OPINION: new lacrosse shot clock a necessary change


Brian Dureiko (11) and Andrew Rackley hug after the Kent State Lacrosse Club beat Penn State Altoona 9-5 on Saturday, April 29, 2017. The Flashes won the Midwest conference with the victory. 

Owen MacMillan

A month into the 2019 NCAA men’s lacrosse season, fans have noticed a huge change in how the game is timed this season.

This past off-season, the NCAA added an 80-second shot clock at the start of every offensive possession. This change replaces the horribly confusing system used last year where the referees were allowed to turn on a 10-second shot clock — one that was counted down verbally — any time they thought the offense was delaying.

This rule put the referees in a very awkward position, as it was up to them to decide whether or not the offense was putting in enough effort to score. This strange enforcement policy added to the already confusing list of rules that made watching and understanding lacrosse extremely difficult for newer fans.

The new system institutes a visible, digital shot clock that triggers on the exchange of possession, giving the team with the ball 20 seconds to get the ball across midfield and the remainder of the clock to get a shot on-goal.

Lacrosse is expanding rapidly in participation and popularity (it’s had a 25% increase since 2012) but TV viewership ratings still remain illusive, with almost all of the championship games streaming only on ESPN3, ESPN’s online streaming service. This disparity between public interest and actual viewership is a hotly debated topic in the lacrosse world, one that I believe is largely due to the confusing nature of how lacrosse is officiated.

The switch from the subjective and ill-defined 10-second countdown to a visible and consistent shot clock is a major upgrade in simplicity, which is a benefit to referees, teams and fans alike. Not only does the new rule make watching games easier, but it also makes them more entertaining. It speeds up team’s offensive possessions and shot frequency in a sport that is already known for high scores and rapid-fire offense.

While one simple rule change will not immediately propel lacrosse to a massive increase in television ratings, it is an important step in making lacrosse, a sport normally seen as elitist and exclusive, more accessible and entertaining to a broader audience.

(it’s had a 25% increase since 2012)Owen MacMillan is a copy editor. Contact him at [email protected]