May 3, 2023 

WNBA announces rule changes for 2023 season

Coach's challenge, take foul among issues addressed

The WNBA is implementing a coach’s challenge for the first time, codifying the WNBA’s Competition Committee recommendation for the 2023 season, among rule changes announced by the league on Wednesday.

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The league will also implement changes for out-of-bounds call reviews, transition take fouls, resumption of play procedures and bench conduct.

“The Coach’s Challenge will provide head coaches an opportunity to challenge an event that they believe was incorrectly called and introduces a strategic element to the WNBA game,” said WNBA Head of League Operations Bethany Donaphin. “We will look at the rule on a trial basis and monitor the data around its use throughout the season.”

The coach’s challenge rule will allow a team one challenge per game (including overtime), regardless of whether the challenge is successful. Teams can use the challenge to call for an instant replay of a foul on their own team, a called out-of-bounds violation, or a called goaltending or basket interference violation. Goaltending or basket interference violation replays will only be triggered by the on-court officials during the final two minutes of the fourth quarter or the final two minutes of any overtime period.

A coach’s challenge is now the only method to prompt an instant replay of an out-of-bounds violation at any point in the game.

To challenge, a team must call a legal full timeout and the head coach will use the visual signal — twirling an index finger toward the referees — and then provide a verbal indication of the specific call being challenged. If a team attempts a challenge with no remaining timeouts, the team will be charged an excessive timeout (the penalty being a technical foul), and no challenge will occur. If a team calls a timeout to challenge an event that may not be reviewed, the team will be charged a timeout but will retain its challenge.

In order to overturn the event as called on the floor, as with other replay reviews, there must be “clear and conclusive” visual evidence that the call was incorrect.

Also beginning in 2023, a heightened penalty will be imposed when a defensive player commits a “transition take foul.”

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“The modified rules regarding transition take fouls will lead to improved game flow and increased fast break scoring opportunities while still allowing strategic ‘take fouls’ in the last two minutes of the fourth quarter and last two minutes of all overtime periods,” said Donaphin.

The offensive team will be rewarded one free throw, which may be attempted by any player on the floor at the time the foul was committed, and will retain possession of the ball. A common personal foul will be charged on the defensive player who commits the foul. The primary factor to determine a “take foul” is whether the defender made “a legitimate play on the ball,” including whether the defender gives up on the play or if the defender is out of position or unable to make a legal play on the ball or offensive player.

Resumption of play rules have also been modified for coach’s challenges or any call treated as an inadvertent whistle so that possession will be awarded to the team that “clearly and conclusively” would have gained possession at the time of the whistle. In the case this standard is not met, a jump ball will resume play.

Finally, new rules for bench conduct aim to “reduce disruptions and distractions” during live play — players not on the floor should not remain standing “at or away from their team’s bench during a prolonged period and, along with coaches, are prohibited from attempting to distract their opponents
in an unsportsmanlike manner.” Violations are subject to penalties.

Written by Allie Griffith

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