Listen up men, women’s lax has it right with a 90-second shot clock

Photo: Inside Lacrosse

Men’s college lacrosse needs to move into the modern age if it wants to gain even more universal appeal. To this writer, that means adding a shot clock.

How many times this season did we see Denver or its opponents take the air out of the ball to protect a lead at the end of tight games? Then, watch smart coaches on both sides call time-outs when the 30-second shot clock was about to be called and get a fresh start to stall even more.

B-O-R-I-N-G.  

In 2012, Syracuse lacrosse and Colorado Mammoth legend Gary Gait said this at the women’s lacrosse national convention, “Let’s not follow the men. Let’s be leaders,” he said. “I can guarantee you the men are going to a shot clock. It’s going to happen, so why don’t we do it first?”

In a niche sport reluctant to break with tradition, the women were the first movers in college to adopt a shot clock. It’s time for the men to follow the women’s lead.

Women’s lacrosse instituted a 90-second shot clock, which is the result of a long-awaited rule change made in 2015 by the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel. Now, once a team gains possession, it has 90 seconds to shoot, similar to how basketball teams have an allotted time to shoot the ball during each possession.

How did the rules changes impact this year’s DU women’s squad? They scored 239 goals on 547 shots in 18 games and finished with a 14-4 record. There were Butler (20-0) & Cincinnati (17-0) blowouts, but the Pios also lost one of their most dynamic scorers in Nicole Martindale.

In the prior two 18-game seasons, the Pioneers scored 168 and 203 goals, respectively. That’s an average of 185 goals per season or 77% of this year’s total. As for shots in 2016 and 2015, DU took 399 and 453, 77.8% of this season’s total shots on goal. As for DU’s opponents, they shot 403 times this past season while averaging 355 shots the prior two seasons.

While it’s still early, the evidence appears to be clear that teams will shoot more and stall less as a result of the shot clock. Also, the arbitrary application of the time clock in the men’s game is inconsistently applied as well as applied differently during different times of the games by different officials.

According to The Dartmouth, the Dartmouth Big Green’s head coach Danielle Spencer said, “I can’t imagine any coach wishing it went back to the way it was before. It allows girls to take more shots and score more goals, and it’s fun. It’s fun to coach, and it’s fun to play with.”

Players agreed.

“I think it’s better that people can’t stall for five minutes, and most of the time we’re not going to be having the ball down [in] the defensive end for five minutes,” goalkeeper Charlotte Wahle ’19 said. “It keeps everyone fresh and makes the game faster.”

And the shot clock is just one issue that fans and spectators have with today’s rules, anchored in east coast tradition.

Other suggestions to speed up the game include eliminating faceoffs after scores by awarding ball possession at midfield going to the team that was scored upon (Say it ain’t so, Trevor!). Another idea is eliminating or limiting the number of offensive shots that go out of bounds before a loss of possession. Both of these are relatively radical suggestions that would change the game significantly from its current state.

It seems that Notre Dame-Denver match-ups are always tight. It would be a shame to have a game-ending stall and then have the application of an arbitrary shot clock rule determine the outcome of this classic battle.


Note: Major League Lacrosse, the men’s outdoor professional lacrosse league has had a shot clock since its inception in 2001. It was originally 45 seconds, but in 2005, they increased it to 60 seconds. MLL games regularly see scores in the high teens (granted the league also has a 2-point shot). The shot clock isn’t a far-fetched idea, even in the men’s game.