Shot Clock: An Implementation Nightmare

The "cheap" version

If the NCAA lacrosse rules committee adds a shot clock, it won’t work in the MCLA.

The shot clock could work in the NCAA, but if attempted to be applied in the MCLA it would be a disaster.

Let’s step back.  I’m not going to argue the merits of adding a shot clock in college lacrosse in terms of quality of play.  I like the way it is, to be quite honest.  But let’s, just for the sake of argument, think about the implications of a shot clock on college lacrosse, specifically the MCLA.

If the NCAA rules committee is going to add a shot clock, it will be for two reasons and two reasons alone:

1) Adding a shot clock will improve the competitive nature of the game (note: not debating this point)

2) Adding a shot clock can be done efficiently and effectively by ALL member NCAA schools.

Would this game have been even more exciting with a shot clock?

So, the second point is where we will focus.  We’ve got to look at how a shot clock can be installed, how it will be used, and how it could potentially be augmented.

No doubt, most NCAA D1 schools could easily afford the financial burden of adding a shot clock.  Whether it is a simple addition to existing scoreboards, or an after-market free-standing clock, similar to a football play clock, it could be done.  Even the burden of training the clock person could be handled easily.  It is extremely doubtful a Division 1 NCAA program could not adjust the budget to meet this new regulation for a shot clock.

The fun part for considering adding a shot clock is moving to NCAA D2 and D3 schools, the forgotten stepchildren of the college sporting world.  It’s these schools that would determine the feasibility of implementing such a rules change.  If they couldn’t afford it, it couldn’t happen.  So what will it cost for these schools?

If you think shot/play clocks are super cheap, check out this example: the DC-300P (model is about half way down page)

The DC-300P, running you a cool $6,850

The portable unit is admittedly expensive, so check out this guy on the cheap:

The "cheap" version at $2,000

OK, so you’ve got prices ranging between $2,000 to $6,800 for a single unit.  It’s not a deal-breaking price, but if you think $4,000 (price for two units, both ends of field) is easy to produce, then you don’t understand the budgetary woes of NCAA D2 and D3 schools.  They won’t be too excited about this.

But I’ll give you this: I think that the NCAA could make it happen.  Maybe they can get a deal with a supplier?  Who knows, but if the California Interscholastic Federation can get shot clocks in all the basketball gyms in high schools up and down the state, the NCAA can make it happen for lacrosse shot clocks.

But could the MCLA make it happen? Highly doubtful.  You’ve got teams that can’t even get on the field with matching helmets still.  At the D1 level, you have fairly consistent organization that provides consistent cash flow from player dues, but at the less organized teams it’s simply not the case.  Finding an extra $4,000 is absolutely a deal-breaker.  Especially when you can find a set of game goals for a few hundred bucks.

Throw in the fact that the shot clocks must actually get used properly. That means training someone to use it properly, and having someone there to reset the clock and keep it running.  I’ve been to several games in the MCLA in the past year where the home team didn’t provide personnel to run the clock.  I’m skeptical that a shot clock can be implemented across 213 teams in the MCLA.

And the alternative to having the burden fall on the teams to implement the shot clock?  Put it on the referees.  Allow them to run the shot clock with a handheld buzzer or timer.

Do we want to make it tougher on the guys in stripes with a shot clock?

Now I’m not one to shy away from criticizing referees, but do we really want to make their job harder?  Is that going to solve anything?  The referee associations aren’t going to be too keen on putting the burden of training and implementation on them.

So for a shot clock to work for NCAA lacrosse it has to be A) an improvement on the quality of competition (which no one can really agree on yet) and B) feasible across all divisions.

For a shot clock to work in the MCLA, it has to be feasible, because they will continue to follow NCAA rules.  A further problem, if the NCAA does pass the shot clock rule change, there is no precedent for the league to selectively enforce only certain sections of the rulebook.  What you’ll be left with is haphazard and poor implementation of the shot clocks, as clubs will be scrambling to raise funds and schools will be reluctant to help out.

We’ll see what happens, but I don’t see a shot clock working in the MCLA anytime soon.


  1. I really do hope the NCAA doesnt add a shotclock. I do enjoy it without a shotclock and the MLL has one! i’ve got enough shotclock action. With the referee’s being stricter on hitting and the likes, i feel like a shotclock might alter the nature of the game even more..and that depresses me..haha

  2. I think the second argument would be a much bigger problem, but would still come down to money.  It seems the only real way you could make this work is if an additional official came to games solely to focus on the shot clock.  And then we are talking about an additional $200-$300 a game for most teams.

  3. If they were to add a ‘shot clock’ in men’s lacrosse it would be a similar timing convention to the clearing rules. The main difference would be that once a team establishes possession a 30, 60, 90 sec., etc. count would begin. The expense would not be in buying clocks for the field, but in training refs how to set, reset their timers that they currently use in the clearing games. Schools could incur the costs of adding a clock on the scoreboard or fields for the fans but the I would assume that most players have a certain feel for how much time any given possession is. 

    I think the trick will be defining what stipulates a shot clock reset. Does a shot reset the clock? Does the shot have to be on cage? You don’t have this problem in box lacrosse because the ball remains in play, but in field you could see teams coming down with SSDM’s and ripping wild shots so that they have a ‘soft’ timeout for an attackman to slowly retrieve the ball during a quick substitution. 

    I think the best to speed up the game is to eliminate horns and force all substitutions on the fly. Also, for play-on situations, if the play is blown dead the offending player should be sent off the field similar to face-off violations. 

  4. i don’t really think the mcla really even has a need for a shot clock.  at the mcla level its alot easier to pressure the ball and double team when a stall call is issued because generally the ballhandlers and the rest of the offense aren’t talented enough to make pressuring virtually impossible like it is for the top D1 teams.

    • Agreed, and I think this is why the issue of selective non-enforcement on a potential shot-clock rules change would be discussed.  To this point, MCLA officials have always fully followed NCAA rules, so it would need to be discussed with referee associations, but I don’t see it being a huge issue. 

      But your point is spot on: the stall is much more potent at the NCAA level due to superior ball handling and overall athleticism in general.

    • How would that work on shared fields?  Many MCLA teams use fields lined for lax by other teams, usually high school.  And would this be just the MCLA?  Or the NCAA?  The two levels of play are extremely different, but do not necessarily warrant their own rules set.