Ways to Make College Game More Exciting...
Change is an inevitable part of life. Everything changes. The NFL has switched to a more dual-threat quarterback centric league (unless you ask Tom Brady). Major League Baseball has introduced seven inning doubleheaders and runners starting on second in extra innings. The Premier Lacrosse League has revolutionized how lacrosse is marketed. All this change got me thinking. What could be done to change the college game for the better? I think I speak for everyone reading this when I say college lacrosse is one of the most entertaining sports to watch; however, there’s always room for improvement. This article will cover potential ways the college game can change without disrupting what we love about lacrosse. I know some of these may be controversial but hear me out.
Change the Field Dimensions
One innovation the PLL made, that I loved, was their decision to make the playing field 100 yards instead of 110. In the PLL, goals are 70 yards apart instead of 80. They kept the width of the field at 60 yards, which I’m okay with. At first glance, one may see this and think a slightly smaller field doesn’t make a difference. They couldn’t be more wrong. After attending the PLL’s 2019 Denver event, I fell in love with the shorter field. Clears were easier and quicker. Transition was swifter and crisper. Gone were the massive over passes between poles that killed fifteen seconds.
While clearing is an important aspect, it should not be drawn out. Casual fans don’t want to see clears. It’s like watching football teams punt. No one gets excited about a punt. Fans want fast-paced action. A shorter field, like the PLL, would allow for more quick transition opportunities. College lacrosse would be more entertaining if clearing were closer to how it’s done in basketball—taking a couple of seconds. A shorter field creates a better product.
Ability to Pull the Goalie
Are there any NHL fans reading this? What’s one of the most exciting parts in hockey? I know. When the opposing team pulls their goalie, places an extra forward on the ice, and looks to score a game tying goal. I’d love to see lacrosse adopt this in some capacity.
For example, if down with two minutes left, I propose a team should be allowed to pull their goalie to the box and send another midfielder/attackmen to the offensive side. This is contingent on said team having possession of the ball. Since empty netters are rarer in lacrosse (since there’s a larger field), to make pulling the goalie a greater risk, if the offense loses the ball and allows their opponent to clear, they should receive a substitution penalty. This puts more stress on the man up team to score with the goalie pulled. If they allow their opposition to successfully clear, a man down penalty will essentially end the game. To prevent teams from abusing this rule, the NCAA can mandate teams are only allowed to pull their goalie, when down, with two minutes remaining in the game.
Allowing goalies to be pulled would make nail biters more exciting as the losing team has a higher chance of tying the game late.
Regular Season Shootouts
To prevent long lasting games from continuing, I propose men’s lacrosse should add a shootout. The shootout would only occur after five minutes of overtime is played. A rough outlook of the shootout follows. First, both teams get three shots. Shooters may choose a spot from thirteen yards out. Whatever team scores more, out of three, wins the game. Imagine the highlight reels that’d come out of goalies making incredible 1v1 saves or from guys shooting top shelf to win the game.
Again, this would only occur in regular season games. I would hate to see a team win the national title based off a shootout; however, since regular season games matter less, I think this would add extra flair to close regular season contests.
Allow Divisions to Play Each Other
College lacrosse is broken into three divisions (D1, D2, D3). One cool thing, out of Covid, is seeing D1 squads face D2/D3 teams to meet scheduling requirements. As Covid’s presence diminishes, I believe this scheduling feature should stay. NCAA D2/D3 has extremely talented men’s teams. Plenty could beat lower tier D1 programs. I remember the excitement when Tufts beat Dartmouth this spring. I remember being intrigued by the Cabrini v Pennsylvania game. Division two squad, Pace, was slaughtered by Boston (2-15); however, I enjoyed seeing a tough division two program get an opportunity to compete against the big boys.
As Covid’s impact disappears, I hope these matchups stay. It shouldn’t be commonplace, but I’d love to see it occasionally. It’d be more exciting to see Salisbury play Syracuse than see Syracuse play a D1 cupcake. Sure, the D1 teams will usually win; nevertheless, when they lose, everyone will freak out. Imagine the uproar if an overconfident Penn State lost to Gettysburg. It’d be the biggest story of the season. It’d be the lacrosse equivalent of seeing App State football upset Michigan in 2007.
This will never happen, but I’d love for lacrosse to adopt some form of division relegation. Similar to Premier League soccer, the worst teams in D1 lacrosse would be sent down a division to make space for elite D2/D3 programs. Promoted D2/D3 teams would replace D1 teams in their region and join the replaced team’s conference. For example, say NJIT goes 1-10 again next year. They could be replaced in the America East conference by a top ranked, New Jersey based, Stockton. Relegation would provide more incentive for lower tier D1 programs to improve their play and reward talented D2/D3 programs.
Obviously, collegiate relegation will never occur due to NCAA rules, money, and paperwork; however, I figured it’d be fun to mention. It’d be cool to see Salisbury and Tufts prove their chops against D1 competition.
Are any of these likely to occur? Of course not. The only change I could potentially see occurring is the adoption of the PLL’s field size. I believe that’s the best innovation college lacrosse could make. I hope the increased competition amongst teams in different divisions stays too. I admit the shootout, goalie pulling, and division relegation are complete longshots; however, I hope they spur some thought and debate. I’ll conclude by mentioning something that should never change. The NCAA cannot, under any circumstances, eliminate the faceoff. That would change the game for the worse. Please keep the faceoff.
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Also, if you are a longtime reader and are wondering why I have been inactive, please read the return update article linked here. In short, I was focusing on finishing my senior year of collegiate lacrosse and wanted to dedicate all my time to that. With my collegiate career being complete, I am free to dedicate more time to Logical Lacrosse. Again, thank you all for the wonderful support you have provided me since 2019!