NCAA Adjusts Several Soccer Rules for 2003

March 3, 2003

The NCAA Men's and Women's Soccer Rules Committee has adopted a zero tolerance foul language policy to become effective for the 2003 playing season. The committee agreed on the policy during its annual meeting February 4-7 in St. Pete Beach, Florida.

The new rule addresses what has become a growing concern in the sport over the last several years. Any player who uses profane, offensive, insulting, vulgar or abusive language or gestures will receive a red card and will be ejected from the game. As a result, the team will play short for the player who is ejected.

The new policy was introduced in an attempt to restore integrity to the game, encourage respect for all fans, players, coaches and officials, and make soccer games a more family-friendly environment. The tougher restrictions also come at a time when leaders in college athletics are taking steps to discourage inappropriate behavior by fans, student-athletes and coaches (see story, page 1).

"In addition to cleaning up language, the new policy also will make the referee's task of what to do in language-abuse situations less confusing," said Cliff McCrath, secretary-rules editor of the committee and head men's soccer coach at Seattle Pacific University. "Now, if the referee hears foul or abusive language, it requires only one action and the referee will never be in doubt as to what to do."

Previously, foul or abusive language was listed under cautionable offenses as well as ejectionable offenses, leaving the referee to make a judgment call as to whether the offense was serious enough to warrant dismissal of a player. Now, McCrath said, that gray area has been removed.

The committee also reviewed the longstanding issue of overtimes during its annual meeting. After gathering information for the past year, the committee voted to keep the duration of the game at two periods of 45 minutes, followed by two 10-minute sudden-victory overtimes. During the regular season, if the game is tied at the end of the second sudden-victory overtime period, the game will be a tie and recorded as such.

For postseason games, including conference tournaments, play-ins and all NCAA tournament games (except the national championship final), if the score is tied after two sudden-victory overtime periods, the game will be recorded as a tie and penalty kicks will be used only to determine advancement in the tournament.

For the NCAA championship game, if the score is tied after two sudden-victory overtime periods, penalty kicks will be used to determine a winner. The team with the most penalty kicks at the conclusion of the procedure will be declared the winner of the national championship and the game will be recorded as a victory for the winning team and as a defeat for the losing team.

"The committee addressed rules that were noticeably in need of repair or needed clarification, such as the resolution of games that end in penalty kicks," said committee Chair Nelson Bobb, athletics director at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. "We analyzed feedback and input from the membership. Because of that, we addressed the flow of the game, substitutions and participation, stoppage of the clock and the 'win-the-game' resolution."

As Bobb mentioned, the committee did address the issue of substitution, another longstanding point of contention in the soccer community. In response to the membership and in an effort to improve the flow of the game, lessen game times and promote student-athlete safety, the committee voted to allow no reentry in any period of the game. Appealing to the "purist" aspect of soccer, committee members believe this change will align the college game more with the world game while still allowing large numbers of participants and allowing coaches the freedom to do their job.

In conjunction with the substitution change and in response to the annual rules survey, the clock will not be stopped except for during the last five minutes of the second period when a substitute is beckoned on the field by a referee. The committee feels this will make officiating more consistent and eliminate potential differences between divisions, as well as allow a trailing team the opportunity to win in the final minutes of the game.

Other highlights
Men's and Women's Soccer Rules Committee
February 4-7/St. Pete Beach, Florida

In addition to the rules changes described in the accompanying article, the Men's and Women's Soccer Rules Committee approved the following changes:

  • If the goalkeeper throws the ball at an opponent, he or she shall be cautioned and the referee will award the opposing team an indirect free kick from the point of the infraction (that is, the place of contact where the ball hits the opponent).

  • Multicolored goal nets will be allowed.

  • The recommended pregame timing sheet was altered. Game rosters will be exchanged 15 minutes before the game and captains and officials will meet 10 minutes before the game.

  • Consistent with all NCAA championships, artificial noisemakers, air horns and electronic amplifiers will not be allowed.

  • Clarified language regarding suspended games.

  • Consistent with the card accumulation system and the rule during the regular season, if the initial total of five yellow cards and subsequent three yellow card total is reached during the final postseason game of the season, the player shall not compete in the first scheduled game of the next season.