The debate about whether or not to have a shot clock in Maine high school basketball is likely to come up again in the aftermath of a recent decision by the National Federation of State High School Associations.
The NFHS, which governs high school sports in the U.S., last week announced that it had approved implementation of a 35-second shot clock in high school games, by state association adoption, beginning with the 2022-23 season.
A proposal for a national rule mandating a shot clock was not approved.
If a shot clock is to be implemented in Maine any time soon, it will be the result of a grassroots effort at the local level.
“When the membership is ready to implement that rule, we will support it,” Maine Principals’ Association interscholastic executive director Mike Burnham said. “But it is not going to be the MPA telling the schools they need to do it. It needs to be the majority of the schools saying, ‘we feel that we’re ready.’”
Eight states — California, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota and Washington — and the District of Columbia currently use a shot clock for high school basketball, according to NFHS manager of media relations Cody Porter.
Washington was the last state to implement a shot clock for boys basketball beginning with the 2009-10 season. It already had a shot clock for girls basketball.
The Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association voted in June 2017 to add a 35-second clock for boys and girls basketball beginning in the 2019-20 season but reversed that decision later that year.
Support for the addition of a high school shot clock nationally has centered on creating a more uptempo style of play, preventing teams from stalling, and helping to prepare players to compete at the collegiate level, which has used a shot clock since the mid-1980s.
Opposition to a high school shot clock is based on the cost associated with its implementation. The purchase and installation of the clocks and operating boards may cost several thousand dollars, and schools then would be subject to paying a shot clock operator for all boys and girls varsity, junior varsity and freshman games each year.
Detractors say the shot clock takes away strategic options for coaches to use against their opponents, that high school basketball should remain different from the college and professional versions and that the high school game is in good shape.
“I see this issue going from the local level to the league level, discussed at AD meetings and going from the local level to the coaches’ association and discussed there,” Burnham said. “These are conversations that need to take place at the school level and well before it gets to the coaches’ association making proposals for the MPA.”
Previous shot clock discussions within Maine’s high school basketball community have produced no movement in that direction.
“I’d say in the last five or six years it’s probably come up two or three times at one of our meetings when somebody would ask questions about whether we see that coming any time soon,” said Peter Murray, boys varsity basketball coach at Dexter Regional High School and longtime president of the Maine Association of Basketball Coaches.
“They would bring it up in support of it, but even in the room with 25 or 30 coaches there, there wasn’t a lot of clamoring for it.”
Murray said support for a shot clock by the MABC membership has never reached the point where even a straw poll was taken.
“It has come up from time to time and there is some level of support for it but there are plenty of coaches out there that don’t think we need it,” he said, adding that teams generally aren’t taking 35 seconds to put up a shot.
Maine’s high school basketball officials have studied that aspect by charting possessions during recent high school tournaments.
“What we learned was that there were very few possessions a shot clock would have had an impact on,” Maine coordinator of basketball officials T.J. Halliday said. “There’s very few possessions that last that long in the typical game.”
Halliday said the state’s officials have not taken a position on the issue.
“We really try to tell the officials to stay out of stuff like this,” Halliday said. “This has to do with school expense and school participation. It’s their activity, we just support them.”
Murray said coaches likely would take a stand similar to the MPA.
“If the schools said, ‘Yes, we’re going to do this,’ then we would adjust and we would do it,” he said. “But other than that we’re not going to push for it.”