Followers of college basketball might be surprised to learn that many coaches and officials were in favor of adopting a shooting clock several years ago. A questionnaire actually indicated about a 50-50 split on the subject, according to Ed Steitz, interpreter and secretary of the NCAA Rules Committee. A clock, requiring the offensive team to shoot within 24 seconds of gaining possession of the ball, has long been a fixture in the pro game.
A similar means for speeding up college play was generally more popular two or three years ago when Coach Dean Smith had his North Carolina Tar Heels using a sophisticated keep-away game. But now that more people have learned how to defense the infuriating "Four Corners," opinion among coaches is running 7 to 1 against shooting clocks.
Such a shift of opinion points up the necessity for the rules committee to avoid hasty decisions. "We don't change rules because of isolated situations," Steitz explains. "A low-scoring game that ends 12-10 may get a lot of attention , but we have data from thousands of games each week, and it's this big picture we're interested in."
Even though the shooting-clock idea has lost ground during recent seasons, the Sun Belt Conference has successfully experimented with a 45-second model the past two years. It is shut off during a game's last five minutes, allowing the team that's ahead to sit on a lead.