After what figures to be a busy month of April in Colorado prep sports, the way basketball is played in the state could be in store for an interesting new wrinkle as early as next season.
Last Thursday, the Colorado High School Activities Association basketball committee unanimously recommended a mercy rule for prep hoops that would institute a running clock whenever a team leads another by 35 points or more after the end of the third quarter. The frequently discussed and altered rule, which will be voted on at the next CHSAA Legislative Council meeting in April, would apply to all levels and both girls and boys.
If approved, the mercy rule would take effect at the beginning of the 2017-18 season. With potential results including shortening games and loss of playing time for younger players, many of the state's coaches are still undecided as to how they feel about the change.
"Over the years, I've coached teams that would be on both sides of a mercy rule," Silver Creek head boys coach Bob Banning said. "I'm kind of 50-50 on the whole thing, to be honest. I think the mercy rule might be a good idea and I guess I'm in favor of it, I'm just not certain that I know where the line should be. I'm old school and as a competitive coach, if I'm down 35, I'm still just worried about taking care of my team and trying to win.
"But I also understand being up big and how to handle that situation in a way that doesn't show up the other team. When I look at all sides of it, I think it's probably for the best."
Once the mercy rule threshold is reached, the clock would stop only for injuries, timeouts and free throws. It would appear to be designed to limit, or at least shorten, losses like the 91-28 defeat Denver Academy suffered at the hands of Longmont Christian on Jan. 17, or the 91-37 score Longmont Christian hung on Twin Peaks Charter just 10 days later.
Another big change could be on the table that is out of Colorado prep officials' hands. In January, the American Football Coaches Association endorsed an early signing period exclusively for football that would take place in December. The NCAA Division I Council could vote on the proposal as early as April.
The proposed addition of a 72-hour early signing period in December ahead of the existing February signing period is primarily designed to protect college programs from recruits decomitting in the waning moments of the recruiting cycle. With news and details still reaching the prep ranks in Colorado, high school athletic directors and coaches are still trying to predict how the NCAA's change would affect athletics at their schools.
"I haven't had much time to think about it but I wonder how many kids, once they've committed or signed, will opt out of participation," Fairview athletic director Terrin Kelly said. "Similarly to how Leonard Fournette, once he made his NFL decision, didn't play in LSU's bowl game. I wonder how that might affect our participation in winter and spring sports."