Logic demands the NCAA and high school change their timekeeping rules

Most of the games I ref are under the U.S. Soccer umbrella, so official time is kept by the match referee. If time needs to be added, I announce, “A minimum of three minutes of stoppage time,” just as is done in professional games. I cannot remember the last time anybody has ever questioned when I ended the match.

Unfortunately, college and high school soccer use a different system with official time being kept on the scoreboard. The duties of the timekeeper take up more than one page in the college rulebook and a half-page in the high school rulebook.

I wrote about the various problems of this system four years ago and would like to revisit this issue and its glaring deficiency of ending the half when the ball is about to enter the goal. This rather dramatically happened to me in a game last week.

A Northeast Conference women’s game on Oct. 25 at Brooklyn Bridge Park with first-year women’s program St. Francis Brooklyn hosting Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU): I was AR2, the assistant away from the benches with Bruno Mozzo as the ref and Albert Calise as AR1. We felt good as it was a well-officiated and well-controlled match, but then came controversy in the dying seconds of the game.

FDU was in the lead, 1-0, with St. Francis attacking toward the goal not in my half. As is the rule in college soccer, the PA announcer counts down the last 10 seconds of the half. When the announcer said “0,” a shot had been taken and it looked to me like the ball was a foot away from the goal line. I turned and looked at the small scoreboard at midfield that read 0.00, although I could not see the ball and the scoreboard simultaneously as they were 75 yards from one another.

AR1 Calise was by the goal line and had a clear, unobstructed view of the ball, he stood by the corner flag and confirmed that the ball was not over the line when the PA announcer said “0.” Ref Mozzo also did not believe the ball was over the line at zero. So all three of us had no goal. Unfortunately, none of us heard any horn to end the half.

We disallowed the goal because time had run out, and FDU wound up winning, 1-0. You can imagine that St. Francis felt hard done by. Bruno, Albert and I also felt rather lousy as we had a controversial ending because of the NCAA rule in having official time on the scoreboard. If this game had been played under the U.S. Soccer umbrella or anywhere else in the world, we would have waited for the shot to reach its conclusion and never end the game on a shot in mid-flight.

U.S. Soccer Hall of Famer Joe Machnik assigned this game and he watched it live from his home in South Carolina. He called Mozzo 10 minutes after the match ended.

Machnik explained, “Having official time on the scoreboard is long-standing, going way back to when soccer was being Americanized by the NCAA and others. Remember the kick-in instead of throw-in, semi-circular penalty area, etc.? Soccer is now America's game and we have embraced the international rules. Even MLS in its early days abandoned the shootout and official time being kept on a scoreboard clock.”

The officiating crew later watched the video on NEC Front Row with the disclaimer that the time at the bottom of the screen does not link directly to the scoreboard although the goal appears to be scored with time still left on the clock. With the volume pumped up to the max, you can hear the PA announcer count down the final seconds and he says “0” when the ball appears not to have entered the goal.

We’re talking about nanoseconds, which was the difference between St. Francis tying the game or not.

All this could be avoided in the future if the NCAA and high school soccer take the logical and extremely sensible step in giving the referee the official time and we would no longer have the ridiculous situation in stopping play as the ball is about to enter the net. And not put refs in the nearly impossible situation of determining if a goal is scored, or not, when the scoreboard and the goal are in two very different places as on most college and high school fields.

Time could still be kept on a scoreboard clock for cosmetic and other purposes. But referees should be allowed to announce a minimum amount of added time in each half depending upon how much time was wasted and this can be announced over the PA system.

“Unfortunately, time-wasting in soccer is prevalent. The NCAA does not recognize time-wasting during their many substitutions including re-entry,” Machnik said. “As such, NCAA playing time is generally less than the time played internationally. Yet, the ref cannot add time. Therefore, the spirit of the game is changed as time can expire before a legitimately earned corner kick or free kick is taken and the ref is in a ‘no-win’ situation whether or not to stop the clock. And even worse, time can expire with the ball about to cross the goal line as in this game.”

(Randy Vogt, the author of "Preventive Officiating," has officiated more than 10,000 games.)

22 comments about "Logic demands the NCAA and high school change their timekeeping rules".
  1. Brian Penn, October 30, 2019 at 12:33 p.m.

    Agree 100% that this has to change to get in line with the rest of the soccer world.  I've seen a few goals scored as the buzzer sounded that have been disallowed in high school and college games.  This is insanity.  There is no other league anywhere in the world where a goal scoring play would be cut short by the game-ending (or half-ending) whistle.  The ref will always allow it to play out and then blow the whistle afterwards.  Having a scoreboard buzzer end the game (or half) in the middle of a goal scoring play is the equivalent of a ref blowing the whistle as a shot is sailing in the goal - it simply doesn't happen.

  2. Michael Saunders, October 30, 2019 at 12:53 p.m.

    Hey Randy:

    This brings back the nightmare finish in regular time where I was the AR in the Div 1 Men's Final in 1991 between Virginia & Santa Clara ..... headed towards goal by Virginia with approx 1.0 seconds to another player, who in turn headed it in.   My being with 2nd to last defender, I ran to follow the ball but time expired as the second player headed it in.   Impossible for me to be even with the ball, and I certainly could not watch the play and the clock, which happened to be behind said goal.  I went with my auditory reaction and advised the ref accordingly that it was no goal as I stated that the goal  crossed the line after the buzzer. 

    Never forget Bruce Arena's frustrated, if not angry, gaze while it was being sorted out.   The good news is that an NCAA official went upstairs to the broadcast room, and advised us it was no goal ..... Of course, we could not use replays, so the decision would have "stood" had a goal been given.  

    Still your article speaks volumes as to the problem.  Well  done my friend!!    

  3. Randy Vogt replied, November 1, 2019 at 10:03 a.m.

    Mike, great to hear from you!! My last college game was this Wednesday night, also a 1-0 scoreline with the losing team but dominating possession in second half and nearly all the play in my half as AR1. I thought to myself that this could be another nightmare ending because of official time on the scoreboard. The scoreboard was in the corner of field but with no working buzzer so we needed a human being to press the horn when scoreboard read 0.00. Using official time on the scoreboard is flawed enough without things not working. Thankfully, no goal was scored in the last seconds.

  4. Alan Goldstein, October 30, 2019 at 1:45 p.m.

    At the risk of sounding like an "American", the problem isn't the timekeeping, it's ending the game with a shot in flight. Change the rule so that the shot needs to be taken before "0" is called and not the goal. Doesn't basketball work like that? International rules are rediculous with the constant time-wasting, fake time-consuming injuries, substitutions to run the clock, stoppage time that nobody can figure out, wrestling matches in the goal, etc. IMHO, the clock should stop on goals, injuries and substitutions and end at 90 minutes. As to less playing time in the US, given the time wasting in the international gamel that isn't made up by stoppage time, I think that often that isn't the case. Plus, there is the notion that if players knew the clock stops when they start rolling around on the ground, perhaps they wouldn't do it in the first place.

  5. Wooden Ships replied, October 30, 2019 at 3:18 p.m.

    Alan, with all due respect don't watch soccer. The countless attempts over the decades to tweak the game to fit US sensibilities is lame at best. Time wasting is part of the game, acting and drama is as well. The Center needs and usually does account for this. Managers, players and organizations can impact the extent to which this occurs. It is abhorrent and arrogant to use a scoreboard clock and a nails in chalkboard countdown. We didn't have it in St. Louis High school soccer in the early 70's, during the dead of winter season. This continues to exist because of non-soccer individuals. The former NSCAA was impotent in wanting to organize to get rid of this ridiculousness. While coaching at the University level several years ago I sabotaged our own scoreboard so the Center had to keep time. Too many poeople that enjoy the game have either grown up with it or flat out don't care. R2 you make a good argument. 

  6. frank schoon replied, November 1, 2019 at 9:11 a.m.

    Alan, you're criticism on soccer, although I'm not saying your points are all wrong, gives me a sense that you don't like the game. A little time wasting here and there is part of the game and part of being human. It is funny seeing players complain to the ref about time wasting and in the next game they do exactly what they complain the other team of doing. I played soccer all my life and have no problems with what you complain about...It's all part of the game...

  7. Raffaele Aquino replied, December 27, 2019 at 12:59 p.m.

    Alan Goldstein could not agree with you more . The amount of time waisting in soccer by players is a complete joke! I'm a soccer fanatic it's the only sport I really care about, but would love it if there was a times keeper that the ref could point to that would stop the scoreboard clock on subs, injuries and whenever the ball went out of play. Moreover , of course you would see a lot of the fake injuries that players fake to kill time taken out of the game and any other things that players and teams do to kill time. Most of the time the amount of time that was waisted during a game never matches the added time the ref adds on , almost never. The refs always add too little time and never matches on how much time was wasted it's a joke!

  8. R2 Dad, October 30, 2019 at 2:27 p.m.

    Another well-reasoned article, Randy. More reasons not to do HS and college matches. However, getting the NCAA to change is just asking too much. Laws that upend their business model, on the other hand, seem to get their attention--immediately. I am not in favor of the state of California trying to force their views/habits/laws on the rest of the country (as they enjoy doing) but they discovered there are few fans of the NCAA and pressed their advantage. Now the NCAA wants to discuss the payment of player royalties, or otherwise threaten universities with penalties if they don't tow the NCAA line? Ossified clowns, starting with Mark Emmert but certainly not ending there.
    Soccer, as a non-revenue sport, has little leverage and thus little chance of swaying the mandarins--not that they care about soccer that much. But they enjoy controlling soccer. Just look at how difficult it has been for college soccer coaches to make changes to the season to make the sport more relevant in this country. Would you bash your head against a wall for a few years, just to be told to take a hike because, reasons? No you wouldn't. The NCAA is like pay-to-play in this country. All the pigs at the money trough don't want feeding time to end, and don't want to make any changes that might jeopardize their monopoly. We don't necessarily need new competing organizations, but we do need new models to change the existing outcomes. If USSF and NCAA can't embrace change, then we should look to alternate organizations that will.

  9. Bob Ashpole, October 30, 2019 at 3:42 p.m.

    I agree generally that scholastic soccer should follow the FIFA LOTG. The only problem is the all-too--common ridiculous competition schedules make FIFA limited substitution rules risky.

    I don't like the NCAA substitution rules, but they make sense for a ridiculous schedule. More students get to participate in matches too, but players end up with 22-minute fitness rather than 120-minute fitness. More importantly it encourages what I consider poor soccer, i.e., constantly racing up and down the field and kick and run tactics. Controlling the tempo of the game ought to be an important part of tactics.

    As for time keeping, the responsibility belongs with the referee. There is no logical reason to keep official time on the scoreboard, period. 

  10. Bob Ashpole replied, October 30, 2019 at 3:51 p.m.

    I want to add that the NCAA substitution rules promote the selection of sprinters that cannot maintain their speed over players who can. In soccer, sprint speed when fresh is not as important as sprint speed in the last 10 minutes of a half, but that is not how scholastic soccer is played.

  11. Ric Fonseca replied, October 31, 2019 at 10:45 p.m.

    T\Now this IS an interesting piece, especially concerning the "running clock" and the comments about California.  However, for those of you who don't know about my Golden State and el futbol soccer, would it surprise you to know that the California Community (junior) Colleges began to use the FIFA LOTG, way back in the late 70's, and I betcha that it would surprise you even more for me to tell you that it was non other than another referee colleague, Dan Goldmann, that pushed the Com College's Commission on Athletics  to implement the FIFA LOTG.  Dan was a former UCLA grad student, who took up the role of "soccer referee" and eventually became a professor of (if memory serves me correct) biology at Stna Ana College.  Yes, amigos, Dan was the one "responsible" not just for the implementations of our LOTG, but also "shephered in" the community college teams and their athletic directors and athletic administrators to realize and accept that futbol soccer is an international game, and even went so far as to include them in its version of the manual (e.g. ncaa voluminous guide) and even use the FIFA LOTG in its state-wide finals.  While this is a positive step, however, the California COA, is not a part of the NJCAA, and so it doesn't participate in national/regional competition.

  12. Ric Fonseca, October 31, 2019 at 11:01 p.m.

    Lastly, FYI, the California post-secondary education system as it was organized and implemented in the early 1960's by the Post Secondary Commission, is "comprised" of three systems: Community Colleges which at last count I believe there are 120+ and provide education leading to an Associate of Arts/Science degree and transfer opportunities to four-year universities; the California State University system that offer up to a Master of Arts/Science degree and some partner with a four-year university and offer PhD or EdD degree and of which I believe consists of 25 campuses; and the University of California system with ten major campuses.  I'd be remiss if I did not mention the innumerable "private" universities euch as Stanford, Occidental College, USC, Univ San Francisco, Santa Clara, Univ San Diego, Biola University, etc., and most of the larger ones compete in NCAA DI, II, III or the NAIA.

  13. Ric Fonseca replied, October 31, 2019 at 11:05 p.m.

    Oh, and I apolgize as I forgot the many or hundreds of secondary - high school districts - that, such as the LA Unified School Districts, soccer is played during the fall, whilke other districts insist of competing in the winter beginning just around the Thansgiving holiday through February, and I do believe they also use the FIFA LOTG.

  14. Phil Shortt, November 1, 2019 at 1:31 p.m.

    PLEASE continue to argue for this.  In Maryland High School the clock is stopped with 2:00 remaining and an announcment is made saying "The remaining time in the match is being kept on the field!" Even with this, I've seen Center Refs end the match with balls flighted to goal or in a dangerous position to score.  The Center is the only one in the stadium who knows the real time and he/she still chooses to end in a controversial manner.  

  15. Fajkus Rules, November 1, 2019 at 6:38 p.m.

    Sorry, Randy but that is a one-sided, assumptive position you are taking, and it ignores the several potential weaknesses of keeping time by a sole individual who is neither accountable to, or verifyable by ANYONE ELSE.  Timekeeping IS a series of trade-offs, one way isn't purely right or wrong vs. the other.

    Your argument basically comes down to:

    1.  College (and HS) don't do it like the rest of the world
    2.  It's too bad that you couldn't "adjust" the game to include the late goal
    3.  It's too hard to modify a law/rule that would allow shots taken/struck before time completes to zero to enter the goal and be counted after time expires -- actually, this is specifically allowed in Futsal where there is also a clock on the wall (visible).

    Keeping time on a scoreboard is:

    1. Fair to all participants as everyone knows what the remaining time is

    2. Open and public vs. secret

    3. Not subject to manipulation by a sole individual keeping the time on their own watch

    4. Makes potential timewasting something that everyone in the stadium can estimate on their own if the stadium clock is visible

    5. Contrary to the suggestion that timewasting substitutions are out of control, the limits on 2nd half re-entry tends to discourage unnecessary subs, especially by inferior players.

    It's too bad that a goal was a bit too late in the game you are discussing but it's no different than a basketball, hockey or football game where time expires before a score is completed, and this happens regulaly in those sports

  16. Bob Ashpole replied, November 2, 2019 at 2:32 p.m.

    Fajkus, you are wrong about the rules. Basketball and football allow "buzzer beaters". You are correct that ice hockey does not.

  17. Ric Fonseca replied, November 2, 2019 at 2:39 p.m.

    Mr FR:  Please explain the clocks in MLS statia... Now, if  these types/kinds of clocks were affordable for all schools/colleges/universities to install....  Subs and permitting re-entry is and has been a puire fascination for the non-soccer knowledgeable scholastic/college-university athletic administrators and directors who foir the most part were usually connected to any other sport EXCEPT for soccer.  Gracious me, how I vividly remember when my first hire as a community college soccer coach, the AD then was a former gymnastic and baseball student athlete/coach; and my second interview was by none other than the department PE chair, a former baseball-football coach, and the AD a pure baseball coach who both told me they were really not cognizamt or knowledgeable about the LOT, and that they were bringing/adding  the sport as result of a lot of pressure from other university conference members..... As usual, just saying compadres & comadres!!!

  18. Randy Vogt replied, November 3, 2019 at 7:11 a.m.

    Fajkus, we’re going to have to agree and disagree on this. But besides what Bob Ashpole wrote above, you’re incorrect in that both college and HS soccer allow re-entry in the second half. So Dr. Joe Machnick is right in his comments that leading teams can sub at will in the second half. If the ref stops the clock for the subs, that annoys one team; if he/she does not, that annoys the other team that sees the clock going down with each substitution. Easier for the ref to say time is being added when time-wasting substitutions are made and my experience is it’s much more accepted too.
    We all know that leading teams often try and waste time. Such as the GK moving the ball across the goal area before taking a goal kick, wasting several seconds. Or taking a couple of extra seconds in other scenarios to put the ball back in play or subs taking extra time to leave the field. It’s so much easier for the ref to say that time is being added then to stop the clock, the officials then have to make sure the clock is stopped, then make sure the clock is re-started after play resumes. So our attention is diverted to a scoreboard when it should always be on the players, and infrequently the bench areas.
    In a recent college game, I as AR1 flagged the visiting team for offside when they scored a goal with a few minutes to play. The visiting team was in the lead and the only scoreboard was behind me in corner of field. The attacker who scored suffered a knock in colliding with the GK on the play. GK wants to take the indirect kick quickly but ref has to make sure that attacker can get up and does not need a trainer. Lots to do on this play. Even more to do as all of a sudden, the visiting team’s coach accuses the timekeeper, supplied by the home team, of cheating because he had stopped the clock. Coach approached the timekeeper 60 yards from where the ball was. I said to him something like, “Coach, if the clock had been stopped, I’m sure it’s because the timekeeper thought a goal had been scored before he saw my flag and heard the ref’s whistle.”
    But we did not know for sure if the clock had been stopped, and if so, how much time should have elapsed. The only official who could have seen the clock stop during all this was AR2, but he would have had to focus on the clock briefly before looking at the positioning of the second-to-last defender and attackers nearby in anticipation of the indirect kick for a possible offside situation.

  19. Randy Vogt replied, November 3, 2019 at 4:36 p.m.

    Actually, the first sentence should have said "agree to disagree" on this. Even with an extra hour of sleep, I made that error. :)

  20. Alfred Randall, November 2, 2019 at 4:16 p.m.

    Use the USSF book for colleges and high schools and avoid all this useless crap.

  21. James Madison, November 21, 2019 at 6:16 p.m.

    It's over when it's over.  However, although NCAA referees cannot add time, they should, can and do stop time when a team is "wasting time," i.e., delaying the restart of play.

  22. Bobby Bribiesca, December 4, 2019 at 10:38 a.m.

    Good thought on changing the time to allow the Referee to end the game. High School administrators are not concerned with International rules, FIFA rules or any other rules. For this reason high school games will continue to use the score board as the official time. Sad but true! 

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