2022-2023 NCAA Major Rules Changes

The 2022-2023 major rules changes from the NCAA is now available on the Rules Changes page.

There are a number of files changes this year. Some are immediately applicable while others won’t take effect for a couple of years. Umpires, I encourage you to review these rules if you work NCAA or NJCAA contests. I’m sure assignors will discuss them more in-depth, but it never hurts to have a frame of reference for that discussion.

NCAA Approves Video Review for Softball

On August 12, the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel approved the use of video review in softball for the 2021-2022 season. Coaches will each have two challenges per game.

There is no requirement for the rule to be instated. It is optional for each school, conference, and tournament. More information will come in the future about any schools or conferences that have adopted the rule.

If a coach wants to challenge a call, the challenge must be identified prior to the next pitch, before players have left the field, and before the umpires have left the field.

Read the full article on the NCAA website.

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IESA Rules Exceptions Reminder

As the IESA 2021 softball season kicked off last week, this is a reminder of the IESA exceptions to National Federation rules. The full list of exceptions can be viewed on the IESA Officials Page (log in required) and are provided below for your convenience.

  • Metal cleats may not be worn
  • The double first base is required
  • Coaches do not need to be in the school uniform
  • The pitching rubber should be placed at 40′ from the point of home plate
  • The on-deck batter MAY use the on deck circle opposite her home dugout

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Rules Comparison Page Update

In light of the summer softball season, the Rules Comparison page has been updated.

Normally PGF rules follow the NFHS code, though there are exceptions. As such, the PGF rules and NFHS rules are in the same column. The PGF exception are called out in red font.

You may share this page with other coaches, ADs, and officials if desired, but they must be CISassigning members to access to the page.

Catch or No Catch

The best way to learn is to experience something and grow from it. The second best way is to watch someone else experience something and try to learn from it. Either way, being engaged in discussion is important to the learning process.

To that end, I invite you to watch a short video clip from a game and make the call (the video will loop until you stop it). I encourage you to post your thoughts in the comments section of this post. Remember that this post is public when you comment.

This video is most clearly seen on a computer monitor or tablet.

Where’s the Strike Zone?

This month Referee magazine, a publication of the National Association of Sports Officials (NASO) published an article titled A Mathematical Dive Into the Strike Zone. It’s a good, quick read and I encourage you to follow the link to review it.

As I read the article, I started to think about how we envision the strike zone. Of course we have to be in the slot to see the entire plate, but beyond that, what visualizations do you use to imagine the strike zone? Or do you not use any? I’m curious about your techniques and I invite you to leave comments below to share with others.

For coaches that may read this, what do you tell your players? How do you help them recognize a pitch and what techniques do you teach them to help them analyze if a pitch will be a ball or strike?

We know that player height varies, as does their stance…and they don’t stand still. Some players get set later than others and it’s our job as umpires to get our eyes set at the top of that player’s strike zone when they’re in their stance. How many times have you had a player get set, you set your stance to be looking at the top of the zone, then when the pitch comes, the crouch lower? Heaven forbid you call a strike at the top of the previously set zone when that happens. The player may roll her eyes or sigh, coaches display their frustration…then there’s the fans. Of course you’ll hear from them too.

Once the player is set and establishes the strike zone with their stance, and you get set, that’s it. The zone height doesn’t adjust because they crouch more or stand taller. The same is true with a slapper. They’re constantly moving, let alone running parallel to the ball in the opposite direction. As they run forward to slap, their bodies bouncing up and down with each step, you really have to rely on being set eye-level at the top the zone they established and when in their stance.

So, where IS the strike zone?

The height varies from player to player, but we know the width isn’t changing. It’s the width of the plate (17 inches), plus the diameter of the ball (3.82 inches) on either side of the plate, for a total of 24.64 inches.

As umpires, we also move between governing bodies. One day you may be doing a 12u summer game, the next day an NCAA game, and later that week a high school game. That can make it difficult. Luckily, almost all non-NCAA organizations have a very similarly defined strike zone: armpits to knees (though NFHS and USSSA say the “front armpit”). NCAA sets the top of the zone at the bottom of the sternum, so the zone is typically a few inches shorter than other organizations.

Image courtesy of NASO. NCAA edit – CISassigning.

Call a high strike in an NCAA game and you’ll certainly hear about it, especially if you keep calling it there.

So the question persists: As you take your stance and lock in your height at the top of the zone, what do you visualize to help you track that pitch toward the strike zone and make your determination on ball vs. strike?

NCAA Rule Adjusts Helmet Rule

Due to COVID-19 and an attempt to keep student-athletes safe, the NCAA has adjusted its helmet rule for this season only.

Effective immediately, student-athletes may wear their personal helmets even if they do not match team colors. This rule adjustment only applies if the personal helmet meets NCAA helmet safety requirements.

IHSA Rules: Media Space

Though the 2020 NFHS rules now state that a media space within the confines of the field may be designated, the IHSA, by state adoption, does not allow a media space within the confines of the field. You can view additional details on the Rule Changes or Rule Comparison pages.

For those who live close to a bordering state, and work NFHS games in those states, you may want to check on that state’s policy on the media space.