New Rule Proposal Could Inhibit ‘Press Virginia’
By Bob Hertzel
One thing I have come to learn from a lifetime in sports is that if there happens to be a rule you don’t like, don’t bother complaining. Wait a while and they’ll change it.
I know, they’ve played baseball since the Civil War, football once was where they wore leather helmets and ran from a formation known as “The Flying Wedge,” basketball came out of a YMCA with just 13 rules.
There was no “double dribble” in basketball because there was no dribbling at all, as this original rule states: “A player cannot run with the ball. The player must throw it from the spot on which he catches it, allowance to be made for a man who catches the ball when running at a good speed if he tries to stop.”
It doesn’t matter what the sport, the rules are forever evolving. Even baseball, once mired in tradition, was able to bring about the designated hitter – although only in the American League – do away with the spitball, make wearing batting helmets mandatory and outlaw running into the catcher.
We’ve brought technology into our sports to the point that games have as many breaks to review calls by umpires or officials as they have time outs, leading to the bizarre situation where the only person on the field who is not allowed to screw up is the umpire or official.
Pitchers can not get back hanging curve balls nor quarterbacks interceptions, but an official calls a runner safe when he is out by a hair, he must be corrected … a situation that takes much of the fun out of the games we watch.
In some ways, they have gone backwards for the sports at one times were built on machismo and physicality, be it those arguments with umpires or referees, hard collisions or attempts to gain an advantage have taken the edge off.
It’s almost as if they have gone back to Dr. James Naismith’s YMCA, which included this as rule No. 5: “No shouldering, holding, pushing, tripping or striking in any way the person of an opponent shall be allowed; the first infringement of this rule by any player shall count as a foul, the second shall disqualify him until the next goal is made, or, if there was evident intent to injure the person, for the whole of the game, no substitute allowed.”
So it is not surprising that discussions of rules changes is dominating the sports pages even as the NBA and NHL are conducting their championship playoffs.
Both college basketball and football are involved, and the upcoming rule change in basketball may have a strong and negative effect upon what Bob Huggins has been doing with his “Press Virginia” defense.
Huggins’ double-teaming, pressurized defense involves a good bit of physicality and has thrived off contact, either with fouls being called on offensive players trying to escape by elbowing or shouldering their way out of the trap or by officials presuming the defensive contact they provided was, shall we say for lack of a better word, incidental.
Last year, they brought in a rule to help defenders, a cylinder rule, in which the offensive player established a cylinder that surrounded him into which the defender could not go but should the offensive player came out of trying to wiggle free the foul would be on him.
The proposal for this year is to change the rule to read:
“If a defensive player straddles an offensive player’s leg in a way that prohibits him from making a normal basketball move — which now includes pivoting — contact that creates a common foul will be called on the defensive player.”
First off, if you are going to create a rule that might lead to more fouls in the sport, why not increase the number of fouls allowed to six, as there are in the NBA. People play good money to watch players play, not sit.
Then, if you force Huggins and WVU out of its aggressive style, you might as well take the bat out of Bryce Harper’s hands in baseball.
Then, there was something Rich Rodriguez brought up in his recent discussion with the Associated Press in his role as President of the American Football Coaches Association regarding the redshirt rule.
Rodriguez opted that he was in favor of allowing a player to play as many as four games in a redshirt season, which would allow him to get seasoning if he is young and needs it, yet isn’t quite ready to be a regular contributor.
That makes sense if you look at through the eyes of a coach who admits he would prefer to see his scholarship total grow from 85 to 90, too, but Rodriguez offers something that makes far more sense.
Right now, players have five years to play four years, meaning they have that redshirt season.
He suggests that most coaches would be in favor of having simply five years of eligibility, where you could do away with redshirt years all together.
This allows coaches far more freedom with their rosters and, while the four years of eligibility once upon a time fit the idea that you attained a degree in four years, most people today find it better to take five years to get the degree, athletes, in particular, using that extra year to ease their academic burden while allowing them to mature.