Orange Watch: College lacrosse needs a shot clock… now

Enough is enough already.  Division I lacrosse, supposedly the world’s fastest game on two feet, has crawled to a torturous pace on the offensive end.

Take the most recent Syracuse game.  Yes, reserve goalie Dominic Lamolinara made a fantastic, helmet-deflecting save to thwart one final Army rally with three seconds left in last weekend’s Orange 10-9 win over the Cadets in the Dome to move SU to 2-0. (They head into an early-season showdown at number-one Virginia Sunday afternoon.)

» Syracuse goalie Matt Lerman joins us as a special guest on The Juice on The Cuse podcast
» Does college lacrosse need a shot clock? Leave your thoughts below

But until the NCAA looks at tweaking the game with the addition of a shot clock, too many coaches, who for the most part are a conservative lot to begin with, are going to continue to play it safe with the ball in the attack zone. That especially holds true of a team with the lead, and in this case Lamolinara might have never been called upon to be the game’s final hero.

The Orange had the ball in the final minutes with that slim one goal margin, content to run out the clock by keeping the play within the attack box as required following an official stall warning. They were only shooting on goal if there was a clear opportunity.

If not for an Orange turnover and one last Army possession which resulted in Lamolinara’s final and most important save of the game, the action would have ended in the ‘Cuse offensive end, the team passing and weaving, but not shooting, in keeping the ball from the swarming Cadet defense which had to gamble, until the clock struck zero.

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Similar scenarios have become commonplace in the sport.  Look at the last two national championship game final scores; 6-5 in 2010 and 9-7 last season, games pitting pretty evenly matched teams against each other.  Single digit scoring simply does not inspire excitement.

We’ve heard the arguments against the change, such as why should the NCAA make changes for complaining fans and a better TV product by “forcing” the action to be more fast-paced with shots on goal?

Or, how are smaller Division II and III programs (and perhaps the JUCO ranks as well) supposed to comply by adding several thousand dollar shot clocks to scoreboards on meager budgets?

To both, we say hogwash.

Division I lacrosse, like football and basketball before it, is now TV programming, filling the many hours of inventory on the ESPN channels, regional sports networks and other stations.  TV programming needs eyeballs to attract advertisers, and those eyeballs, in today’s fast-paced, video-game world, want action.

In the Gait and Powell eras of Orange lax, high school players and college foes alike were mesmerized by the pace at which SU played the game, attacking relentlessly with fabled midfield play setting up an amazing list of All American attackmen the past 30 years.

As to the cost of shot clocks argument, every program, no matter the size, has benefactors who live and bleed lacrosse at that particular school.  There’s no way that if a shot became part of the rule book that these wealthy friends of the programs would let the several thousand dollar cost of such a device be a deterrent.

The NCAA lacrosse rules committee has some work to do this off-season, the sport needs to keep evolving as it continues to grow, and the debate of speeding up the game by instituting a shot clock figures to continue.

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Brad Bierman

About Brad Bierman

Now in his fifth decade of covering SU sports, Brad was sports director of WSYR radio for eight years into the early 1990s, then wrote the Orange Watch column for The Big Orange/The Juice print publication for 18 years. A Syracuse University graduate, Brad currently runs his own media consulting business in the Philadelphia suburbs. Follow him on Twitter @BradBierman.
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