Panel recommends 10-second rule

Updated: May 9, 2013, 10:09 PM ET
By Mechelle Voepel | ESPN.com

Those less familiar with women's college basketball would at times reveal themselves at games by calling out, "Ten seconds!"

The backcourt violation (either eight or 10 seconds) is used in the NBA, WNBA, FIBA, men's college, and high school boys' and girls' basketball. Pretty much everywhere, that is, with one big exception: the women's college game.

That, however, may be about to change.

Thursday, the NCAA basketball rules committees for men and women released their recommendations after their annual meetings in Indianapolis. The most notable change on the women's side is adding the 10-second backcourt rule.

To which many might exclaim: "It's about time!" It's been long discussed by those who play, coach, officiate and follow the sport. And the rules committee has looked at it before.

"It has been surveyed numerous times in the last few years," said rules committee chair Barbara Burke, who is Eastern Illinois' director of athletics. "We felt there was a movement of support for it. It was the right thing for the women's game now.

"One of the things we focused on a lot was the pace of the game. We felt like the 10-second backcourt gave us a way to address that, and added new strategy as well."

The 10-second rule, along with the other recommendations by the rules committee, still must be approved by the Playing Rules Oversight Panel. That group will have a conference call on June 18. Pending the panel's approval, the rules would go into effect for the 2013-14 season.

There is a historical explanation for why the women's college game has gone so long without the backcourt violation. The women actually were ahead of the men's game with the shot clock. In 1970, a 30-second clock was implemented by the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women, the NCAA predecessor in governing women's college sports.

Thus, the thought for a long time was that with a 30-second shot clock, the 10-second rule wasn't needed. But over the years, that became more and more a source of debate, especially since women's college basketball became the only outlier with no backcourt violation.

"We love to play at a fast pace and for the game to be up-tempo," Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell said. "I think this will do nothing but improve the game, and the strategy of the game. It will put players' and coaches' decisions at a greater premium."

Mitchell -- whose teams are known for their pressing/trapping defense -- and other coaches say they don't expect the 10-second rule to make a dramatic difference overall, but that it will impact certain situations.

"At the end of games, that's where it will show up the biggest," Mitchell said. "If you can just hold [the ball] in the backcourt for 30 seconds, the game's not as exciting as it can be. With the violation, you have to advance it up the court, which means you still have to take some sort of risks. It makes it more interesting."

If the 10-second rule is approved, the committee recommends the closely guarded rule in the backcourt then be eliminated. The closely guarded rule in the front court would then be that a player holding the ball for more than 5 seconds with a defender within 6 feet will be called in violation. Previously, the defender had to be within 3 feet.

There are two other recommendations specific to the women's rules committee. The first concerns timeouts. The committee recommended that when a team-called timeout occurs within 30 seconds before a scheduled media timeout, it will become the media timeout. The only exception is the first called team timeout in the second half.

Currently, media timeouts are held at the first deadball following the 16-, 12-, 8-, and 4-minute marks. The reason for the change is to avoid quickly successive stoppages in play. If a coach calls a timeout in that 30-second window before the automatically scheduled one, there's really no reason to stop play again.

A bit more arcane is the recommendation that revises the restricted-area rule under the basket. That change would involve the so-called "lower defensive box," which starts at the second free throw lane space and extends 3 feet outside the lane toward each baseline.

The recommendation is that when a player with the ball outside the lower-box area makes a move to the basket, a secondary defender must be outside the restricted area (the arc under the basket) in order to draw a charge. However, if the offensive player with the ball starts her move inside the lower-box area, the secondary defender can draw a change with the restricted area not in effect.

Yes, it sounds a bit complicated. The explanation behind it, essentially, is to "clean up" the area around the basket without overly hindering the defense.

"We do feel like it will improve the offensive flow of the game," Burke said. "We think it will open up play more. And it also helps to clarify things for the officials, and to help them make more consistent calls."

Added Mitchell: "I think the restricted area has helped in regard to the block/charge call, because it is such a difficult call for officials. So I'm for anything that makes that a clearer or simpler decision."

Other recommendations Thursday applied to both men's and women's basketball. Those were in regard to monitor reviews and the so-called "elbow rules."

The monitor-review recommendations are intended to give officials greater opportunity to avoid potential mistakes, especially late in games, that can be clarified by reviewing situations on video.

"Our goal in regard to the monitor was to keep the game moving, while at the same time, being accurate and ensuring that officials get the right call," Burke said.

The use-of-monitor recommendations are:

• In the last 2 minutes of regulation and overtime, officials can review a shot-clock violation and determine who caused the ball to go out of bounds on deflections involving two or more players.

• If officials are unsure if a shot was 2-point or a 3-point field goal, they can signal to the scorer's table to review it during the next media timeout. This is meant to be less an impediment the flow of the game and was used experimentally by the Big Ten this past season. However, in the last 4 minutes of regulation and all of overtime, officials will go to the monitor immediately in such situations, rather than waiting for a timeout.

• The monitor can be used to determine who committed a foul if there is uncertainty. Right now, officials can only use the monitor for determining the free throw shooter if there is a question.

The elbow rules were put in place for player protection. But coaches in both men's and women's basketball have felt that the automatic flagrant foul 1 for elbow contact above the shoulder was at times unnecessarily punitive and didn't allow for officials' judgment.

Now, a monitor may be used to allow officials to determine if elbow contact above the shoulders is a flagrant foul 2, a flagrant foul 1, or simply a regular "common" foul.

"What used to be just an average offensive foul became automatically flagrant," Kansas coach Bonnie Henrickson said. "You'd see a lot of it with the rebounder who was trying to make an outlet pass and was getting hassled, and then just made any contact with their elbows.

"Officials at our level can decide if a kid is trying to intentionally clock somebody or is being reckless with their elbows. They know the difference between ordinary contact they have to call and something that is flagrant."

Mechelle Voepel joined ESPN.com in 1996 and covers women's college hoops, the WNBA, the LPGA, and additional collegiate sports for espnW.

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