Rules change allows coaches to stop fights

By Brad Fauber

Head coaches in high school basketball will now be allowed to enter the court in an effort to break up a fight or prevent such a situation from escalating, according to the new rule approved by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) earlier this month.

Under the previous rule, coaches were only allowed to enter the court when beckoned by an official. The revision was one of five rules changes that were adopted by the NFHS Board of Directors at its annual summer meeting.

Theresia Wynns, NFHS director of sports and officials, said the revision was put in place under the thinking that coaches can provide extra assistance to officials during a physical altercation between players. That assistance could help officials better assess the situation, thereby allowing them to accurately assign the appropriate penalties.

“You hope you never get there, but in case it does the situation is open for the coaches to help,” Wynns said. “This allows the coach to come on and help the officials to settle the situation down, and then the officials have the opportunity to think about who was involved and at what level were they involved, and be able to make some judgment rather than being rushed in trying to stop the fight.”

Wynns also said that the presence of a coach on the floor could bring a calming effect to a tense situation given the relationship between coaches and their players, something that usually cannot be provided by the referees.

Matt Hiserman, athletic director and head basketball coach at Strasburg High School, said the revision could be a positive thing that helps resolve physical altercations more quickly.

Hiserman noted an instance during a Strasburg playoff game last season in which such a rule could have quelled a heated moment before the situation escalated.

“We had a situation in a regional basketball game at William Monroe which could have been alleviated if the official had said to us, ‘Hey, come get your player,'” Hiserman said. “It would have probably been more beneficial for our coaches to go out there with us knowing [the player’s] background.”

Among the other rules changes, the NFHS approved the use of electronic devices during games for certain situations. Coaches are still prohibited from using any device that projects their voice to players on the court, but they will be allowed to use devices for coaching purposes and for keeping statistics.

For example, a coach could use a tablet to illustrate pre-drawn plays or provide game video to players on the bench in order to show what players are doing right or wrong, Wynns said.

Many area schools already used devices such as tablets and iPods for collecting statistics (which was previously allowed by the NFHS), and the new rule will allow coaches more flexibility with technology.

“We’re referring to just about any kind of electronic devices. We’re open so long as it’s not going to slow down the game and it doesn’t put anyone at a disadvantage,” Wynns said.

The NFHS also revised several rules regarding uniforms, including the allowance of a manufacturer’s logo on jerseys. Such logos were previously forbidden in high school basketball, which became the final NFHS-sponsored sport to allow them.

Wynns said the allowance of manufacturer’s logos could provide a financial benefit to some schools when it comes to buying new uniforms.

“We know that manufacturers have stock jerseys that are probably cheaper to buy than customized jerseys,” Wynns said. “We’re hoping that in the long run that if they’re putting the logos on these stock jerseys, that it makes that uniform cheaper because [schools] don’t have to get one manufactured without the logo.”

Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or bfauber@nvdaily.com