Pitt coach Paul Chryst said player safety is the paramount concern in the new NCAA rule that calls for players to be ejected when they make contact with another player above the shoulder.
“That’s not a number,” he said. “It’s a person. It’s a name.” But he also wonders if the rule should be reviewed for what he calls “unintended consequences.” “How do you coach it? How do you officiate it? It puts pressure on a lot of people.”
Chryst is concerned that players will go to great lengths to avoid making contact with the helmet, leaving the opponent’s lower body parts, including the fragile knees, vulnerable.
“The upper part of the body is unprotected,” he said, “but so is the lower part.”
New Pitt women’s basketball coach Suzie McConnell-Serio attended the ACC spring meetings, and seems intrigued by the recommended rule change that may bring the 10-second halfcourt violation into women’s college basketball.
Presently, every level — from the NBA to WNBA to girls high school — employs the violation, but the women’s college game has resisted.
Actually, the women were ahead of the men in instituting a 30-second shot clock in 1970, triggering the belief among many coaches that the halfcourt violation was unnecessary. But it has gained considerable support recently, and the NCAA basketball rules committees for men and women recommended adding the 10-second rule for the 2013-2014 season. It still must be approved by the Playing Rules Oversight Panel during a conference call June 18.
McConnell-Serio and many coaches around the country believe the 10-second violation will speed up the game.
“And, hopefully, improve our scoring,” she said.
A new game
McConnell-Serio has played and coached on many levels — Olympics, WNBA, college and high school — but the ACC will present a different challenge, she said.
“This is a different level,” she said when asked to compare the ACC with the Big East (where Pitt came from) and the Atlantic 10 (where she came from as the former coach at Duquesne).
“To me, it’s a learning experience,” she said. “It is the next level and now you are competing with the best of the best.” She said the ACC already has opened recruiting avenues for Pitt that might otherwise have been closed.
“We are able to make phone calls and get players on the phone and people who are now calling us,” she said. “Things have changed dramatically.”
Jousting with Jimbo
One last word from Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher, who parked himself on a table in the lobby of the Ritz-Carlton and entertained reporters from about an hour.
He was crowing about his players staying out of trouble, and I asked him — very simply — how he does it.
“Do a lot of praying,” he said, laughing, and everyone laughed with him.
But, then, he got serious.
“Constant education, constant development of programs around your kids to understand how to act and what environment they are (in) and constantly educating them with different speakers, different people who have been in their shoes.
“We are trying to educate them as much as you possibly can about the pitfalls, and why you should and why you shouldn’t, and build the team dynamics to where the good guys are rewarded and those are the examples you should follow.”
Fisher said his team is looking forward to the opener Sept. 2 at Heinz Field. He knows something about the football tradition in Western Pennsylvania. He was born in Clarksburg, W.Va.