By Chris Ely

We are into the second week of February, the weather is getting fierce, the snow cap is just beginning to melt, and lacrosse fans everywhere are starting to get that itch. You know what it's like. Throughout the land, you can almost hear the sound of aluminum poles rattling like sabers. Before you know it, you will be out in the icy, blustery wind, watching your favorite college teams go to battle in the opening weeks of the stick season.

2005 Men's Rulebook

Just in time, your trusty referee friend is here to give you a head's up on some rules changes for 2005. After reading this, look how smart you will appear to be that first weekend when your lacrosse buddies are confused by some call or non-call and you know the rules! Or, at least, you will know these rules:


The first thing sharp-eyed fans will notice when they get to the game is the X factor is no longer marked on the field of play. The old, reliable Center X is gone. Planted squarely in the middle of the 4 inch wide center line is a 4" X 4" little box- hopefully painted in a contrasting color. It is on that box that the referee shall place the ball for each and every face-off.

For those of you who regularly watch games played on artificial surfaces, that little box will always be there. For those who follow their favorite teams on natural grass, that little box may or may not be there for game number 1 and will likely never be seen again after the first game because a) the act of facing off will churn up the turf so much it will soon disappear, and/or b) by the time the spring thaw and the rain does its thing on a natural grass field, the little box will be little more than a figment of someone's imagination at the bottom of a mud puddle.


It was the feeling of officials and coaches alike that of all the rules of lacrosse, the ones centering on the face-off were the most abused. (Chris, are you saying college lacrosse players were cheating? Well, yes, let me count the ways.)

Let's take a look at how the 2004 rule book proscribed how the combatants were to assume their positions on the face-off, shall we?

"The crosses and the ball should be within the 4-inch-wide center stripe or as close as the equipment (ball and crosses) will permit. The crosses shall rest on the ground along the center line and be placed parallel to each other, up to but not touching the ball."

And there, my friends, was the # 1 problem with the face-off. Players would get into their crouch, cozy-up their stick as close as they could to the ball and hope that by the time the referee blew the whistle, they could maneuver their stick against the ball to jump the whistle at the very least or jump their opponent at the most, thereby gaining an advantage.

Here is how the rule book reads now:

"The crosses shall rest on the ground along the edge of the center line, be placed parallel to each other up to, but not touching the line"

Voila! A four inch separation between the face-off sticks is automatically created BY THE CENTER LINE ITSELF. An opportunity to cheat is lost, simply because the face-off men cannot place their sticks any closer than four inches from each other.

Here is a visual.

#--------------------------------------------------------------------------# 4 inches

What's more, any violation of this statute is easily spotted by the face-off official. No questions asked. You break this non- combatant zone, you lose the ball. What took them so long to come up with little pearl of genius?


Up until this season, the defense had 10 seconds to clear the ball out of its defensive zone or they would lose possession of the ball. Once they successfully cleared "beyond the box" they could not take the ball back into the defensive zone, but they did not have to hurry the ball over the center line either. The area between the defensive "box" and the center line was a no-man's land where you could take your time, make substitutions, have lunch, before you crossed the center and were subject to a new 10 second count to get the ball into your offensive zone. The count and the amount have been changed for 2005.

Now it is the responsibility of the clearing team to move the ball across the mid-line within 20 seconds. That means, someone must have possession of the ball with both feet on the offensive side of the midfield line, or a loose ball must be completely across the mid line.

At the point where the player takes the ball over the midfield line, he now has 10 seconds to take the ball inside his offensive box.

Finally, we have a rule that effectively speeds up the game! Essentially, once a goalkeeper makes a save, his team has 30 seconds to get the ball from his goal, across the center line and into his offensive box or his team loses the ball. If you think you may have seen this suggested before, go back to my October 6, 2003 column! Someone out there is listening! That makes me feel soooooo good!


Before now, the only requirements to call time out during live play in the college game were if your team had possession of the ball and the player with the ball had two feet in his offensive end of the field. Now, the requirement has been tightened up. In order to call time out during live play, a team in possession of the ball must have at least one foot in its offensive box. The implementation of this rule effectively eliminates several emergency time outs: the one taken to avoid being called for stalling for not getting the ball into the offensive box, the one taken to avoid getting knocked out of bounds and the time out requested to avoid re-crossing the midline and turning the ball over for stalling.


Your team has the ball in the waning seconds of a period and you have the man advantage. If you keep possession of the ball when the horn sounds to end the quarter, you keep the ball to begin the next quarter. But your bone-headed midfielder tosses the ball to a teammate and the ball is in flight when the horn goes off ending the period. Last year, if the teammate caught the ball, you were still awarded possession to begin the next quarter. NOT ANYMORE. The rules keepers have gone back to the old way of doing things. If a team has the extra man and makes the mistake of passing the ball as the period ends, they lose possession of the ball if the pass is not caught by the time the horn sounds to end the period. The next quarter begins with a face off even though one team is a man up. If you see this scenario developing before you: time running out on the clock and your team is a man up (or for that matter, a man down, it does not matter)- you are permitted to shout "DON'T THROW THE BALL!!" or its appropriate alternative "HOLD ONTO THE BALL!!"

There are a couple of other little changes, but, in the grand scheme of things, they don't matter much.

So now that I have armed you with all this knowledge get out there and enjoy the games! And don't give the officials a load of grief this year.

See you on the field.

February 14, 2005

More by Chris Ely

First Scrimmage Woes and Irate Coaches Gallery February 21, 2004

First Scrimmage Woes and Irate Coaches Gallery February 21, 2004

Refs & Coaches Unite to Save Season February 14, 2004

Missing Link: An Adventure in Lacrosse Product History December 16, 2003

Hopkins Tricked, A Treat for Philly November 6, 2003

NCAA Should Look To MLL To Speed Up Game October 6, 2003

Ely on Team USA's Bob Shriver August 1, 2003

ESPN Gets Final Game Right June 26, 2003

Chris Ely Joins E-Lacrosse June, 2003