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Rules chairman Rick Byrd: Block-charge call altered, but timeouts, shot clock may not be

Rick Byrd Rick Byrd, the head coach of Belmont and the rules chairman, talks with an official early in the 2012-13 season. (Peyton Williams/Getty)

Coming soon to a basketball court near you in 2014-15, much to the relief of exasperated coaches and officials: An alteration to the block-charge call intended to eliminate most of the subjectivity involved.

Perhaps coming next May, though maybe only after a fight: A reduction in the number of timeouts allotted to each team.

And perhaps not coming anytime soon? Widening the lane and a change in the 35-second shot clock.

"Those are two areas we thought, as a committee, that there might be a lot of discussion in the room," Belmont coach Rick Byrd said after meetings in Indianapolis as chairman of the NCAA men's basketball rules committee. "There was a whole lot of discussion about the block-charge, but very little discussion about either of those two major possible changes."

The headline recommendation from the rules committee this week was the alteration to the block-charge rule as it relates to airborne shooters. A defender must be in legal guarding position before the offensive player leaves the floor to pass or shoot -- thereby eliminating the "beginning his upward motion" component in place for 2013-14 that created confusion.

Byrd said NCAA national officiating coordinator John Adams and other officials conceded that the upward motion element made it "nearly impossible to teach (officials) how to call it and it was nearly impossible to call it with any consistency." Using a player leaving the floor as a determining factor simplified the call, Byrd said. The recommendation must be approved by the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel, which will hold a June 25 teleconference.

"The reason for that was just the difficulty, number one, in determining when the upward motion actually begins because different players have all kinds of different actions," Byrd said. "It just was very difficult for an official, and a defender for that matter, to know when [that happened]. The great part about when he leaves the floor, it's really the only definitive act, the only definitive instance an official can determine. And the upward motion was subjective."

The committee also recommended an experimental increase of the restricted-area arc from three feet to four feet during the preseason NIT and other events that are interested in aiding the research.

As for reducing the number of timeouts, which is widely viewed as necessary to speed up the game,  Byrd said coaches did not want to part with them. It is a non-rule change year in 2014, so the next time the rules committee can make a change is next May. And Byrd said that is exactly what will happen, no matter what his peers think.

In meeting with the NABC board of directors this week -- a group featuring names like Kansas' Bill Self, Wisconsin's Bo Ryan and Notre Dame's Mike Brey -- Byrd said several coaches said they "could do with one less timeout, easily. Some others have said the opposite." But a reduction will be "high on the agenda" next May, Belmont's coach said.

"I think it's fair for me to say that, in general, coaches don't want to give up control of anything," Byrd said. "I think we'll definitely take a serious look at a reduction in timeouts and we'll try to do what's best for the game. Those of us that have done this as long as I have now remember when there were no media timeouts, we remember when there were far fewer stoppages in the game. It's probably easier for us to live with that than younger coaches, when this is all they've ever known."

Lane width and the shot clock will remain unchanged as well, unless momentum seriously picks up on either in the next year. There was "no significant support" for widening the lane, Byrd said, nor adjusting the 35-second shot clock.

"Shot clock was discussed at some length in the rules committee – when I thew it out in the NABC board meeting, there was surprisingly little discussion about it and surprisingly little support," Byrd said. "I think most people would think the higher-level schools might prefer (lowering it) more because it's more possessions and plays into more talent. But still, no one in that room ventured forth and said 'We need this, this is something we really need to do at all,' and the opportunity was there. We will certainly revisit it next May, but I don't think it's as much a frontburner issue as others expect it to be."

Meanwhile, much like the rules emphasis on freedom of movement on the perimeter in 2014-15, there will be an emphasis on reducing physical play in the post for 2015-16. "It was planned all along for this to be the next step," Byrd said.

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