June 9, 2023
Inside the NCAA’s new women’s basketball rules for 2023-24 season
Rule changes target flopping, reduce restricted area and open door for more replays
The NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel approved a number of rule changes this week, all of which will be enforced at the start of the 2023-24 season.
In May, the NCAA Women’s Basketball Rules Committee met to discuss their suggested changes and priorities for the coming season. The committee is made up of twelve coaches and administrators, notably including Division I women’s basketball head coaches Tricia Binford (Montana State-Bozeman), Nicki Colleen (Baylor), Loree Payne (Northern Arizona), Raegan Pebley (TCU) and committee chair Amy Vachon (Maine). The committee is rounded out with six Division II and III representatives, with head coaches from Biola University, Colorado Christian University and Chapman University. Nicki Collen has been selected as the next Rules Committee chair.
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Following an exciting postseason, and entering a highly-anticipated season this fall, two of the main points of concern for the committee were the notable increase in flopping, and “bench decorum” and misconduct, namely technical and intentional fouls.
“For the last two years, the rules committee made faking and flopping a point of emphasis for officials,” said Vachon, in a statement to NCAA.com. “There is still a growing concern about this issue in women’s basketball, so this is the committee’s attempt to address the issue.”
In a survey of over 500 Division I women’s basketball head coaches in 2023, 23 percent said they believed that officials were “almost always” consistent in not rewarding faking fouls. The Rules Committee proposed that players called for flopping — defined in the NCAA rule book as “embellishing the act of incidental contact” — will receive a warning, followed by a technical foul if repeated. The technical foul will count towards the team foul count, but will not be charged as a personal foul on an individual player.
The committee also recommended a reduction in the restricted-area arc. Since 2011, the restricted-area rule prohibited defenders from drawing a charge within four feet of the basket, attempting to reduce unsafe contact at the rim. The Rules Committee didn’t believe this rule was implemented successfully, suggesting that the restricted area consist of only the area immediately underneath the hoop, enabling more defensive activity in the paint; this decision will likely continue the trend we’ve seen of exciting rim protection and aggressive offense at the basket. Of 544 Division I coaches surveyed, 49 percent were in favor of maintaining the current rules for the lower box and restricted area, with only 27 percent in favor of reducing the size, likely a result of the challenge that comes with adjusting defensive strategy and mindset.
The proposed flop and restricted area changes were approved by the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel on Thursday, alongside nine other changes:
- Delay-of-game warning technical fouls will fall under the same category as flopping: a team foul, rather than an individual foul. We don’t have to strain our memories for an example of how this can change a game, given Caitlin Clark’s fourth foul in this year’s national championship.
- When the non-shooting team fouls away from the ball during a shot attempt that results in an air ball, the shot clock will reset to 20 seconds or the time remaining, depending which is greater.
- “A permissive rule will allow conferences to implement an off-site collaborative replay system to assist game officials with replay situations.”
- “Officials can now use replay throughout the entire game for off-ball foul scoring plays; the review would be conducted during the next media timeout or intermission.”
- The previously experimental rule allowing live video transmission to the bench is now active. In a survey of 306 head coaches following the 2022-2023 season, 51 percent of coaches did not support this change, and commissioners, athletic directors, and senior woman administrators (SWAs) found it even more unfavorable.
- Players are now able to wear any number 0-99, enabling athletes to wear numbers with digits 6, 7, 8 or 9.
- Religious headwear is permitted, as long as it poses no safety concerns. Previously, headwear was technically “illegal” and required a school-submitted waiver.
- Officials will now use the game clock to determine a 10-second backcourt violation if the shot clock is off at the end of a period.
- Backboards can now include an amber light strip denoting the end of a shot-clock period.
While we consistently see rule changes as the women’s game gains following and technology advances, the flopping rule and restricted-area reduction will likely have immediate impact, similar to timeout ball advancement, three-point line distance and immediate replay. As we head into a season that promises increased media attention and viewership, it will be key to watch how players and coaches make adjustments.