Women’s basketball transitions to four quarters

by Matt Case / Beacon Staff • January 20, 2016

Emerson women’s basketball games have a different look this season. A new, and unexpected, rule has changed the format to generate better moving, and more entertaining contests.   

The NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel, or PROP, approved a motion last June to adjust all women’s basketball games in every division from the original two 20-minute halves system to four 10-minute quarters. Now, foul totals are reset at the start of each period, with two free throws automatically given after five, eliminating the one-and-one. 

Teams can also advance possession into their opponent's end of the court when a timeout is called from their own side within the final minute of regulation or any overtime period. After the stoppage, they are given the ball to inbound from the 28-foot mark, or above the free throw line extended.  

Lions head coach and former Great Northeast Athletic Conference coach of the year Bill Gould, who was an assistant for the Division I Boston College and Division II Stonehill College women’s teams before taking the reins at Emerson, said the decision came as a shock because he had no knowledge of the change until it had been made, and didn’t receive an explanation.

“We never got a ton of information on it,” Gould said. “We were basically made aware that it was going to be happening as opposed to asking us our general opinion.”

The first step after hearing about the new format, Gould said, was getting his players to focus despite their surprise. Senior forward Kelsey Johnson said she was forced to do just that. 

“At first I was a little concerned with how my team would do with the new ruling,” Johnson, a marketing communication major, said. “I was concerned that more breaks in the flow of the game would affect my performance and my team’s as well.”

The idea to move to quarters had been in the works for a number of years, according to NCAA Women’s Basketball Rules Committee chair Brad Duckworth. He said that he and the other 11 members of the committee spent a lot of time discussing the change with numerous organizations and people like the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association, the WNBA, former student-athletes, and veteran officials before they cast a majority vote, and sent the proposal to PROP.

“We were looking to make the game have more flow,” Duckworth said. “Basketball is a fourth quarter game in every place in the world, except at that time in men’s and women’s collegiate basketball.”  

Smith College’s athletic director, Lynn Oberbillig, is one of 12 panel members of PROP who consider and ultimately come to a consensus on whether a rule will be changed or added. Oberbillig said she and her colleagues make these resolutions based on student-athlete welfare, financial impact, and the integrity of the game. 

“We don’t have the ability to say no to a rule just because we don’t like it,” Oberbillig said. “Although there may have been people on our committee that might have been against going to quarters, there was no compelling reason for us to say no to it.”

With a team that has averaged just .9 more points per game than last season, Gould said he told his players that the change means more rest for them.  

“At first I thought it was going to be a major change,” Gould said. “But what I told the kids was: The length of time is the same. All they’re doing is building in a guaranteed timeout in the middle of the half.”

Despite those extra timeouts, among the other new rules, Johnson said she’s competed the same way she always has, and her teammates have followed.

“I don't really think I've changed my style of play too much,” Johnson said. “I haven't seen too many issues with the rule change so far. I really think that everyone is adjusting to it pretty well.”

Gould said he likes the ability to call a timeout after getting a rebound in close game situations and then inbounding the ball on the other side. 

“If I get to take the ball out of bounds right at the foul line extended, then I can do a lot of things with say 1.2 seconds,” Gould said. “We can catch and even pass one time before we have to shoot so I think that [rule] will create some excitement in a positive way.”   

He misses the one-and-one, however. 

“The foul rule takes away some of the excitement because you’re basically giving an advantage to the team that’s already ahead,” Gould said “Therefore it’s harder to come back and make it an exciting game.”

Despite being concerned about the new rules at first, Johnson said she’s adjusted well because the game is basically the same.  

“Basketball really isn't a game that is dictated by the number of timeouts or quarters,” Johnson said. “At the end of the day you're still playing 40 minutes and you need to put in effort for the full game.”