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Track and Field Committee addresses event management concerns

Group stresses that events must be structured as specified in the rules book


WHAT HAPPENED: During its meeting June 16-18 in Indianapolis, the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Track and Field Rules Committee emphasized that all running and field competitions must be conducted as written in the rules book starting in the 2014-15 academic year.

WHAT’S NEXT: The comment period on the men’s and women’s track and field rules proposals is June 25-July 9. All head track and field coaches and conference commissioners will be notified directly by email on how to participate in the comment period. The NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel will hear the track and field proposals on July 16.

The NCAA Men’s and Women’s Track and Field Rules Committee at its meeting June 16-18 in Indianapolis emphasized that all running and field competitions must be conducted as written in the rules book starting in the 2014-15 academic year.

Committee members are concerned with the recent trend of reducing the number of rounds of competitions at meets containing large numbers of competitors entered in an event.

In those situations, the committee believes there is a tendency for meet organizers around the country to be creative with the rules in order to reduce the number of rounds of competition. For example, if there are a larger number of runners competing in the 200-meter dash at a meet, the rules require that subsequent rounds of competition be conducted (first round, quarterfinal, semifinal and final).

The committee determined that around the country, meet organizers are arbitrarily splitting the large number of competitors into divisions at the meet, which means the athletes are only required to run two rounds of competition.

The track and field rules committee wants meet organizers to understand that this practice is no longer acceptable.

“The rules have been interpreted in different ways,” said committee chair John McNichols, the men’s cross country and track and field coach at Indiana State University. “Part of our job is to emphasize that we should follow the rules as written in the rules book. All the conferences should use this as the primary way of setting up the meets and procedures. If there are questions beyond that, they are free to contact us.”

The committee said meets can no longer use the practice of splitting a particular event into special sections.

“There are procedures for the number of entries in (running and throwing) events, and those procedures should be followed,” McNichols said.

Impeding runners

The committee also recommended adding the word “Flagrantly” to the rules pertaining to when a competitor should be in violation of impeding a runner to distinguish it from incidental contact that can occur in running events.

All rules recommendations made by the committee must be approved by the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel, which is scheduled to discuss track and field proposals July 16.

If the addition is approved, the referee, after consulting with the appropriate officials, can disqualify a competitor who:

  • Flagrantly jostles, cuts across or obstructs another competitor so as to impede the other runner’s progress. Direct contact is not necessary; any action that causes another runner to break stride or lose momentum is grounds for disqualification;
  • Flagrantly veers to the right or to the left so as to impede a challenging runner or forces the challenging runner to run a greater distance;

Committee members also amended the rule to address races run on curves. If a runner steps on or over the lane line to the left with two consecutive steps of either both feet or a single foot, they will be disqualified.

Defining a meet

The committee tabled a proposal that would define the meaning of the term “meet.”

Competitions are currently being held around the country without any team scores being tallied. Teams are sending their athletes to different events, where they are running for times or trying to improve in distance or field events.

This type of scheduling has led to a philosophical debate in the NCAA track and field community.

“There has been a year of dialogue, and it will need to continue,” McNichols said. “We will seek input with another survey to gather the membership’s feelings. We will look to get more input from the coach’s association as well as the sports committees.”