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Point differential threshold for running clocks lowered in football, basketball

RENO — The Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association is attempting to show more mercy to teams on the losing end of lopsided games.

The association’s Board of Control on Thursday changed the mercy rules in football and boys and girls basketball, lowering the point differential threshold and allowing running clocks to start earlier in games.

In all three sports, the board approved starting a continuously running clock at any time during a game in which a team leads by 35 or more points. The prior rule didn’t allow for a running clock until the second half of games, unless coaches mutually agreed to start the running clock earlier.

In football only, if the losing team closes the gap to less than 35 points, the timing would revert back to stopped time.

The NIAA had been using mercy rules of 45 points for a running clock in football and 40 points in boys and girls basketball.

“It does help,” said board member Ray Mathis, the Clark County School District’s executive athletic director. “There will be less time for coaches of good teams to have to figure out a way to keep from scoring too many points. If the clock doesn’t start running until the third quarter, sometimes you have to figure out in the second quarter how to keep the game from getting out of hand.”

Nearly 25 percent of football games in Southern Nevada used a running clock at some point in the second half last season. More than one in eight games were decided by 50 or more points.

“It’s really important in football,” Mathis said. “In football, we’re talking about keeping kids on the field (longer) who may be dealing with superior athletes, and we could possibly be getting someone hurt.”

In girls basketball, nearly 15 percent of games used a running clock.

“Getting it over as soon as you can is better because you don’t always know what the coaches are thinking (in terms of sportsmanship),” said Needles athletic director Bill Darrow, the board’s Division III liaison.

NIAA executive director Bart Thompson reiterated that a policy in basketball that required coaches whose team won a game by 50 or more points to write a letter explaining what safeguards they used to try to keep the score from getting so lopsided is not a state policy.

“We’ve used it in Clark County the last three or four years,” Mathis said. “I think other districts have not used it. Since it wasn’t a state policy, we used it as a district policy. Pam (Sloan, CCSD athletic director) and I will have to take a look to see if that’s something we want to continue to do.”

The issue received regional and national scrutiny from the Review-Journal, ESPN’s “SportsCenter” and ESPNW.com.

“We may go back to a situation where we only request a statement from a coach if the opposing coach says he feels like the score was run up,” Mathis said. “Maybe starting the running clock earlier, it won’t be an issue.”

The board briefly discussed changing the mercy rules in baseball and softball to include stopping a game after three innings when a team leads by 15 or more runs, but deferred further discussion and possible action until its June meeting.

Contact reporter Bartt Davis at bdavis@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5230.

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