Original Publish Date: Aug 15, 2012
By Greg Johnson (NCAA.org)
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.
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:
Any throw-in that does not reach the field of play will result in possession being awarded to the opposing team. Previously if the ball didn’t advance to the field of play, the player was allowed to retake the throw.
Excessive celebration (such as rehearsed celebrations after a goal) has been added to the list of infractions that can merit a yellow card during play.
Players will be allowed to wear technological devices during games. (Teams have begun to use such devices to track players’ heart rates and measure other physical effects for training purposes and to help coaches gage substitution patterns and other aspects of the game.) The data gleaned from these devices, though, may not be used during the game or intervals, unless verified as medically necessary.
Coaches and staff may use electronic aids on the sidelines during games. However, the rules still continue to prohibit coaches from communicating with anyone via electronic messaging devices or phones during the game.