Shot clock photo

The WIAA Board of Control voted in June to use a 35-second shot clock for varsity games in boys and girls basketball beginning with the 2019-20 season, but athletic directors pushed back against the rule change at area meetings this fall.

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At 8 a.m. Friday, the WIAA Board of Control will convene its December meeting.

The agenda is short on action items, but one topic that has created a stir in the past five months will be addressed. It appears it is time to make a decision on the addition of a 35-second shot clock for high school boys and girls varsity basketball games in 2019-20.

The Board of Control is slated to determine if the shot-clock plan moves forward or if the Board plans to repeal its decision from June, WIAA communications director Todd Clark said.

In June, the Board approved the proposal by a 6-4 vote, with coaches serving as the driving force behind the need to add the shot clock. The Board’s decision, however, came as a surprise because the idea didn’t receive widespread support through the WIAA’s committee channels.

Then opposition from athletic directors and principals in subsequent months, including at WIAA area meetings this fall, caused the pause button to be pushed. Administrators, who would be charged with purchasing and installing shot clocks and finding people to work the clocks at games, were particularly displeased there hadn’t been more communication about the issue.

In October, the Board voted to “revisit” shot clock implementation.

Many coaches believed the time was right for the shot-clock addition. The move, which advocates said was a growing trend in other states, was expected to help with flow of games and prevent stalling.

Proponents included Madison Edgewood girls coach Lora Staveness, who had been on the coaches’ basketball advisory committee that voted unanimously for adding a shot clock. She said last summer that she thought it would advance the quality of girls and boys basketball and better prepare all players, particularly elite players. She realized change was difficult, but believed the shot clock would grow the game.

Madison Memorial boys coach Steve Collins, however, was opposed when the decision came down in June and he indicated this week he remains opposed.

In an open letter to the WIAA, the Board of Control and the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association, Collins said he understood change was inevitable — citing the 3-point line and switch from quarters to halves as changes that were good for the game — but didn’t understand the reasoning or the rush for the shot-clock implementation. He asked the Board of Control to table the proposal while further investigating the need for this change.

His concerns ranged from wondering how the change will benefit the game at all levels to the cost. He saw nothing wrong with high school teams playing different paced styles and didn’t think the high school game needed to be the same as the collegiate game, in part because only a small fraction of players wind up playing in college.

“I think high school basketball is a unique sport in which athletes can play different styles and systems,” Collins wrote in his letter. “Because of the shot clock at the collegiate level, you do not see multiple systems being played. Is the goal for all the games to be the same.”

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He also asked: “Who is going to pay for this state-mandated expense, not only for the implementation of the clock, but the hiring of a qualified person to run it all the games?”

Some have expressed concern the shot clock will create more lopsided games and widen the divide between the haves and have nots.

Stoughton athletic director Mel Dow said he wished the process had been smoother and the communication greater. Dow said he favored the shot-clock addition if “our coaches and the administration who oversee the game feel it is in the best interest of the game. I do see the challenge that some will face, but I am not afraid of the work and upfront cost if it improves the experience for the kids and the game.”

Chris Zwettler has a unique perspective as Madison Edgewood’s athletic director and boys basketball coach.

He said it might be difficult to find workers to run the clock, but he said he would favor the idea as an athletic director if the boys and girls basketball coaches at his school were proponents and it also was going to be implemented at the junior varsity level. As a coach, he said he opposed the idea and didn’t believe a change was needed.Zwettler said, after contacting the WIAA, he sent out a survey to athletic directors in August and found that 76 percent of those who responded were against the shot-clock implementation and that athletic directors were surprised there hadn’t been more communication from the WIAA before the June decision.

Zwettler said Tuesday he wasn’t certain what the outcome of this saga would be Friday — approval, repeal or even a delay in implementation. But he said he has moved well past the lengthy debate and laughed that he wasn’t going to lose any sleep over a decision — he will be ready whatever occurs.