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High school basketball shot clock voted down by national federation

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (TNS)
York Suburban's Savon Sutton, right, takes the ball to the basket while guarded by York High's Branden Mutunga during a boys' high school basketball game in February. The possibility of using a shot clock in high school basketball was voted down recently by the National Federation of State High School Associations, which is the country's governing body of high school sports. Dawn J. Sagert photo

It’s not yet time for a shot clock in high school basketball.

At least that’s what the national governing body for high school athletics says.

The basketball rules committee of the National Federation of State High School Associations recently voted down a proposal that would establish a 35-second shot clock for boys and girls basketball around the country. The rules committee also turned down a proposal to allow state organizations, such as the PIAA, to adopt a shot clock if they wanted. The national federation establishes rules for all high school sports.

A high school shot clock has long been debated, but seems to have become a hot topic more and more in recent years. The NBA and WNBA have a 24-second shot clock and the NCAA has a 30-second clock for men’s and women’s games.

Theresia Wynns is the director of sports and officials for the NFHS and commented in an email, “The basketball rules committee, as a whole, is not against the shot clock. There are some members of the committee that support a shot clock. They tend to be in the minority. This issue is discussed very thoroughly each year. We offer what we think are the pros and cons for the use of the shot clock. We talk about what does the game gain by using a shot clock that the game does not have without the shot clock.”

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What is ironic about this shot-clock debate is that, as of two years ago, nine states — Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Maryland, Rhode Island, Washington, New York, California, North Dakota and South Dakota — used a shot clock. Those states instituted a shot clock without the blessing of the NFHS. The consequence of not following the NFHS rules is that the state association is not permitted to have membership on the NFHS rules committee.

So, despite the NFHS voting down the shot clock rule, the PIAA could still institute the shot clock if it really wanted. But PIAA executive director Bob Lombardi said the PIAA, like many states, chooses to follow the NFHS rules rather than make its own rule.

Critics of a high school shot clock often use money as a reason for not instituting it, especially in these days of athletic budgets being cut at some high schools.

Wynns said, “We talk about the perceived prohibitive issues of the use of the shot clock, such as the cost of equipment, the cost of personnel to run the shot clock, the training of the shot clock personnel, finding an individual who will be consistently available to run the clock, training of officials to adjudicate the issues around setting and resetting the shot clock.

“The issue of a slowed down game always comes up in the discussion of the shot clock. This is not a situation that occurs game after game. We concede that it does happen occasionally. It is not an overriding factor that makes the use of the shot clock necessary. We have in the past shared information with the committee that showed the average time for a basketball shot was less than 35 seconds 90% of the time.”

Some changes adopted: The committee did adopt several other rule changes.

►The NFHS clarified that officials aren’t required to issue a warning to a coach before assessing a technical foul under rule 10-6-1.

“This amends an existing rule that gave the impression that a warning was a prerequisite to ruling a technical foul,” Wynns said. “Using the word ‘may’ helps one to understand that a warning is only an option.”

►The committee also added a rule that declares a game a forfeit it a coach is removed for unsportsmanlike behavior and “no authorized school personnel are present to assume responsibility of the team.”

“Most states have bylaws to cover the instance when no adult school staff is on the bench to attend to the team. Officials are not likely to read those bylaws and consequently not know that rule,” Wynns said. “Having the basketball rules cover such a situation helps the contest officials and coaches alike if such a situation were to arise.”

►A change to rule 2-12-5 alters the timer’s responsibility when a player is disqualified or injured. Now, a warning signal is sounded, giving teams 15 seconds to replace the player. A second warning signal should mark the end of those 15 seconds, preparing teams to resume play.

Chris Harlan of the (Greensburg) Tribune-Review contributed to this report.