Rules are not always made to be broken. Never is that more true than when it comes to the rules governing high school sports in Ohio.
The Ohio High School Athletic Association is a member of the National Federation of State High School Associations and follows its rules. One of the many hats of the NFHS is to provide nationwide rules for high school sports. The OHSAA’s constitution requires it to follow all NFHS rules.
Changing the rules
OHSAA Assistant Commissioner Jerry Snodgrass recently attended a national basketball rules meeting in New Orleans, where a number of rule changes were discussed.
One of the updates was the possibility of changing basketball from four quarters to two halves, like the college game.
“It is further away than what we may think,” Snodgrass said of the rule change. “The change does not have the support from coaches than what was anticipated.”
The way a rule change like this could come about is through questionnaires given to coaches and officials at the end of each season. These questionnaires ask how rule changes went during the season and what rule changes they might like to see in the future. Those suggestions are relayed to the NFHS through each state’s representative.
“Ohio has one of the best participation rates in the country among coaches and officials,” Snodgrass said. “They allow us to provide some really great feedback to the NFHS.”
So why is the change from quarters to halves being discussed? According to Snodgrass, the most popular reasons is, of course, to make basketball more like the college game and prepare athletes for the next level. The other is to improve playing time for all participants.
“I understand the reason behind the suggested change, but you have to sit back and really think about whether or not it is our job to prepare them for college or is it more important to provide them with the best athletic experience while in high school,” Snodgrass said.
According to the NCAA, there are nearly 8 million high school students competing in high school athletics, and about 460,000 of them will move on to play at the college level.
Playing time has some traction. The change discussed was to play 18-minute halves, adding an additional four minutes to every game. But challenges still present themselves in the form of controlling time.
In college, there are media timeouts every four minutes. High schools do not necessarily need media timeouts. An 18-minute nonstop half could become very challenging for athletes.
Changing might be difficult across the board, as NCAA women’s basketball will be changing to quarters next season, making college men the only level of competitive basketball using halves.
Other future rule changes
The shot clock has been a hot topic in high school basketball for a very long time.
The main reason behind that is to stop stalling or holding the ball. But there are major challenges to the proposed rule.
“If we do implement a shot clock, it has to be at every level, including junior varsity and middle school. A rule that produces major change to the sport cannot be enforced at one level,” Snodgrass said. “If you have ever ran a shot clock at the scorer’s table, it is impossible to do the game board and shot clock at once.”
Schools would be required to have another person control the shot clock, and finding volunteers is hard enough, let alone at the middle school level.
Why not Ohio?
Each state has one representative on the rules committee at the NFHS, and each representative has one vote.
But to have a vote on rule changes, those states must follow the NFHS rules to perfection. States do have the option to branch out on their own and implement a rule change in their state, but they will be denied the opportunity to have any vote on rule changes.
Only eight states (California, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota and Washington) allow use of a shot clock, thereby removing those states from the NFHS rules committee.
“Most people do not understand that the OHSAA nor I cannot just go out and make a rule change even if it might be better for the sport,” Snodgrass said. “The OHSAA constitution requires us to follow the NFHS, and there is no violating that constitution. We want to keep our vote and be able to have input on future rules because that is what our coaches and officials deserve for a job well done.”
While the shot clock and halves versus quarters remain top issues in high school basketball, Snodgrass would like to see one change that has yet to gain traction.
“I would not mind seeing the arch in the paint for the charging calls. It is a rule that affects the game at all levels and is easily implemented,” Snodgrass said.
Not to mention it would make the controversial charging call easier to make.
Change is inevitable and good but not easy.
What do you think of the rules?
Is there a rule you would like to see changed in high school athletics? Email sports writer Jake Furr at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 419-610-5034. Your suggestions could be used in a future story.