Sports editor

Les Winkeler is sports editor and outdoors writer for The Southern Illinoisan.

College and professional sports are wildly popular.

They produce billions of dollars of revenue. Millions of people attend the games, millions more watch on television.

You can’t walk down the street without seeing someone wearing a jersey or cap of their favorite teams. Yet, we feel a constant need to tinker with the rules. And, that tinkering rarely turns out well.

The only positive rule change I can point to is the elimination of the two-line offsides in hockey. Allowing the stretch pass has opened up the ice. It’s allowed teams to transition quickly from defense to offense and created more odd-man rushes.

Yet, it hasn’t fundamentally changed the game. Hockey is still a low-scoring game, as it should be.

Best of all, elimination of the two-line offsides actually simplified the game. Normally, rule changes add a maddening level of confusion.

For instance, remember when the average fan could watch a football game and tell an incomplete pass from a completion. It was relatively simple. The receiver simply secured the ball in his hands for an instant and everyone agreed – “Yup, that’s a catch.”

Now, it takes four-replay angles and a team of experts in New York City to determine whether and NFL player caught a ball. Seriously? Games were never meant to be that complicated.

Football in its simplest terms is simply the acquisition of real estate, 10 yards at a time. Pete Rose summed up baseball succinctly when he said, “It’s a round ball and a round bat, but you have to hit it square.”

Basketball? It’s a matter of determining which underwear-clad team can throw a ball through an iron ring the most times in 32, 40 or 60 minutes.

College basketball will be instituting some new rules this season. Some benign, one ridiculous.

The benign rule is moving the three-point line to the international distance of 22 feet, 1.75 inches.

Theoretically, the rule does more than make the three-pointer a more difficult shot. Defenders will have to move further out on the floor to defend the trey, which should create less congestion in the lane. Hopefully, the better spacing will clean up some of the wrestling in the lane.

The move will mean defenses will be forced to cover the entire floor.

Again, these are the theoretical effects of the rule change. And, those projected scenarios seem logical.

The other change is mind-boggling.

There will essentially be two shot clocks in effect next year. All possessions begin with the 30-second clock in effect. However, if a team gets an offensive rebound, it will only be awarded an additional 20 seconds.

Just the logistics of this rule are bizarre. The shot clock person at the scorer’s table will now have two reset buttons? What could possibly go wrong? I foresee a bevy of video replays to fix inadvertent errors. Something the college game certainly doesn’t need.

Second, offensive rebounding is one of the key elements of successful basketball. It makes zero sense to penalize a team for doing it well.

Apparently, the NCAA is concerned about pace of play, that good offensive rebounding teams can take too much time off the clock.

Where do you begin? If you don’t want a team to run the clock – pressure them on defense. If you don’t want a team to have a 60-second possession, block out.

This rule change sounds like someone in the NCAA administration trying to justify their position. The game is better when it is simpler. Get out of the way and let the athletes perform.

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LES WINKELER is the sports editor of The Southern Illinoisan. Contact him at les.winkeler@thesouthern.com, or call 618-351-5088 / On Twitter @LesWinkeler.


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