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May 23—Tricia Cullop told Tim Warga, who heads the University of Toledo's athletic operations, not to paint a permanent women's basketball 3-point line on the Savage Arena court last year.
The Rockets coach, doubling as the president of the Women's Basketball Coaches Association, heard too much chatter from her colleagues about an eventual change, so she wanted Warga to use a temporary line.
On June 3, she'll find out if her intuition proved correct as the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel meets to discuss several proposed rule changes for the 2021-22 season, chief among them moving the 3-point line to the international distance of 22 feet, 1 3/4 inches.
The 3-point line is currently 20 feet, 9 inches.
"I think most kids are shooting from that line anyway," Cullop said. "I don't see that being a big change. I think it will provide less confusion for officials and players because for a quick moment having two lines in that vicinity is confusing. I'm all about simplicity with the court."
Attempts and makes reached an all-time high during the 2020-21 season, with Division I teams attempting 16.4 3s per game and making an average of 6.1. The numbers were even bigger in Division II — 20.5 attempts and 6.4 makes.
Lynn Bria, who coaches Stetson and chairs the NCAA Women's Basketball Rules Committee, said after two years of examining data and statistics and seeking feedback from women's basketball stakeholders, the appropriate move was to advocate for extending the 3-point line.
"I understand wanting one line," Bowling Green coach Robyn Fralick said. "A lot of kids are already shooting behind the men's line. I think great shooters won't see much of an impact. I think the toe-the-line shooters will have a big impact. In my opinion, it's just a much more dramatic change from high school. The difference from the high school 3-point line and the college 3-point line will be pretty significant. I foresee the kids out of high school having the biggest transition. When you get further out, there's a strength element to being able to shoot from that distance consistently."
In a reversal from the men's game, a rule against flopping will not be implemented, although it will be a "point of emphasis" for officials. After two seasons of issuing warnings, Colorado men's basketball coach Tad Boyle, the outgoing chair of the rules committee, said the goal is to rid the game of flopping, recommending a technical when a flop is clear and obvious.
The women's rules committee — and Cullop — is worried about players being taught to flop.
"There's nothing more unnerving for you as a coach than when you know something was a flop and it's rewarded," Cullop said. "I hate seeing a play being taken away because somebody is not playing the game the way it's supposed to be played and a player is penalized with a foul they should never have."
Fralick offers a dissenting opinion, believing that it could put more pressure on officials who are already under intense scrutiny.
"The block-charge is one of the hardest calls in the game to get right, and I think this just adds another element to an already difficult call," she said.
Another proposal would give coaches some leverage over officials, allowing for challenges on calls made in the restricted area under the basket on block-charge calls. Currently, officials may only use replay in the final two minutes of a game to determine the location of players.
If a review is unsuccessful, the team will lose a timeout.
"I like it because the coach has a path to challenge, but you have to be cognizant of how you use it," Fralick said. "There's a consequence to being wrong. You can't just be mad. You have to be sold on the fact that the call was wrong. I think coaches would use it wisely."
The committee approved officials' use of instant replay on an out-of-bounds play regardless of the number of players involved. A review used to only occur when there was a deflection involving two players.
"Officials can't be perfect," Cullop said. "But there are times when maybe we have a good look at something and it's close, and now we have a chance to reverse that call. And if we're wrong, we'll lose a timeout. I like that option and I can see where it can be a difference-maker."
Could technology on the bench provide an edge? We might find out.
The committee proposed allowing access to live stats and supported a rule that would allow teams to watch live video during conference games. The proposals came with significant support from fellow coaches, according to Bria.
For many, it would further the sport's introduction to the 21st century.
"Let's face it, fans have always been more up to date on statistics than the people on the bench," Cullop said. "When you look at it from that standpoint, it's about time. We rely on paper stats from runners during timeouts. I think at halftime it's great to have paper stats that you can write on and circle. But I do think there are times when I'd like to know real-time stats when the quarter is happening. I think it just helps reaffirm your point to your players when you can back it up with real-time stats."
So what's on the horizon? Basketball is constantly evolving, with necessary rule changes to improve the flow of the game and the on-court product.
Six fouls could be the next seismic shift after the women transitioned to four 10-minute quarters.
"I would love six fouls," Fralick said. "There would still be a detriment to fouling too much because the other team shoots free fouls and you can get in foul trouble. We play aggressive defensively, so I would be in favor of six fouls. So often the best player can get in foul trouble and sit for 18 minutes of the first half. It would hopefully eliminate some of that."
The men have proposed a hokey rule that would result in a player fouling out with four fouls in one half. If a player has one foul in the first half, he would be disqualified after four fouls in the second half. If a player has three fouls in the first half, he would be disqualified after three fouls in the second half.
The rule would be experimental during the NIT.
"If you're foul happy, you should sit," said Cullop, who is anti-six fouls. "There's a reason why we have fouls. You have to watch what you do and learn how to play."