FGCU coach Karl Smesko on the "Ackerman White Paper”, Part I: Rule changes

Photo by Melina Vastola.

Val Ackerman's white paper has laid out a set of concerns about women's college basketball and potential solutions, which has generated a lot of discussion among women's basketball fans. FGCU's coach Karl Smesko has shared his thoughts with us in a guest post.

Earlier this month Val Ackerman released her report on the state of NCAA Women’s DI basketball. She addressed many issues, presented many ideas, and specifically endorsed some measures. Some of the ideas presented were very good such as a 24-second shot clock and a widening of the lane. Some of the ideas were bad such as a “no new tattoos policy” and moving the final four to an international market. To be fair, Ackerman did not endorse the above bad ideas.

One section of the report addressed potential rule changes. This is the area I will address in this piece. As I already mentioned, I like the idea of a 24-second shot clock and widening the lane. The 24-second shot clock will lead to a faster game. Basketball fans are already accustomed to a 24-second shot clock because it is used in the professional leagues.

Ackerman suggested NCAA DI basketball use four quarters instead of halves. I am fine with this change as long as timeouts are greatly reduced. My recommendation would be for no media timeouts in the first and third quarters and one media timeout in the second and fourth quarters. The media timeout would occur on the first dead ball with fewer than five minutes on the clock. In addition, coaches would be allotted no more than three timeouts a game, two 30-second timeouts and one full timeout. When using the full timeout, a team could advance the ball just as they do in the NBA.

Now let us explore some ideas that would undoubtedly meet with more resistance. First, in an effort to minimize time during the game when there is little action, I would recommend shooting only one foul shot on all free throw situations. If a player is fouled on an unsuccessful shot, she would shoot one foul shot worth two points. If a player is fouled on a made shot, she would shoot one foul shot worth one point (the current practice). After the fifth team foul in a quarter, the team would be in the penalty. The penalty would be one foul shot worth two points for every foul (offensive fouls excluded).

Lastly, I propose making it a violation to set a screen for the player with the basketball - yes, I propose to eliminate the ball screen. The ball screen is the dominant offensive movement in the game today. Even though some coaches have found some very innovative ways to incorporate the ball screen, most of the time the ball screen is used with very limited movement of the offensive players not involved in the screen. Eliminating the ball screen should lead to more offensive player movement and more offensive ball movement. Each of these leads to more spectator friendly game. This rule change may lead to more live ball turnovers, but this wouldn’t necessarily be a negative. Live ball turnovers often lead to fast break situations and high percentage scores. These again are exciting plays to watch.

These rule changes should lead to a faster paced game with more exciting plays. The game should become more visually interesting, and the games should not last as long. The next generation of fan is going to want entertainment with a lot of action and not a lot of dead time. They will want their sporting events to be shorter. The sports that adapt the best to the desires of their future fans will be the ones that grow or at least sustain the best. Women’s basketball is most popular with an older demographic. Efforts should be made to broaden the appeal. These rule changes will help, but I also suggest a national marketing strategy that will be discussed in Part II.

For more analysis and reaction to the Ackerman paper, check out our storystream.

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