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Water polo rules subcommittee votes changes to improve offense

By Greg Johnson

The NCAA Water Polo Rules Subcommittee at its meeting last month recommended changes to the men’s game that include shortening the length of the course to 25 meters and going to a 30-second shot clock starting in the 2012-13 academic year.

All rules proposals must be approved by the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel, which meets via conference call Feb. 21.

Currently, the men’s course is 30 meters long and the shot clock is 35 seconds.

Recommended changes from the NCAA Water Polo Rules Subcommittee to the men's game are designed to produce more offense.

The proposed rules changes in men’s water polo are being recommended with the goal of producing more offense.

“In our previous committee meetings, there was a sentiment from our constituencies that we should look at things that could potentially increase offensive action,” said chair Tom Whittemore, the coach at Redlands. “By creating more possessions, these rules changes can potentially do that.”

Whittemore added that a shorter course in men’s water polo would mean less transition time.

“By decreasing the size of the course, players can get to a scoring area more quickly,” Whittemore said. “You are in front of the goal for a larger percentage of the time rather than in transition.”

Shortening the shot clock from 35 to 30 seconds should also increase the pace of play.

“Right now, high school and international competitions are played with 30-second shot clocks,” Whittemore said. “Combine with the fact that we shortened the course, this is a logical coinciding factor.”

Yellow cards

The subcommittee is also recommending a change to how yellow cards are issued. 

The proposal will allow the referee to issue yellow cards to the head coach, the bench and players in the water.

Previously, players in the water were not issued yellow cards, which are a warning that if unsportsmanlike behavior (including verbal, physical and taunting acts) persists, an exclusion can follow.

Unlike in the past, the referee can issue the yellow card without stopping the match.

“We want to make it easier for referees to control conduct and make it universal by including the players,” Whittemore said. “The yellow card is a visible and obvious signal.”

Previously, the referee had to judge when to stop play to issue a yellow card. Referees had to judge whether a stoppage in play would put either team at a disadvantage.

Now, the yellow card can issued while play continues.

“There was concern that in some instances the referee would stop play to administer a yellow card at an inappropriate time,” Whittemore said. “Or the referee would wait because he or she didn’t want to stop the game and by the time the yellow card was administered, it may not be clear to the fans or the coach what the yellow card was for.”