the ensuing faceoff.

Additionally, conferences can adopt an overtime procedure that limits the number of players on the ice to four on each side. This can also be implemented in nonconference games, if both teams agree before the game starts.

The National Hockey League has used this system in recent years, but the NCAA hockey community has not reached consensus on this as the best approach. A five-on-five format is the default procedure if the four-on-four approach is not used.

Additionally, goal judges will be recommended but not required for NCAA games.

Wrestling experimental mat-side video review rule

An experimental rule that allows mat-side video review takes effect this season, excluding open tournaments.

Designation of the official mat-side video review system will be determined by the host institution before the beginning of competition.

The host will also determine the number of mats and the rounds the mat-side video review system will be used. If the mat-side video review is used, the host must provide notification to participating coaches no later than weigh-ins.

Mat-side video review may be used to confirm or reverse on-the-mat decisions, except a fall.

The mat-side video review process will operate under the assumption that the ruling on the mat is correct, and only when there is indisputable video evidence that a ruling was incorrect, will a call be changed. Absent that evidence, the original ruling will stand.

Each team will be allowed one coach’s challenge per dual meet, including team advancement tournaments.

Each team in an individual advancement tournament, excluding open tournaments, will be allowed three challenges to be used at the coach’s discretion. If a coach’s challenge is successful, the team will retain that challenge.

A coach may ask the referee to stop the match for a challenge by approaching the scorer’s table when there is no significant action and requesting that the match be stopped.

Water polo

In men’s water polo, the course will be limited to 25 meters and the shot clock reduced to 30 seconds this season.

Previously, the men’s course was not to exceed 30 meters and the shot clock was 35 seconds. The changes are being implemented with the goal of producing more offense.

Women’s bowling

In bowling, a new rule states that the bottom half of the player uniform shall have at least a four-inch inseam. However, the rule does not provide information on skirts. As a result of a recent rule interpretation, due to their outer appearance, skirt and skort outer garment material shall be viewed as the same. If the garment’s outer material is at least half the distance of the upper leg, the item is acceptable for competition.

The uniform bottoms should fit loosely at the opening above the knee. Loose-fitting shirts are to be tucked into the lower body garment or folded. Form-fitting shirts may be worn, but at no time should a student-athlete show a bare abdomen or midriff, including during the completion of a shot.

Also, the official will be the only person allowed to make a ruling on a foul decision. Previously, coaches were permitted to make rulings of this nature.

Men’s gymnastics

The NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel recently approved two revised rules modifications that it had initially referred back to the NCAA Men’s Gymnastics Committee for further review. 

One of the newly approved modifications permits the use of three-judge panels.

If a three-judge panel is used, one judge will determine the start value and two will determine performance score. During the meet, judges should switch duties sometime so each has both experiences. The other provisions regarding judging protocol remain the same as originally considered.

The second altered modification relates to the number of participating gymnasts who compete for a team. As first considered by the committee, prior to the Winter Cup (Feb. 8-10, 2013) six gymnasts would perform per event, with the top five scores counting toward the team score.

After the Winter Cup, five gymnasts would perform per event, with all five scores counting toward the team score.

Under the revised modification, the committee decided that through the last day in February, six gymnasts may perform per event with the top five scores counting toward the team score, and beginning March 1, five gymnasts may perform per event, with all five scores counting toward the team score, which extends the amount of time during which six gymnasts may compete per event.

In previous seasons, teams had six gymnasts perform in each event, but only the top four scores counted in team competition.


2012-13 Women’s Basketball Officials To Closely Monitor Pace Of Play

NCAA Division I women’s basketball officials are preparing for the season by attending officiating clinics and completing online testing programs.  In addition to being responsible for all game rules management, officials are also being asked to monitor closely the following areas in 2012-13:

Incidental Elbow Contact:  There can be incidental contact with the elbow above or below the shoulders and not all elbow contact with the elbow is a foul regardless of where the elbow makes contact.

Traveling:  Not all spin moves are travels and legal moves by the ball handler will be permitted.  After establishing a pivot foot, that pivot foot may be lifted, but may not return to the floor before the ball is released on a pass or try for goal.

Freedom of Movement:  Excessive physicality and the lack of freedom of movement will be enforced by officials.  Players must be permitted to move freely and without being held, pushed or rerouted.

Pace of Play:  Stoppage of play that interrupts the flow and pace of the game will be watched closely by officials in 2012-13.  In order to increase the pace of play, officials will keep the game moving following timeouts, to permit incidental/marginal contact, permit legal moves by ball handlers and to use the monitor judiciously.

Restricted Area Rule:  The restricted area is the only area on the floor in which a secondary/helpside defender is not permitted to establish initial guarding position and remain in this area to draw a charge on a player with the ball or a player who has released the ball on a pass or shot.  Secondary/helpside defenders who are not defending the player with the ball or the player who has released the ball on a pass or shot are permitted to draw a charge in this area.

Legal Guarding.   Legally establishing and maintaining guarding position is critical to proper enforcement of block/charge fouls.  Once a defender has legally established and maintained her guarding position, it is the responsibility of the offensive player to avoid illegal contact.

Contact On/By the Ball Handler/Dribbler:  Defenders are permitted one touch on the ball handler/dribbler in order to measure up.  The next touch by the same defender on the ball handler is a foul.  Too much contact on the ball handler/dribbler continues to inhibit offensive progress.  Officials have been reminded that consistency from the start of the season until the end of the season, the start of a game until the end of a game and across the country is critical to a free flowing game.  Likewise, the ball handler/dribbler is not permitted to create illegal contact on legally established defenders.

Free-Throw Violations:  Free-throw violations are on the rise and officials are being asked to penalize consistently players entering the lane area too soon, disconcertion of shooters and players who fake shots or violations.

-- Rick Nixon