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The huddle

October 1, 2018

NCAA Rule Change: Will Track & Field be the Same?

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Sports, society, and life in general are always changing and adapting to fit the needs of changing cultures.  Such changes cause techniques and mindsets, that have been around for ages, to alter to meet the present standards.  Even changes on a small scale such as a little league adjusting its age rules/cut-off dates can affect friendships and player development.  The question is always present, however; are rule changes implemented because of a league/organization’s self-interest or for the benefit of the game and society?

For example, in 2017, rule changes for the SAT had high-schoolers doubling back on their study methods and preferred scores.  This year, NFL players have had to make significant adjustments to their tackling techniques after the league implemented new tackling rules and penalties that will substantially affect the way the game is played.  Most importantly, the NCAA has now approved new rule changes to the Men’s and Women’s Track and Field which can cause some acute effects to the sport.  

Although the new rules won’t be applied until the 2019-2020 season, I highly recommend that current and incoming track and field athletes affiliate themselves with the rule changes now.  Before conversing about the changes with a few Rutgers Track and Field Athletes, the new rules seemed as if they would improve the sport. However, I also noticed that these rules will have substantial effects on some events, while not disturbing others.  

Let’s Talk Business (Rules)

I’ll be discussing which rules, in my opinion, are the most important to the sport and some that may be harmless.

For starters, when I asked Andrew Comito, a junior distance runner for the Rutgers Track & Field team for his opinion on the upcoming changes, he wasn’t fazed in the slightest. He stated, “To be honest, not many or any of the rule changes would affect me because I’m a distance (800 meter-3k) runner.  Our races don’t involve tape/handoffs etc.; it’s more or less just running it while the shorter/field events require more technique.”  

Andrew appears to be correct about this. Most of the rule changes seem to affect throwing events, like Javelin and playing surfaces more than anything.  However, there are a couple of rules that will affect Andrew and participants of all running events.

Attention Runners

  1. Rule 3-2.y will approve official video review equipment, which is very common in almost all other sports. With constant technological advances, it is very plausible to improve sports through modern technology. Such a rule change will allow for easier/more exact scoring and reviewing, as well as be able to spot rule violations more efficiently.  
  2. Rule 3-2.z will approve the use of the start information system to determine a false start. Even long distance runners can be affected by this rule.  False starts are crucial to running events, especially when one false start disqualifies the athlete. This rule will force competitors to be more discipline and ensure 100% that all runners start at the same time.

The Heart of the Rule

The Track and Field events that are at the heart of these rule changes are the throwing events. Any collegiate javelin, discus, or shot put throwers should pay close attention to next year’s adaptations because there are numerous rules applied explicitly to the to their events, rules explicitly 6-1.8.a.5 and 6-10.2.

Rule 6-1.8.a.5 will be incorporated to prohibit a thrower from having anything in their non-throwing hand during the course of a throw. The reason for applying this rule is because holding an object in the non-throwing hand can give the thrower an unfair advantage.  

This rule specifically jumped out to me as being very interesting and specific.  I am not ashamed to admit that I am no Javelin wizard so I was intrigued by this rule, and wondered why it is just now being implemented. Have athletes in the past won events due to this? And if it’s been clear to the NCAA that having something in the non-throwing hand can give an advantage, then why has it taken them so long to add this rule?  

Rule 6-1.8.a.5 also reduces the number of landing sector judges from two to one in the javelin. I don’t understand why this rule is going to be applied next year unless it is for budget cut reasons. This is the only rule being registered that I felt like was out of the NCAA’s self-interests and not out of respect for the sport.

All in all, I think that the rule changes for the 2019-2020 season, for the most part, are being implemented for the benefit of the sport. Eliminating unfair advantages, having more advanced video reviews, and ensuring better-marked playing fields all sound like positives to me. I highly recommend that every current NCAA Track and Field athlete and any incoming student-athletes to review the rule changes carefully. Even if you don’t think they specifically target your events, read them just in case. It’s better to be safe than sorry and not be caught off-guard. 

Below is a link to all of  the rule changes that will take place in 2019-2020.

http://www.ncaa.org/sites/default/files/2019-20MWTF_Rules_Changes_2019_and_2020_FINAL_20180816.pdf

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