By Greg Johnson
As NCAA teams prepare to start in-season competition this fall, fans will see several rules changes in football, men’s and women’s soccer, women’s volleyball, field hockey, and men’s water polo.
Each of those sport’s rules committees met last winter to recommend changes to improve the quality of play and enhance student-athlete safety. These recommendations were approved by the Playing Rules Oversight Panel and are now official rules changes effective for the 2012 season.
Here are some of the most prominent changes in NCAA fall sports competition.
Coaches will be allowed to make up to 15 substitutions per set this season. Previously, teams were allowed only 12 substitutions per set. The Women’s Volleyball Rules Committee recommended the change to increase playing opportunities.
Additionally, statistics can be transmitted to the bench area this season. The Volleyball Rules Committee noted that it is common to see electronic devices such as laptops and iPads in the bench area. However, audio or video transmissions to the bench area remain restricted.
Another rules change for 2012 is that referee platforms should be distributed evenly behind the net pole, with the ladder being evenly distributed behind the back of the platform. Some referee platforms currently are constructed so that players attempting to play a ball near the stand could make contact with an inflexible object (the ladder, for example).
The uniform rule also was clarified for 2013. The rule centers on either the libero or her teammates wearing a solid-colored jersey. The libero’s shirt or jersey must be in clear contrast to the other members of the team. A one-inch trim and piping along the seams of the jersey will be allowable, but it is imperative that the libero’s jersey be distinguishable for identification purposes.
Men’s and women’s soccer
This season, a card repository system in men’s and women’s soccer will provide an official record of players in all three divisions who are required to miss games because of disciplinary action. The new process is primarily intended to improve efficiencies in tracking soccer’s card system, which until now has been done only on an ad hoc basis or provided in year-end reports.
Official scorekeepers are required to send box scores (which include cards given during that game) to the NCAA statistics staff, which tracks cards as any other statistic. Game officials also are required to report ejections (red cards) issued during a given game to the NCAA Soccer Central Hub, which in turn prompts notification from the NCAA national office to the relevant conferences and the affected team’s athletics director about the suspension.
An ancillary benefit of the new system is its sportsmanship component. While cards are reported in box scores and in officials’ reports after games, suspensions for yellow-card accumulations or for red cards have been left for individual schools to administer. Most teams honor the rules as written, but the committee has learned of occasional instances in which players who are supposed to sit out games either do not or delay their suspensions for an easier opponent.
Accordingly, under the new system, if a player who is due to miss a game because of cards does not serve the suspension, that game will be forfeited and the player will be required to miss the next two games. Additionally, the head coach will be required to miss an equal number of games.
For years, soccer has relied on its card system to help regulate on-field behavior. Referees have the authority to issue yellow cards (also called “cautions”) to players for rough play, persistent infringement on the rules of play, taunting, incidental profanity and other violations. The accumulation of yellow cards over the course of a season can also result in game suspensions.
Officials also may issue red cards, or immediate ejections, to players who commit more egregious infractions (such as serious foul play, abusive language or an intentional handball). Those also carry game suspensions.
Because of the card system’s complexity – and because until now there hasn’t been a formal reporting requirement or collection agency – schools and conferences have been on their own for keeping track of cards and administering penalties.
In other rules changes for soccer, referees will have more discretion in the last five minutes of the game to manage the clock.
Specifically, the referee can determine whether to keep the clock moving if the team that is trailing commits a violation that warrants a card. Previously, the clock stopped while the official issued the card. However, the rules committee learned that the losing team sometimes uses this tactic to stop the clock in end-of-game situations. Conversely, if the team that is ahead purposely delays the restart after the card is given (as tactic to keep the clock moving), the referee can stop the clock.
The following rules will also be in effect this season:
A new shootout protocol will be used in all regular-season games this season. After the traditional overtime period, a one-on-one shootout between an attacker and goalkeeper will take place. The shootout will be similar to an ice hockey shootout but conducted in an eight-second timeframe. Unlike ice hockey, multiple shots can be taken within the eight seconds in the field hockey shootout.
Another change is that every warning card will carry some type of suspension or penalty time when issued. A green card will carry a mandatory two-minute suspension for the player. Previously, a green card served only as a warning. A yellow card will still carry a minimum five-minute suspension for the player with no maximum penalty time. The Field Hockey Committee believes players will be less likely to commit a foul if they know they’ll have to leave the game.
Men’s water polo
The course will be limited to 25 meters and the shot clock will be shortened to 30 seconds this season. Previously, the men’s course was not to exceed 30 meters and the shot clock was 35 seconds. The changes are being implemented with the goal of producing more offense.