Over two weeks ago, the possibility of a shot clock for Class A basketball games in Nebraska for the 2022-23 season all but died.
Inexplicably, that sad reality came to be even after 28 of 31 Class A schools voted in favor of playing with a shot clock next season.
How Did We Get Here?
There has been a lot of confusion lately on the role of the NSAA (i.e. the Gretna football situation). The Nebraska School Activities Association’s primary purpose is to enforce and oversee the rules the member schools propose and that are eventually approved by the board. The NSAA and people who work for the membership coordinate the state championships for sanctioned events.
The National Federation of State High School Associations gave its blessing to the state associations for adoption of a 35-second shot clock beginning in the 2022-23 season.
Changing a rule or bylaw is multi-faceted and can be confusing. There are two ways a bylaw or proposal can be approved. The Class Caucus, or by submitting proposals through the NSAA’s legislative process, which is the more traditional way.
In July, Class A athletic directors voted at their caucus meeting to approve the shot clock for Class A only with a 23-2 vote.
After a successful proposal passes a class caucus, the next step is for it to go to the Classification Rules Committee. That committee is composed of two members from each of the four classifications, A, B, C and D.
The review committee met in October and did not give the required two-thirds affirmative vote. The committee voted 2-7, with only the Class A representatives, Tom Kerkman (Omaha Westside) and Pat Gatzmeyer (Lincoln High), in favor of moving forward with the shot clock. The seven non-Class A members voted against the proposal. The general reasoning behind this vote is that the review committee can only move a proposal forward if there is no financial impact to schools. The shot clock creates a financial impact.
The Traditional Route
Multiple shot clock proposals — just for Class A, just for Class B and for all classes — were on the docket through the NSAA’s traditional legislative process. The Class A-only proposal was brought to the membership though district meetings.
In November, District II, primarily made up of Omaha schools, voted in favor of the Class A-only proposal. In January, it was then brought to all six districts for a vote from the membership.
The Class A-only proposal would affect some Class B schools if they play away games at Class A schools. This happens often, see North Platte as an example.
That vote happened on Jan. 11 and Jan. 12. Only two (District II and VI) of the six districts voted to pass the Class A only shot clock proposal.
At the District I meeting in Lincoln, the proposal failed by a 10-10 vote with 20 schools abstaining. Of the 10 “no” votes two were Class A schools (Lincoln Southeast and Lincoln Pius X). The Class B schools that voted “no” were Beatrice, Norris and Waverly. The five other no votes were from schools below Class B.
Although it passed District II previously, the shot clock proposal had to be voted on again. It passed overwhelmingly with a 31-1-48 vote. The one “no” vote was Shelby, a non-Class A or B school.
District III is northeast Nebraska. Some of those schools play in South Dakota, one of the states that plays with a shot clock. The Class A schools in the district are Norfolk and, depending on the scheduling cycle, South Sioux City. When South Sioux City is not in Class A it is in Class B. I do know that Norfolk voted against the shot clock.
Although we know District III voted against the shot clock, it has been over two weeks since the District meeting on Jan. 12. The District has yet to post meeting minutes which are public record.
*After publishing the results for District III were made public. The District III vote was 13-18-18. South Sioux City was a yes vote.*
The District IV meeting in Kearney was Jan. 11. The vote was a 17-32-22 lopsided “no.” The three Class A schools in the district — Kearney, North Platte and Grand Island — voted in favor of the proposal. The traditional Class B schools in the district, Grand Island Northwest and Hastings, also voted in favor. As you would guess, the no votes came from Class C1, C2, D1 and D2 schools.
District V has no Class A schools. McCook, the one Class B school, voted “yes.” Again, the no votes were from smaller classes. The vote was 5-14-4.
In Alliance at the District VI meeting, the vote was 18-6 with no schools abstaining. Sidney, Scottsbluff and Alliance, the three traditional Class B schools, voted in favor of the proposal. Like District III, these schools do often play in South Dakota which has a shot clock.
When all the votes came in, 28 of 31 Class A and 26 of the 29 Class B schools voted for the Class A-only proposal.
So why did it fail? The NSAA’s constitution and bylaws state that every vote counts. Even if it’s for a Class A-only proposal, the Class C and D schools each get a vote.
The reason behind the smaller schools’ “no” votes, I’ve been told, is fear of a “trickle-down” effect.
If the shot clock works well in Class A, the smaller-class schools fear it would not be long before proposals would come to institute a shot clock for their classes. Although that could be years away, it is clearly something they do not want to pay for. The cost, anywhere from $2,500-12,000 for purchase and installation, is a deterrent. The clocks also need a separate person to operate them during games. Some of the schools struggle to find scorekeepers and scoreboard operators as it is.
Another reason given by some is it will create bad shots from players who are not as skilled. The data proves that wrong.
The first foray that state has seen into using a shot clock came at the 2021 Metro Holiday Tournament. By most, if not all, accounts, it went well.
In 22 games (boys and girls), there were four what I called “forced possessions” defined as possessions that ended in a heave to the rim or not within the offensive system to beat the shot clock.
There were 11 shot clock violations and just one reset error, or the game being stopped due to the shot clock being reset improperly. On one occasion, there was a referee error or official not understanding the rules or when/how the shot clock should be reset that resulted in a stoppage of play. There were three operator errors, or play stopped because the shot clock operator made a mistake by not turning on the clock or not starting it on time.
It’s still possible the shot-clock proposal could be approved in some form, but it will take the equivalent of sinking two full-court shots.
The next step is the NSAA Board of Directors considering the proposal at its April board meeting. It lands there because it was an-approved ruling by the District II vote in 2021. The board could vote for the Class-A only proposal. Historically, however, the board tends to vote the way the membership in their district voted.
It can also be brought to the floor of the general assembly of the membership in April. A sticking point, according to the NSAA’s constitution and bylaws, is it needs to be new business or a new proposal for it to be discussed there. Could minor changes be made to the proposal to make it new business is a question to be determined. If it even reaches discussion it would then need a three-fifths affirmative vote by the assembly for it to be brought back out to the membership for another round of voting.
If those two Hail Mary’s fail, then it can still — and likely will — continue to be brought up year after year by the Class A caucus.
If Class A wants a shot clock and voted for it, why not let the biggest schools have it? In the most recent case, it failed not because Class A, or even Class B schools, voted against it. It failed because Class C and D schools voted against it.
Surely, clear heads can find a way for Class A and perhaps Class B to do what the majority of those schools think is best and not be held hostage by smaller schools in the state whose circumstances differ and may very well have good reasons to vote against a shot clock.
It doesn’t have to be this hard, does it?