SEC coaches show support for new block-charge rule


Florida center Patric Young takes a charge on Ole Miss forward Murphy Holloway during first half of the SEC Tournament finals on March 17 in Nashville, Tenn.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Tuesday, June 25, 2013 at 10:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, June 24, 2013 at 9:04 p.m.

It's considered the hardest call for an official to make in college basketball.

Certainly, it's the most controversial.

Yet in an effort to generate more offense, the block-charge call is expected to undergo another tweak before the start of the 2013-14 season. The NCAA Men's Basketball Rules Committee has proposed a rule change that forbids a defense player from moving into the path of an offensive player once he has started in an upward motion to attempt a field goal or pass.

In previous seasons, a player could slide in underneath an airborne player, set his feet, and still draw a charge. Under the proposed rule change, that would now be called a block. It's been referred to as the “Aaron Craft rule” because of the questionable charge call that that Craft drew against Iowa State's Will Clyburn late in Ohio State's 78-75 win over the Cyclones in the NCAA Tournament. On the play, Craft slid into Clyburn's path when Clyburn was airborne.

“If it helps the officials, then great, because it is one of the more inconsistent calls in the game right now,” Florida assistant coach Matt McCall said during Monday's Southeastern Conference men's basketball coaches summer teleconference. “If it helps that call become more consistent, then I'd think we'd be all for it.”

But will it help improve scoring? College basketball finished 2012-13 with its lowest scoring season since 1951-52, with Division I teams averaging just 67.5 points per game. Perhaps one reason — teams shot the fewest free throws since 1976, averaging just 19.76 free throws per contest.

“I hope it's not an overreaction to the fact that offense was down last year,” Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said. “But nevertheless, if it's a rule that makes it easier for the officials, then I'm fine with it.”

With a roster filled with strong defensive players, Florida adapted to a more physical, plodding game in 2012-13. The Gators reached the Elite Eight by finishing third in the country in scoring defense, allowing just 54.4 points. Point guard Scottie Wilbekin and center Patric Young made the All-SEC defensive team.

But the non-calls also impacted the Gators offensively. Florida finished the season averaging 71.4 points per game, its lowest scoring average in 17 seasons under head coach Billy Donovan. Florida last scored under 71.4 ppg in 1995-96, averaging 66.8 points in Lon Kruger's final season coaching at UF.

The NCAA rules committee also said it intends to make hand-checking and arm-bars on post players points of emphasis this season in an effort to create a more free-flowing game.

“We need some things like that to help the game offensively, the flow of the game,” Missouri coach Frank Haith said. “We'll see how it goes. I know that they've tried for years, I think we all have heard the talk of trying to clean that part of the game up, the block-charge call.”

Even Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin, considered one of the top defensive coaches in the SEC, understands the need for opening up the college game.

“If we can enhance the offensive side of the game, it will be great for everyone that's involved, and I also think it's entertaining for the fans,” Martin said. “So I have no problem with it at all. But we do spend a lot of time taking charges and putting yourself in a position to get a charge. But I have no problem with it as long as it's consistent across the board.”

Of course, the proposed rule change could create more confusion as well. Last season, the NCAA added a 3-foot arc underneath the basket in an effort to make block-charge calls less subjective. A player can't take a charge from that area regardless of if his feet are set.

“It's still such a difficult call,” Haith said. “I think we talk about things they don't look at, it's a bang-bang play, we're still going to see mistakes in making that call. It's just a tough call to make in the college game.”

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