Rick Barnes Gets the NCAA Rule Change He Wanted

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    Photo by Anne Newman/RTI

    During Tennessee’s 2018-19 season, head coach Rick Barnes made it very clear that he wanted to see the NCAA change a rule that he felt negatively affected his team late in a game.

    When the No. 5 Vols took on No. 13 LSU on the road on February 23rd, Tennessee had a chance late in overtime to defeat the Tigers. Instead, the Vols squandered their final possession, and LSU ended up pulling out a controversial victory.

    LSU’s Kavell Bigby-Williams tied the game at 80 with about eight seconds left in overtime, and Tennessee went streaking down the court for a final shot. Instead of calling a timeout or trying to get more in control, redshirt junior guard Lamonte Turner pulled up and shot a contested three with 4.6 seconds remaining. His shot missed the mark, and LSU came down with the rebound. Grant Williams attempted to go after the rebound and a steal, and he was whistled for a foul with 0.6 seconds remaining on the clock.

    Tennessee technically got one more possession after that, but it was a heave down court from the in-bounds play, and Grant Williams put up a desperation shot before the buzzer.

    After the game, Barnes was asked about that final possession and why there was no timeout called. According to Barnes, he didn’t stop the game because he legally couldn’t.

    “I think we have a really bad rule in college basketball where coaches can’t call timeouts in that situation,” Barnes explained to reporters after the game. “The players are so locked in to trying to play. As much as you talk about it, they shouldn’t have to come down the floor looking at me, seeing if I want a timeout. Which we talked about having a timeout. Coaches should be allowed to call timeout. That’s what we get paid to do, to coach our team. When there is a scrum on the floor, obviously we shouldn’t be able to call timeout.

    “But that’s a perfect situation where you want your players to come down the floor ready to play, and if we see something we don’t like, we should be the ones to call timeout.”

    Fast forward over three months later, and Barnes is getting his wish.

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    On Wednesday, the NCAA announced a handful of rule changes that will take effect for the upcoming 2019-20 men’s basketball season. The decision to push back the three-point line to the international basketball distance of 22 feet, 1.75 inches is the rule change catching the most attention, but there were a couple more changes the NCAA agreed to as well. And one of them goes back to Barnes’ complaints after the LSU loss.

    Starting this upcoming season, Barnes and every other head coach in college basketball will be allowed to call timeouts late in games.

    “Coaches will be allowed to call live-ball timeouts in the last two minutes of the second half and the last two minutes of any overtime periods,” the NCAA states. “Previously, coaches weren’t allowed to call any live-ball timeouts during the game.”

    With that rule change in effect, endings like what Tennessee saw against LSU this past season won’t happen again.

    “We had what we wanted to do there, but Lamonte, I think from the time he got the ball he had made up his mind that he was going to stop and pull up and shoot it, which is really not a good decision,” Barnes also said after the Vols’ overtime loss to LSU. “At that point in time, he’s not think about looking at me (for a timeout). He’s protecting the ball and looking, thinking about where we should be going.

    “We should’ve got a better look that last time down the floor. We didn’t. That situation, you certainly want to have the last shot of the game. We didn’t do that.”

    While that moment ended up being only a footnote in the controversy that ensued with LSU after that game, it’s at least a positive change that should help prevent situations like that from happening again.

    There were a few more rule changes that will take effect this upcoming season other than moving back the three-point line and coaches being allowed to call a timeout, though.

    Instant replay can now be used to look at goaltending and basket interference calls in the final two minutes of the second half and any overtime period. That was previously an unreviewable call, and that also helped LSU get a win when they defeated Kentucky on February 12th.

    Two other rules that are changing this upcoming season are as follows:

    • The shot clock will reset to 20 seconds after a field goal attempt hits the rim and the offensive team rebounds the ball in the front court.
    • Players will be assessed a technical foul should they use derogatory language about an opponent’s race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, gender, gender expression, gender identify, sexual orientation or disability

    Nathanael Rutherford
    Nathanael Rutherford is the managing editor and social media manager for Rocky Top Insider. Nathanael graduated from the University of Tennessee and cultivated a passion for the Vols while growing up in Knoxville a mere 10 minutes from Neyland Stadium. He's been a part of the RTI team since November of 2015 and has been the editor of RTI since June of 2017. If he's not talking or writing about Tennessee athletics, he's probably talking about Star Wars.