Three weeks into the college men’s lacrosse season, there’s been nary a peep about the new NCAA stick regulations that sent manufacturers into an uproar — no crippling penalties or embarrassing Bill McGlone moments.
But according to several NCAA officials and coaches of STX-sponsored programs, one of the manufacturer’s 2010 models, the Professor, has turned up illegal.
“The STX Professor appears to be one-eighth of an inch too narrow between the bottom two measurements – at 1.25 and 3 inches above the base of the head,” said David Seidman, a veteran lacrosse official from Maple Glen, Pa.
The question of how to handle these heads has been raised to the NCAA Rules Committee.
“Their current instructions are to penalize all illegal sticks,” Seidman said. “The discussion is ongoing.”
Johns Hopkins and Delaware, both STX-sponsored Division I programs, managed to go the distance without an illegal equipment penalty in the No. 5-ranked Blue Jays 15-7 victory Tuesday over the No. 13-ranked Blue Hens. But coaches on both sides said they are aware of the borderline-legal stick heads.
“Some of these sticks are so close to the exact measurements, that they come out of the box like that,” said Delaware head coach Bob Shillinglaw. “You can’t let your guard down.”
The new specifications, which are meant to make dislodging the ball easier and encourage a more fluid passing game, require that all heads be a minimum of 3 inches wide at 1.25 and 3 inches above the base of the head, a minimum of 3.5 inches wide further up the head and a minimum of 6 inches wide at the top of the head.
Some heads that meet the specs dead-on have become illegal due to the tension created when they are strung or softening of the plastic after use.
“Every head that’s leaving our distribution facility is measuring in at spec or over spec,” said STX general manager Jason Goger, who contended that the company’s research does not bear out what he called rumors.
“We’ve had over 100 Division I games played so far this season and there has been one official game with infractions. There were two infractions at the Navy-VMI game Feb. 15, and I think that got everyone really jittery to start,” Goger said. “There’s a lot of angst and curiosity to begin the season, and the facts outweigh the rumors now in the stick infractions and how officials are interpreting the new rule.”
With multiple measurements now required, NCAA officials have begun using a hard plastic template that doubles as a scorecard. The template, designed by Lacrosse International, must fit inside the head for it to be legal. Coaches have been sent copies of the same template.
“There’s no fudge factor,” Seidman said.
Officials have singled out the STX Professor as the most notably non-compliant head. “The sidewalls actually curve inward slightly,” Seidman said, “and our measurement template doesn’t fit into the head.”
But the issue stems beyond make and model. Other manufacturers’ heads have historically cut it close with regard to NCAA regulations.
“Most sticks are barely legal out of the box,” Johns Hopkins assistant coach Bobby Benson said. “It’s always been like that. The only one that’s not borderline is the new Xcalibur, the X10.”
Benson said he did not know of any Blue Jays who use the Professor. Hopkins has not had an illegal stick in any of its three games, and Benson said all of the team’s current STX models meet specs.”We’ve had no issues with any of our sticks,” he said.
Since plastic heads are hard, but malleable, questionable heads can be stretched to spec. It’s a far cry from pinching, the preferred form of stick alteration before the new specs surfaced, and much ado about nothing, if you ask Benson.
Asked if the new stick specs had any bearing on the field, Benson said, “It hasn’t made a difference. If they want to change the game and bring back checking, they need to get rid of offset heads.”
Tank the game’s most influential technological advancement in the last 20 years? Now that would be cause for an uproar.