DECATUR — While bigger changes may be down the road, there is a rule change this year that fans of football, baseball and soccer will recognize — the mercy rule.
The IHSA sports advisory committee approved the use of a running clock in the fourth quarter if one team holds a 30-point lead at any time. This would not apply to postseason games.
The rule had previously been tried in some tournaments, but will make its regular-season debut for the first time.
“I don’t think it’s a big deal,” Taylorville boys basketball coach Ryan Brown said. “At that point, if you’re down that much, I want the game to be over. When we’re up by that much, we want it to be over. Frustrations come along with that. It might take away some playing time for some players you’d like to get in at the end, but you’d also remove some unsportsmanlike things when the game is spread out like that.”
Most, though, don’t think it’s a great idea — particularly for the players at the end of the bench.
“My only issue is it takes away form the second and third string kids — like a senior who doesn’t play a lot,” Brown said. “That garbage time, for some players, is good to play in. Just let the games play out. Maybe have it in the last two or three minutes.”
Central A&M junior Connor Heaton said he doesn’t see any reason to shorten games.
“When garbage time comes, it’s a good time to work on things and for subs to get playing time,” Heaton said. “There are benefits to blowout games.”
St. Teresa coach Tom Noonan said he remembers being a sophomore and how much getting into the end of a varsity game meant to him, and recognizes it as a coach.
“I like that time as a time to build depth and trust with younger players,” Noonan said. “We have a pretty good schedule, so we don’t see that a lot. Maybe for some coaches who are really struggling, I could see where it’s beneficial to get it over with.
“But, to me, it’s huge to get those guys in the game. I don’t want to have to rush it along when there are opportunities for some kids to develop.”
Warrensburg-Latham coach Vic Binkley said there are ways around letting games get to that level.
“Getting beat that bad is embarrassing — I’ve had it done to me,” Binkley said. “But that shouldn’t happen in the first place. Most coaches know, when you get by around 20, to back off and let those kids that work hard in practice get in. We want those kids still playing hard and scoring, but you can call the dogs off.”
Effingham coach Jeff Schafer said he feels like the rule damages the game’s integrity.
“I think if you have a running clock, you’re ruining the stat part — the history part,” Schafer said. “As a stat junky, that would bother me.
“Plus, I want that extra quarter for kids who don’t get to play get minutes. I have seniors who have been practicing for five years and have played their role in practice and played hard. They deserve to play.”
Bloomington Central Catholic boys basketball coach Jason Welch said he doesn’t see the rule as a big deal, but also doesn’t necessarily see the need for it.
“I understand where everyone is coming from on that because if it gets to be that bloody, you want some relief,” he said. “I also realize that in life, sometimes things don’t go your way and ultimately you’ve got to keep going.”