January 26, 2013

ESPN, Officials Experiment with TV Shot Clock Timer

Sam McCreery, left, from ESPN's emerging technology group, holds an experimental countdown timer and talks with NCAA District 5 officials' assignor Eric Rudolph and official Bruce Crawford.
© Corey McLaughlin

by Corey McLaughlin | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The official lifted the plastic box — roughly the size of a garage door opener and featuring red and green buttons — to his ear and mimicked making a cell phone call. But this was a very different kind of technology. He wore it on his left wrist on the field during Saturday's Team USA-Notre Dame men's scrimmage.

The pristine green Field 18 at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in sunny Florida on Saturday was a testing ground for the world of lacrosse. Representatives from ESPN and game officials in Florida took part in the first prototype test of a shot-clock countdown timer to be worn by officials during televised games.

The new NCAA men's rules for 2013, in part, enact a 30-second shot clock after stall warnings, but they do not mandate that playing facilities use a physical clock on the field. It's a tricky situation for television, a medium that is visually driven and plays a pivotal role in the growth of the game.

And so ESPN is testing a timer that could be worn on-field by officials, with its timing mechanism linked to a production truck and in turn displayed on television screens. The device will again be used Sunday when Team USA plays defending national champion Loyola at 1:30 p.m. ET (ESPN3.com/LaxMagazine.com live blog).

"Once everything shakes out, we hope to display the shot clock in the most accurate and efficient manner for people at home," ESPN lacrosse producer John Kettering said on the sideline while watching the U.S.-Notre Dame scrimmage Saturday. "Our goal is to serve the viewer."

"Whether that's going to be from 30 seconds, whether that's going to be from 10, we're not sure yet," Kettering said, referencing the initial 30-second countdown that will be put on after a stall warning and the 10-second hand count officials are instructed to use on the field after the first 20 seconds expire.

Sam McCreery, from ESPN's emerging technologies group, was on hand to provide the timer, which was about three inches long, two inches wide and 3/4-inch thick with a pair of green and red buttons for start and stop functions. Its size was relatively large, because its signal must reach production trucks outside the NFL stadiums that house the men's final four and other regular-season stadium events.

The timer was intended to be worn on the hip, but when presented with it before Team USA's scrimmage with Notre Dame, official Bruce Crawford quickly said he would prefer it on his wrist. It was fashioned on a wristband before the start of the game.

"I found it better on my wrist because I could see which button I have to push to initiate it or shut it off," Crawford said. "They wanted it on the hip, but you can't see it and feel the difference in the buttons."

For being shown a new piece of equipment for the first time, along with dealing with myriad of other new rules now being used this season, Crawford said he thought the timer would be relatively easy to use. He said under the new rules officials will already click on a 20-second buzzer when a stall is put on. Crawford said when that expires it would be simple to click the TV timer on. On Saturday, one stall was called toward the end of the scrimmage but only a couple seconds passed before Team USA turned it over and so the timer was never used.

"You hit that green button and initiate the 10-second count," he said. "If someone takes a shot in that time or there's a turnover, then I hit the red button.

"It isn't hard at all to do. I never got to that today [10-second count], but I hit it a couple times. There's a little light on it that let you know it started."

And although officials who wear such a device will be able start and stop the countdown for television purposes, the device will not display how much time is actually left on the clock. Nor change the fact that spectators, coaches and players watching or participating in the game won't see a real clock on the field.

"But they'll see it on TV," Crawford said.

Division III Pride

A pair of former Division III players are representing the U.S. this weekend. Former Salisbury midfielder Sam Bradman, who was most outstanding player of the Sea Gulls' national championship game wins in 2011 and 2012, and former Stevenson and current Chesapeake Bayhawks defenseman Michael Simon are the pair.

Simon was a senior at Stevenson when Bradman was a freshman with the Sea Gulls. Both talked about the joy felt representing Division III at the highest level.

"It's an unreal; a dream come true," Bradman said Saturday.

"It's not like I'm the first Division III guy to do this, but it's great," Simon said. "It's a dream of mine to play for Team USA, so it's nice to fulfill it. There's so many other great D-III guys that have played with the U.S. and in the MLL, and it's great to join their ranks. I'm proud and honored."

Bradman is relishing the opportunity to play the reigning national champion Loyola. Salisbury won the Division III crown at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., last year on a Sunday, and when the Greyhounds won their title on Memorial Day Monday, Bradman thought of the possibility of his Sea Gulls playing Loyola for an ultimate national championship.

"I was wishing our Salisbury team got a shot at them," Bradman said. "I'm glad I can play against them this year."

Kavanagh Shines in Notre Dame-USA Scrimmage

In its first game of the weekend, Team USA beat Notre Dame, 10-7, behind scoring from eight different players and four saves apiece from Scott Rodgers and John Galloway. But, even in the losing effort, it was hard not to notice Irish freshman attackman Matt Kavanagh, who scored four goals.

Kavanagh, the MVP of the Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) U19 World Championships this summer with Team USA, has transitioned smoothly to life as college freshman. He's working in on the Irish attack with seniors Westy Hopkins and Sean Rogers and sophomore Conor Doyle.

"He's a terrific player," Notre Dame coach Kevin Corrigan said of Kavanagh, who has put on close to 20 pounds since arriving in South Bend. "He's got a game that really can fit with the rest of our guys and the things that we do. Unlike a lot of freshman and talented freshman, usually you have to play around them a little bit. He's a guy that can do multiple things and he makes it easy to play with other guys. You don't worry about who you're putting him in there with. He's going to find his way around the field."

Team USA Men 10, Notre Dame 7
USA — Bitter 2, Poillon 2, Danowski 1, R. Lao-Gosney 1, Gibson 1, K. Leveille 1, Stanwick 1, Woodson 1; ND — Kavanagh 4, Foley 1, Rogers 1, Miller 1.
USA — Erwin 1, Gibson 1; ND — Corrigan 1, O'Connor 1, Miller 1.
USA — Galloway 4, Rodgers 4; ND — Kemp 6, Kelly 2.

Jacksonville Gets a Win

Jacksonville traveled by bus two hours and 30 mintues south to Lake Buena Vista and beat Notre Dame in the Irish's final game of Champion Challenge weekend. After trailing 4-0 early, the Dolphins rallied and senior midfielder Culver Bradbury notched the winner with 3:58 left.

Jacksonville 9, Notre Dame 8
JAX — Mann 2, Bradbury 1, C. Miller 1, Q. Miller 1, Rebman 1, Rohlin 1, Wertz 1, Winter 1; ND — Marlatt 2, Corrigan 1, Foley 1, Kavanagh 1, Lubowicki 1, Rogers 1, Scioscia 1.
JAX — Curtis 1, Kenary 1, Winter 1; ND — Corrigan 2.
JAX — DeLuca 9, Barfield 6, Niklason 2; ND — Kelly 5, Kemp 2, Larrabee 0.

Check back to LaxMagazine.com on Sunday for live coverage as the U.S. women's national team plays Northwestern at 11:00 a.m. ET and the U.S. men's national team takes on Loyola at 1:30 p.m. ET.

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