August 3, 2012

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Q&A: NCAA Men’s Rules Committee Chair Jon Hind

by Corey McLaughlin | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter | NCAA Rules Committee Proposes Major Changes

A 30-second shot clock after a stall warning was the most prominent new rule proposed for the 2013 season by the NCAA men's rules committee, but certainly not the only one. Committee chair Jon Hind talked to LM on Friday about proposed changes to faceoffs, restarts, stick dimensions and substitutions.
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

For four days this week in Indianapolis, the members of the NCAA men’s lacrosse rules committee sequestered themselves from normal life and went back and forth from their hotels to meeting rooms, all with the idea of potential new rules on their minds.

“If there’s a discussion to be had, we probably had it,” committee chair Jon Hind said of the eight-member voting committee. “We weren’t out there with dead time, and four days is a long time.”

Hind, the athletic director at Division III Hamilton, took time Friday to discuss the reasons behind the committee’s proposals, which now must be approved by an oversight committee in September if they are to go into effect for the 2013 season.

Hind’s office and cell phone voice mails were full and he had about 100 unopened emails just a few hours after the NCAA’s official press release, and Hind was also busy interviewing a prospective women's basketball coach on campus, but Lacrosse Magazine was able to connect with him for the following Q&A.

LM: Describe the process in the meetings over four days. Did you come in with certain things you wanted to address, were things added or taken away, how did that process go?

JH: Of all the committees I’ve done – championships committee, the rules committee, all kinds, this was a rather intense four days. We pretty much were in our hotel rooms sleeping or dealing with conversation about the rules through all four days.

We didn’t go out there collectively as a group with a referendum, if you will, or with a set of specific issues that we wanted to address. We certainly knew of all the chatter out there. We knew of all the different surveys that had been done, including our own, and including the IMLCA’s. We were aware of several different comments coming our way, via officials, different media groups, the general public as fans, and we convened Monday late afternoon to talk about the rules in their totality and, yes, probably specifically ones that brought more attention than others from the various surveys and comments.

What were the major influences you considered when sitting down together for the first time on Monday?

We started the meeting actually talking about exactly what you just posed. As stewards of the game, who were we stewarding the game for? Are you stewarding the game for the players? The coaches? The fans? The media? The former players? You’ve got every constituent going. We talked about that at length, about a game all of us sitting at that table think is the greatest game there is. It was keeping into account all of those groups. Every group that’s involved in the game matters. We talked about looking at the game from the widest broadest perspective we could. Whenever we talked about any potential amendment to the game, we talked about it from the perspective of each of the different constituents.

Specifically, people talk about the growing exposure of the game on television at the Division I level. What considerations were made about TV?

We certainly talked about the fact that it’s on television. We definitely never discussed it the standpoint of ‘What would make it the most visually appealing for those watching it on television?’ But we were certainly cognizant of it. We were also cognizant of the fact that a big part of the popularity and the growth of the game probably is tied to the fact that it’s been on television across the country more and more.

There’s a lot in the rules proposals to talk about, but one thing that wasn’t was a shot clock. Why?

We discussed the shot clock in totality. The one thing a shot clock does is put a certain amount of time on every possession. We’ve seen a lot of lacrosse played where the amount of time of the possession didn’t matter, that it was just a really good possession, there was a lot of good defense being played, a lot of good offense being played. And sometimes those plays in the game can go on for an extended period of time and still be what a lot of people consider very good lacrosse. We didn’t want to detract from great lacrosse that’s played all the time. The alternative would have been to put in a shot clock into the game where every single possession would have to be played under a mandated period of time. We settled where we settled. There’s still a lot of good offense being played, but in those periods of time where there does seem to be a lag, we wanted to institute an amount of time where somebody needed to get a shot on goal.

On that point, what’s the reasoning behind the 30-second shot clock after a stall warning is put on?

The “get it in, keep it in,” to a lot of us, felt as though it had become a call to lessen the size of the field, but as we all found out, in most instances, it really didn’t change the pace of the play. In the stalling [proposal] you see that now stalling can be considered when a team stands behind goal-line extended. Even if you’re standing at point-behind, that can be a place where you can now get called to take a shot. It felt too much like when someone was told “get it in, keep it in,” they ran to the back of the box and stood there. Stalling had reached a point where the only call is that we shifted where the stalling was taking place.

The consensus was this was a good landing spot. Teams that play good offense could continue to play good offense without being forced into shooting in a set amount of time. But that if it was deemed you’re not making any attempt to create offense, you would be held to getting a shot on goal in an amount of time.

There was also a lot of discussion about not wanting to put up hard clocks yet, but also not wanting the entire count to go unknown, and that’s how we ended up with the 20-second followed by the 10-second count.

Was having actual clocks a concern logistically or financially?

No, we just never wanted to get to that point. So often you hear, "Oh, a rule is not in place because Division II and Division III schools can’t afford it or didn’t want to put it in." We didn’t reach a point of discussing any rules based on what it would cost and not cost based on certain divisions. We stayed focused on what was healthiest for the game in general.

Any concern putting more of that stall call, and shot clock, into the officials’ hands?

We’d like to think we’d tighten it up a little bit so there would be a better understanding from their part, that a stall is a stall. If someone is not making any type of effort to play offense and go to the goal with the intent of scoring a goal, then they’re stalling.

There’s been some immediate feedback, much from faceoff specialists, about outlawing the motorcycle grip on faceoffs. What was the idea behind that?

The entire conversation on the faceoff portion of the game centered around fairness and safety. It was clear from all surveys and conversations that the vast, vast majority of constituents involved with the game – players, coaches, fans, former players, media – most everyone loves the faceoff in the game. We reached consensus quickly to keep the faceoff in the game. The alternative to the faceoff died very quickly. Then the conversation was about what types of things are involved in the faceoff right now. I’ll tell you the faceoff was better this year than the faceoff I was watching a couple years ago. I do think the faceoff has gone in a great direction. And while I know there are a lot of people that said now, "The faceoff is fixed, let’s leave it alone," there are a whole lot of other people that still felt the faceoff needed to be cleaned up some more. We arrived at a place where we tweaked it a little bit more. There’s still a feeling out there the faceoff is still not fair and not entirely safe.

Jon Hind

What about the negative reaction from faceoff guys who can no longer use that grip?

I understand that because that’s the one area where a group of players feel singled out. If that’s been what you do and that’s been your specialty and now that’s changed this dramatically, I would be there, too. I understand that, but there was a concern from a standpoint of fairness and safety that the motorcycle grip didn’t have a place in the game. You know the move. The concern was what happens off of that move and what’s the driver behind using that move. That grip kept coming up, resoundingly in the conversation.

As a group we were very cognizant of looking at rules as they pertained to the game and the group that plays the game. There is an absolute understanding in this age of specialization that certainly when one is asked what is the most specialized, it’s the faceoff person. I’m not going to make any kind of attempt to minimize the change or say that it’s minimal. If the faceoff men feel as though this is a huge change for them, who am I to say it’s not? If they think it’s that enormous then it must be, and is. I do know that we continued to come back to fairness and safety in the conversation about facing off.

And about adding faceoff violation penalties?

We also felt as though the faceoff had a reached a point where violations were slowing the game. The punishments for violating pre-whistle weren’t strong enough, hence the time-served penalty now if you continue to do so [30-second penalty after third violation of a half]. Nobody wants the faceoff to be a violation every time.

Can you explain the decision to separate the faceoff guys’ sticks by 12 inches, experimentally for the fall?

That seems to be a huge change because, up until now, other than the year they took the faceoff entirely out of the game, in all of the faceoffs any of us in the room could remember historically, the ball has always been placed somewhere within reach of the heads of the sticks. The sticks right now are six inches wide. If you were to spread the sticks out 12 inches, then you’d have to move the stick before you could get to the point of playing the ball. This way you can still play the ball immediately, without the motorcycle grip.

On the shooting strings, the committee has basically eliminated the V- or U-shaped shooting-string pattern…

In the conversation we touched on the stick from top to bottom. In the pocketing area, it was determined the depth of the pocket has been what it is forever, certainly for as long as all of us could remember. No one felt as though the depth of the ball was the issue to discuss. In discussing the rest of the stick, all of the different types of stringing that could be allowed in the stick were originally going into the stick when it still had its other shape. As the head slowly narrowed to two sides parallel to one another, along with the addition stringing down in that area, there was a strong feeling that the stick needed to be opened up a little bit.

What about changing the head shape or size then?

We discussed everything, but ultimately where we landed were areas where we could agree as a group.

The proposed substitution rules say “most will now be made on the fly. The horn signaling substitutions will no longer exist in the game.” What subs won’t be made on the fly?

Injuries, after goals, man up, man down, off a timeout, end of periods, dead ball subbing during penalties and fouls. Pretty much anytime the officials are involved in the stoppage of the play, other than just blowing a whistle to stop it. It will certainly speed the game.

The substitution box expanding from 10 to 20 yards, what’s the reasoning there?

Personally, I think the "no horn" and the substitution box size have greater impact on the game than where a lot of other people have ended up residing on the whole thing. With all of the subs on the fly throughout the game, there was a feeling that there would be a lot of congestion in that 5-yard space between the midfield line and the cone to the side people were racing out of. There was also a feeling that by extending the box that it might alleviate that whole circular substitution pattern so many seem to employ now. If the box is further down the sideline, there may be direct in and out subbing which would lead to quicker subbing. An unintended consequence that we weren’t looking to do is it’s not a bad thing to separate the sidelines and the coaches from one another a little more.

"You’d like to think you left the room making it better, but ultimately time is always the greatest judge. I sit here hoping the game is now a better game."

-- NCAA men's rules committee chair Jon Hind

Explain the quick restart emphasis.

If you’re right next to me, and I pick the ball up and the official deems I’m ready to go, and they restart, if you’re within five yards you can’t play me. If you do play me, it will result in a flag down for delay of game. We don’t want to wait until you get five yards away from me. If I’ve already picked it up, I’m ready to go. If you haven’t gotten five yards away you need to before you can actively try to play me. If you were next to me on a ward, for instance, if you drop the ball and I pick it up and you want to start running up the field because you know you need to get back -- then, yeah, as long as you don’t play me, you’re fine.

With eight voting members, did the committee need to come to a consensus on all of these issues, or majority on each item?

Ultimately, every single change was consensus. But it took us a while to get to the point where the room would each a consensus on every topic.

Looking at the NCAA coaches’ survey commissioned before these meetings, 40 percent indicated that "pace of play" is the aspect of the game that is in the need of most improvement. "Other" was next with nearly 20 percent, followed by the dive play (12.5). What was the discussion for or against the dive play?

We discussed it at length. We ended leaving it the same. There was tons of discussion on safety, not so much fairness, although we did discuss it. We talked a lot about the safety of all involved -- not just the goalie, but the person actually doing the dive. What does that look like to the defenseman sliding cross-crease? Are we potentially creating a collision that we don’t want to create? Are we creating the collision of the diver, diving into the goalie? Are we creating a collision of a sliding defenseman into the person who has made the dive into the crease? We looked at it from all angles and decided against making any changes with it.

I assume some of the content of the “other” category could be ideas about recruiting and early recruiting-type issues. I know it’s not an on-field rule, but did anything come up about recruiting?

We didn’t talk about it at all.

Any thoughts on what will get approved from this or what won’t? [All rules recommendations by the committee must be approved by the Playing Rules Oversight Panel, which is scheduled to meet via conference call in September. If approved, the changes would take effect for the 2013 season.]

I don’t even know who’s on it, but it is their charge to review and determine if they’re in agreement. It is entirely up to them on whether this set of rules is approved or not. You’d like to think you left the room making it better, but ultimately time is always the greatest judge. I sit here hoping the game is now a better game.


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