NCAA refs getting leeway in calling elbows to head
It appears the penalty for accidentally elbowing an opponent above the shoulders in college basketball won't be as costly next season.
The NCAA committees for men's and women's basketball rules want to give referees leeway in how they deal with those situations.
Pending approval by the Playing Rules Oversight Committee next month, referees who call an elbow to the head will be allowed to use a video monitor to determine the severity of the blow. If deemed inadvertent, the referee could call a player-control foul or even nothing.
Previously, a referee was required to call a flagrant-1 or flagrant-2. A flagrant-1 results in two free throws and possession for the offended team. A flagrant-2 adds an ejection for the offending player.
The rule was implemented in 2011-12 to protect players from head injuries.
St. Peter's coach John Dunne, the men's rules committee chairman, said the committee didn't anticipate two years ago how much accidental contact there would be. He said such contact could occur when a player is trying to ward off a defender on a shot attempt or when a dribbler swings an elbow and swipes a defender behind him in the head.
"Those are inadvertent, but now the referees are calling those as flagrant-1 fouls," Dunne said. "The penalty is very, very stiff on a flagrant-1 call."
The men's and women's rules committee recommended several other changes during meetings that ended Thursday in Indianapolis.
Officials in both the men's and women's game will be allowed to use video monitors more in the final two minutes and in overtime.
The charging-blocking foul was tweaked in the men's game, preventing the defender from sliding into the offensive player's path to the basket at the last moment. In addition, greater emphasis is being placed on calling fouls on defensive players who keep a hand or forearm on an opponent or use an arm bar to impede the progress of an opponent.
Big East supervisor of officials Art Hyland, the secretary rules editor, said it's hoped the charging-blocking rule and the points of emphasis will help give an offensive bump to the men's game. The per-team scoring average in Division I last season was 67.5 points, the lowest since 1981-82. Scoring has declined each of the last four seasons in Division I.
The most notable rule change recommended on the women's side is the implementation of the 10-second backcourt rule.
The elbow-to-the-head foul was called about a dozen times in the NCAA men's tournament, and on several occasions it was criticized because the contact appeared accidental.
"I just think we had some pushback from the coaching community that certain types of contact with the elbow did not deserve the severe penalty that was originally put in," Hyland said. "The rules committee agreed with that."
The men's and women's committee recommended that in the last two minutes of regulation and overtime officials can use video review to confirm a shot-clock violation and to determine who caused the ball to go out of bounds on a deflection involving two or more players.
Also, for the first 36 minutes of play, officials must wait until the next media timeout to review whether a shot was a 2-point or 3-point field goal. In the last four minutes of the game and the entire overtime, officials will go to the monitor immediately to determine whether a field goal was a 2- or 3-pointer.
Also, the monitor will be used to determine the fouler when there is uncertainty after a call has been made. Previously, officials have only been permitted to determine the free throw shooter using the monitor.
Until now, the U.S. women's college game has been the only level of play in the world that has not had a 10-second backcourt rule. The rule requires the offensive team to move the ball past midcourt within 10 seconds. Failure to do so results in a turnover. Under current rules, teams can take as much time off the 30-second shot clock as they want before crossing midcourt.
"We felt it was the right time," said women's rules chairwoman Barbara Burke, the athletic director at Eastern Illinois. "We felt we wanted to do what we could to enhance the pace of play and freedom of movement and things like that, and we thought this rule would give us the ability to do that."
Teams experimented with the 10-second rule in exhibition games last season.
The NCAA is also recommending revising the restricted-area rule under the basket for the women's game. The change would involve the "lower defensive box," which starts at the second free-throw lane space and extends three feet outside the lane toward each baseline. The recommendation is that when an offensive player with the ball starts a move inside the lower-box area, the secondary defender can draw a charge with the restricted area not in effect.
Plays that begin outside the lower defensive box will still have the restricted area in effect.
"After watching it for two years and listening to complaints, we said instead of getting rid of the arc and penalizing people who don't have time to get out. The logical answer is to stop penalizing those defenders," NCAA Women's Basketball Secretary-Rules Editor Debbie Williamson said. "This will help the lob pass into the post, the block out on the rebounds. Situations where players don't have time to get out of the restricted area."
All the rules changes must still be approved by the Playing Rules Oversight Panel, which will convene on June 18 via conference call, to become effective for next season.
AP Basketball Writer Doug Feinberg contributed to this report.
Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press
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