OHSAA adopts running clock rule in postseason basketball tournaments

Ohio high school sports officials have added the running clock to postseason basketball.

The Ohio High School Athletic Association Board of Directors voted 9-0 Thursday morning to approve a second-half running clock rule for boys' and girls' basketball postseason tournaments if the difference between the two teams reaches 35 points.

The running clock will remain in effect unless the score differential falls under 30 points. That means the clock won't stop when the ball goes out of bounds, for free throws or for other reasons. The regulation is only for the tournament starting at the sectional level.

According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, there are 25 member states that have some type of point-differential rule for a running clock in basketball.

The state proposal came from OHSAA Assistant Commissioner Jerry Snodgrass, who is the sport administrator for basketball.

The OHSAA worked to address the fact there were some games in recent seasons with lopsided scores in sectional tournaments.

Snodgrass told WCPO.com more districts are conducting open draws, which almost always pits a No. 1 seed versus a No. 32 seed, for example.

"The score discrepancies are unbelievable," Snodgrass said. "I feel strongly these scores can be controlled more at the regular-season level by better scheduling. The coaches association agrees with that, and we are doing all we can to educate on it as well -- with proper substitutions, etc."

Lakota West Athletic Director Scott Kaufman, a member of the Southwest District Athletic Board, supports the new rule.

"It is a shame it has to be regulated," Kaufman said.

Kaufman said he wishes winning coaches could control the lopsided games in the second half with play-calling and substitution of players when the game is clearly out of hand.

Football has had the mercy rule since the 2014 season. If a team is ahead by 30 points or more in the second half of a game, a continuous running clock is implemented in regular season and postseason contests.

Purcell Marian boys' basketball coach Scott Kerr said discussion of a similar rule in basketball has been in the pipeline since 2014. Kerr said area coaches have discussed the issue at the district level since the end of last season.

"There have been complaints from coaches that the first round tournament match-ups are often times mismatches and the scores get very lopsided," Kerr said. "Some coaches and athletic directors have taken issue with opposing coaches not taking any action to limit the point differential, so the OHSAA decided to step in."

Kerr said a lot of the mercy rule issues could be eliminated if the OHSAA seeded the entire tournament.

Oak Hills boys' basketball coach Mike Price said the rule is geared toward girls' basketball and those coaches who do not understand when to ease up.

"We play with a similar rule in AAU, only it's 30 points and the defense can not come outside of the three-point line until the score drops below 30," said Price, who also coaches AAU.

Official OHSAA girls' basketball practice starts Friday and the games begin Nov. 24.

Lakota West coach Andy Fishman said the issue with lopsided results would only occur with at most 10 percent of the postseason girls' basketball tournament games.

Fishman, who has coached the Firebirds since 1997, doesn't recall ever having a team score 100 points in a game he's coached in high school.

Fishman said he wouldn't be in favor of the rule for the regular season.

"Coaches need to be responsible and do the right thing to make sure their opponents are treated with respect," Fishman said.

Official boys' basketball practice starts Nov. 3 and the season begins Nov. 30.

Snodgrass told WCPO.com the only other significant rule for basketball at the National Federation of State High School Associations level is the permission for the 28-foot coaching box, from the baseline to the scorer's table.

By state adoption, the OHSAA could've shortened it, but Snodgrass elected not to do that.

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