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Proposed NCAA basketball rules changes: The good, the bad and the ugly

Without question, sports, like life itself, changes and evolves. With that comes the need to adapt and modify the rules that govern them. Thus, several of the new rules proposed by the NCAA Men’s Basketball Rules Committee address recent developments in the game, and should help it become better. Others, not so much.

First up are the good proposals, which could be in effect as early as the upcoming season, provided they are approved by the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel, which meets on June 3.

Flopping: The penalty for players who “flop,” or try to get fouls called where no contact or violation occurs, would now be an immediate technical foul on the offender, with an opposing team receiving one free throw. Currently, a warning was first assessed before a technical, but that was not meeting with the desired results of getting the flop out of the game.

This is a step in the right direction, although the offender would not be assessed a personal foul, as is the case with many other technicals. It will be interesting to see if officials will call this, knowing that it doesn’t have an impact on the personal foul total of the player involved.

Technology: This proposal will allow the transmission of live statistics to the bench for use by coaches and staffers during the game, and will also allow each conference, if it so chooses, to allow live and pre-loaded video on devices on the bench during conference competition. The latter is an experimental rule, and both were tested during the 2021 NIT.

This is another rule that will cost more money to implement, but as technology marches on, it makes sense. It’s odd, in this day of wireless communications, to see a staffer get a handout of the current stats on a single sheet of paper at each media timeout.

Timeouts: This proposal ties timeouts called by a team into media timeouts, which occur at the first dead ball after the 16-, 12-, eight- and four-minute marks of each half. Under this proposal, when a team calls a timeout, it would also serve as the media timeout for each segment if the media timeout has not already been used in that segment.

While this won’t significantly cut down on interruptions in the action, it could help a little. Even a couple of congruences of team and media timeouts will help game flow.

There’s one somewhat neutral-effect proposal on the men’s side, which would have a quite limited effect.

Shot Clock: Shot clocks could, but will not be required, to display tenths of a second, as game clocks do. That might help in some of the few situations where the clock is really close to expiring on an out-of-bounds play, but other than that the effects seem minimal. Still, it probably doesn’t hurt anything, other than add more expense to provide retrofitted clocks and controlling software to the timekeeping systems.

Finally, there’s the truly ugly. Included in the committee’s proposal is a horrific test to allow six fouls – in some situations –– before player disqualification.

Foul Structure: An experimental rule which, if approved, would be tested during the 2022 NIT, would allow a total of six fouls before a player is disqualified, but would also disqualify a player who is called for four fouls in either half.

For example, a player who picks up four fouls in the first half would have to sit out the rest of the game. If a player has one foul in the first half, he would be disqualified after picking up four in the second half. If a player has three fouls in the first half, he would be disqualified after being called for three fouls in the second half.

The problems with this scenario are many. For example, a player who commits no fouls in the first half would be disqualified if he commits four in the second. That penalizes players who are more involved in the (usually) more intense second half, and who managed to keep out of the foul column in the first 20 minutes.

Inconsistently, players could be disqualified after committing a total of four, five or six fouls in a game. That’s going to be more difficult to keep track of, for both players and coaches. Scoreboards in many venues won’t be able to display the many different foul scenarios in play. Statistics systems will have to be rewritten and modified.

The motivation behind allowing six fouls in a game is clear. Fans and advertisers want to see stars on the court, not pinned to the bench in foul trouble. To that end, conversations and experiments involving six fouls per individual have been around for a long time. The Big East and the TAAC (now the Atlantic Sun) had that rule in its conference games from 1990-92, and quite predictably, fouls per game peaked in the Big East in the last year of that test, making games even longer with more slogs to the free throw line. Apparently, that failed experiment of three decades ago escaped the attention of the current committee.

Granted, an extra foul allowed per player would keep them on the court longer, but this proposed rule short-circuits that by removing players with as few as four fouls. If that’s the goal, why have a rule that cuts the six-foul allowance off at the knees?

Hopefully, the experiment in next year’s NIT is the end of this horrendous proposal.