August 16, 2012

NCAA Committee Reconsiders Rules Changes

by Matt Forman | | Twitter

The NCAA men's lacrosse rules committee's proposed elimination of the motorcycle grip on faceoffs has met opposition in the form of an online petition with more than 900 signatures as of Thursday. Committee chair Jon Hind said it will be a "big conversation piece for the group" when it reconsiders its recommendations next week before submitting them for approval by the oversight committee in September.

© John Strohsacker/

The NCAA men's lacrosse rules committee will reconvene via teleconference at the "middle or end of next week" to discuss in depth the proposals recommended earlier this month for the 2013 season and the feedback they've gathered since the announcement before it formally submits them for approval by the oversight committee in early September, committee chair Jon Hind said Thursday.

Though the exact date and time for the call have not yet been finalized, Hind said the committee can either "continue to move forward with the suggestions as voted on and proposed or to revote and pull things from the table" as part of the "consideration and reconsideration" process.

Next week's meeting will be the second time the committee has gathered since the committee's proposals were publicized Aug. 3. It also had a conference call Aug. 7 and "talked about the immediate rush we received over the weekend after the announcement," Hind said. "Everybody was encouraged to solicit as much information as possible from a variety of constituents in order to have a full grasp of everything by the time we reconvene next week."

Hind estimated that 95 percent, "the overwhelming majority," of feedback he has received has centered around the faceoff proposals. Without knowing the specific responses other committee members have gotten, he suggested a proportionate amount of next week's conference call will be dedicated to faceoffs.

"We have proposed all these changes that are pretty dramatic to the game," Hind said, "and yet everything has focused on the center X."

More specifically, Hind said, "The motorcycle grip will be a big, big conversation piece for the group."

In a 30-minute interview with Lacrosse Magazine, Hind, the athletic director at Division III Hamilton, shared several emails he has received. One he received Wednesday evening resonated strongly.

"The email read: 'Dear Mr. Hind, I really appreciate you responding to both me and my father, but I was wondering if you could update me on the progress of any of the faceoff rulings. As you can imagine, we faceoff men are a tight-knit group and each of us hears different stories from our coaches. I'm really looking forward to the upcoming season, and I want to help contribute to my team in every way I possibly can. But I'm a little confounded, as I'm not sure exactly how to continue practicing my craft for the rest of the summer. I'm wondering if you could inform me of the deliberation status of the coaches, as it would really help me and ease my transition into what should be a very challenging, but nonetheless exciting junior campaign.'

"That's a very thoughtful email," Hind said. "I wrote him back and told him we're deliberating on all this. I'm not shocked. He wants to be a great faceoff man in the NCAA. But he doesn't know whether he's wasting time right now on practicing with that motorcycle grip. That's what I'll express to the committee: If we're going to pull this, let's pull it and not even waste the time of letting it go to the oversight committee for reasons like this. This kid wants to know."

Overall, Hind said he has received a staggering amount of feedback. "And I'm not hiding from anybody," he said with a chuckle. Hind said he has received at least 150 direct emails, plus many more voicemails. He actively sought feedback from coaches, players of different ages and alumni of the sport.

"I want to hear anyone's opinion who's willing to offer it. I receive and read every email, and I've written back every single person," Hind said. "I feel as though anyone who has taken the time to voice their opinion to me deserves a response back.

"My general response is that I appreciate them taking their time to voice their concerns, opinions and position relative to our suggested rules changes. And that it's very appropriate that they've done so, because this is the period for reconsideration. I also assured them all their thoughts and points would be shared with every member of the committee, and we'll know a good deal more in the short amount of time ahead of us."

Hind also participated on an Intercollegiate Men's Lacrosse Coaches Association (IMLCA) conference call after executive director Phil Buttafuoco extended an invitation. Additionally, every NCAA head coach was "allowed to give comment to any and all of the suggested changes" in a follow-up survey, for which the window to respond recently closed.

Hind has seen, read and heard it all, including the online petition titled "Face off men unite," which as of Thursday afternoon had more than 900 signatures. The petition was supported by Stevenson coach Paul Cantabene, who retired as the MLL's all-time faceoff wins leader, former Long Island Lizards specialist Pete Vlahakis, who broke Cantabene's record in 2011, and Team Australia's Matt Schomburg, who runs a faceoff instructional company, among others.

In a possibly related effort, Hind said he received a "wide range" of strikingly similar emails that included repetitive points of emphasis.

"Everyone should know they were listened to... We have all that information to move forward — to make the best and safest decisions for the game."

Jon Hind, chair of the NCAA men's lacrosse rules committee

"It was clear there was an email distributed to all types of faceoff constituents, because for a lot of emails, I saw the cut-and-paste going on," Hind said. "Over and over and over again, I was getting emails that were giving me the exact same talking points."

Hind said the recurring email highlighted the following: 1) That 85 percent of all faceoff men are using the motorcycle grip; 2) That of the 85 percent, there's been very little to no injury; 3) That the motorcycle grip reduces the amount of cheating involved. It also listed the specific methods of cheating with the traditional grip.

While Hind said he appreciated the volume and support of those concerns, he said he was "much more compelled with the emails written personally. Primarily the kids who face off in NCAA programs, coupled with the parents of children who face off. When a current student-athlete or a parent is describing this is the only move he's ever known — all of his time, all of his effort and all of their finances — and we're taking it away, those resonate with me personally a great deal. When a student-athlete says, 'Boy, since I got into this game in fifth grade, the motorcycle grip is the only one I've used or ever known throughout my youth, high school and collegiate career, and now you're severely disadvantaging me by taking it away,' that's a very compelling email. I can fully appreciate where they're coming from."

Hind shared a related email.

"As one current, very prominent faceoff man in the country wrote very articulately, there's cheating on both holds," he said. "To simply take away one of the holds now greatly disadvantages him and the others who use that hold, and swings the pendulum over to a tremendous advantage to those who use the other hold, even though he acknowledges there's a fair amount of cheating in either one of the holds. I'd rather read an email like that, from a current player who's being incredibly honest."

Highlights on other feedback Hind has received regarding the proposals:

- "There's been a lot of feedback from faceoff men and coaches about the staggered cadence officials use. Several people have pointed out that a consistent cadence would clean up cheating, as opposed to all the jumping and movement, which comes about from officials staggering the count."

- "It's obvious and clear that the tape on the head is there to assist in keeping hands off the plastic. Who's kidding who? There's a lot of discussion about coming up with the method to determine color differentiation. Maybe the answer is: If you have tape on the head of your stick that's consistent with the color of your stick, as long as that clashes with the color of your handle."

- After faceoff topics, "the next-highest and next-strongest" level of feedback surrounds horn-signaling substitutions being eliminated. "There's a few people who feel as though it's too drastic, and it changes too greatly the face of the game."

- "There's been very little feedback with respect to the actual timing, the 30-second runoff after stall warnings. That's an area where a lot of people felt that what was put in wasn't working — what was intended wasn't what happened. When people were told 'get it in, keep it in,' the point was that they were stalling, and all people did was change the dimension of the space in which they stalled. It was an unintended consequence. In general, most people feel pretty comfortable with where we've landed."

- "Several people questioned how insightful we were, as a group, to recommend moving the faceoff to 12 inches apart -- if in fact we're really worrying about safety. We did have a lengthy discussion about the whole thought about moving guys further away. Do they just line up like offensive and defensive linemen would in football and attack one another, instead of focusing on and attacking the ball? So that's a focus, and that's not even one we put in as a suggested rule change for next year."

- "There really hasn't been much feedback at all" about stick stringing. "That doesn't mean there aren't people out there upset with it. Personally, I have heard very little."

- "For the most part, people like the idea of the quick restarts."

- "I haven't had a single negative response on stripping away the five-second count on goalies to return to the goal."

Ultimately, when the committee discusses these topics next week, Hind said: "Everyone should know they were listened to. We all know that we don't get our way all the time. But we all want to know that we've presented our side to a story, and someone has acknowledged it. We have all that information to move forward — to make the best and safest decisions for the game."

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