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.

4 thoughts on “Listen up men, women’s lax has it right with a 90-second shot clock”

  1. A 90 second clock would be fine for the men’s game too. I hate waiting around while they get the new players on the field. Don’t take away face-offs after goals – they tried that 35 years ago and it failed so miserably they had to take back the face-offs.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. In my opinion, once you get past the (whether real or perceived…) notions of east coast elitism, the biggest challenge when it comes to increasing the appeal of college lacrosse is the groin-grabbingly stupid way the rules combine with the skill of the athletes to reward stalling in close games. Though not the only component of the problem, the ridiculously arbitrary and, at times, utterly incomprehensible rules surrounding the shot clock are absolutely a major part of it.

    “Are they stalling?”
    “C’mon, they’re stalling. The ref should put them on the clock!”
    “Oh, he just did. How much time is left on the shot clock?”
    “Wait, no. They just called time out, so the clock resets.”
    “That wasn’t a real shot. It was just to get the clock to reset.”
    “Crap, the opposition scored. Are we still on the clock? Wait, why?!?!”

    On way or another, all of that needs to stop. It just makes lacrosse more inaccessible to the casual fan.

    Full disclosure, here – a large part of me hates the very notion of shot clocks and the way they artificially create possession changes. On a purely visceral level, it just seems…unseemly….to create a turnover via anything other than legitimate gameplay. But then, I’m first and foremost a hockey player/coach/fan, and the very nature of hockey causes turnovers to happen constantly. However, that’s just not the case with lacrosse.

    High level lacrosse players are so good at passing, shooting, and handling the ball that the helter-skelter, back-and-forth possession changes common in any level of hockey stop happening by about 8th grade in lacrosse. Players don’t take as many risks, either offensively or defensively, because they’re so rarely rewarded – which, especially in close games, drags the speed of the game to a slow crawl. Thus creating the clamor for a shot clock. Which I definitely get.

    That said, if lacrosse wants to use a shot clock, it should use a REAL shot clock and show it to the coaches, players, referees, and fans. It shouldn’t be up to the referees whether or not to “put them on the clock” and there should be no resets for time outs. Presuming a turnover in your half, you should have X number of seconds to get the ball over the midline and then Y number of seconds to get a shot off, otherwise it’s a turnover. End of story.

    If lacrosse doesn’t want to use a shot clock, fine. Then own that decision and look at other avenues to reduce stalling and reward both offensive and defensive pressure and risk taking. But stop these stupid, ‘we don’t have a shot clock….until we do…but then only at the referee’s discretion’ half-measures. They just take what’s already a niche sport and make it even more difficult for the outsider to access.

    Just my $0.02…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love DU lacrosse–I attend all the home games, and watch most of the televised away games. Some of the close battles that DU has had (particularly the 10-9 and 11-10 games against Notre Dame) have been some of the most exciting sporting events that I have attended. HOWEVER….college lacrosse is a sport that needs some tweaking. It’s less entertaining to me than hockey, soccer, and some other sports. All the perimeter play, the difficulty of getting past defenders one-on-one to approach the goal, and the stalling (whether it’s intentional or not) all detract from the game, and probably turn off potential fans that are not as patient as I am. The game doesn’t need to be totally dumbed down, but there shouldn’t be any “east coast tradition” BS to slow down the improvement of the game. The shot clock is the most obvious improvement that could be made, and I forward to it.

    Liked by 1 person

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