The CIAC could be ready to move forward with a basketball shot clock in Connecticut

It’s one of the great debates high school basketball has had for decades in Connecticut: should there be a shot clock?

Most coaches want it. Fans want it every time they see a team run a deliberate offense or spread the court in the fourth quarter. But it has never gotten very far for one reason in particular: the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) had never approved the use of one.

“I’ve sat in basketball committee meetings year after year discussing it. It wasn’t like everyone in the room was jumping out of their seats to have a shot clock,” said Gregg Simon, associate executive director for the CIAC. “This is the culmination of years and years of discussion at both the national level and state level about using a shot clock.”

In May, the NFHS approved the use of a 35-second shot clock by the associations beginning with the 2022-23 season.

The NFHS had been one big obstacle that has stood in the way of most state associations adopting a shot clock. In fact, only eight states currently use one: California, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota and Washington.

“At every national meeting (of the NFHS basketball committee), we’ve talked about the pros and cons of the shot clock. There has been no topic that gets more attention,” Simon said.

It will be up to the CIAC membership whether or not Connecticut will have a shot clock in place for December of 2022. That starts with the meeting of the CIAC boys and girls basketball committees on Wednesday afternoon.

Hand athletic director Craig Semple remembers when girls basketball in Connecticut had a shot clock in place in the 1980s.

“I thought it was great. This is long overdue,” Semple said. “I think kids will enjoy it and like it, will like the uptempo offense. I know college coaches will appreciate it. They want kids who can get back up the floor quickly and get into the offense. A shot clock will change the way coaches have to coach and kids have to play.”

Simon indicated that both the boys and girls basketball coaches are overwhelmingly in favor of having a shot clock in place. GameTimeCT conducted an informal survey of the state’s boys basketball coaches about several topics, including the shot clock, heading into last season.

Of the 87 coaches who returned surveys, 76 were in favor. Of those, 30 were in favor of 35 seconds, 31 in favor of 30 seconds.

Simon said the CIAC conducted a survey in April of member schools, with the athletic directors responding on the school’s behalf. It wasn’t as overwhelming, but still in favor of having a shot clock: 58 percent for, 42 percent against.

“My gut tells me it will pass and it will be in next year. I can’t see, now that national federation has passed it, a state association not moving forward with it. I could be wrong,” Notre Dame-West Haven basketball coach and athletic director Jason Shea said. “It’s a no-brainer. We now have a path to do it. Why in the world wouldn’t we do it?”

Steve Wodarski is the rules interpreter for the International Association of Approved Basketball Officials Board 10 and a 35-year official. He is also the athletic director at Wilcox Tech in Meriden. So he is looking at the debate from a multitude of perspectives.

He is not nearly as convinced the game needs it.

“From an officiating standpoint, I can count on one hand the amount of times I left the gym thinking, ‘That would have been a much better game if there was a shot clock.’ I don’t think it’s as big of an issue at the public school level as people are making it out to be, I really don’t,” Wodarski said. “Thirty-five seconds is a long time. You don’t see these long possessions much more than 35 seconds.”

An official request must be made by a committee member to generate such a discussion about the shot clock. This topic will more than likely generate most of the discussion for the entire meeting, Simon said.

“I will provide the committee an update of what’s going on around the country, including information from Section I schools (in the Northeast),” Simon said.

“If enough discussion is had, a vote will be held on the request, Simon said. If approved, the committee votes when to implement the shot clocks. That proposal then becomes an official proposal that gets vetted by the member schools, usually by the principals.”

Once that process is completely vetted, Simon said the basketball committee will look at all of the input it received to put it before the Board of Control for a final discussion and vote.

What could keep the shot clock from happening? Cost. Simon indicated a wireless shot clock could cost between $1,500-2,500 to install.

“It has to do with the size of the digits on the shot clock and whether or not schools wish to have the game time on the shot clock, which some schools will do, which would make it more expensive,” Simon said.

Notre Dame-West Haven has had a shot clock since it created a post-graduate team. The school uses a wall mount (a basket mount is also an option). Shea said the cost of the shot clocks, at both ends of the floor, was no more than $3,000.

“In the grand scheme of school budgets, to me the $3,000 cost is not a deterrent,” Shea said.

Then you have to pay personnel to run the shot clock. Shea said he has one person run both the game clock and the shot clock.

But the majority of schools will have to add another person. So figure between $50-75 per person per game. In most cases, that is 10 varsity games each, boys and girls, plus JV and freshman games. So an additional $1,000 to $2500.

“Another concern on the AD front is associated with the extra cost,” Wodarski said. “Every home game impacts the budget. What happens when schools have a budget crisis? One of the first things they look at is athletics. Now you are adding more cost to conduct a game.”

Wodarski also adds that you need a knowledgeable person to run the shot clock.

“You have to have someone who understands about team control, possession, did the ball hit the rim or not. You have to know a little bit more,” Wodarski said. “In my opinion, the shot clock operator has to be more in tune with the game than the regular clock operator. You have to understand rules operating the shot clock and what constitutes change of possession.”

Said Semple: “There will be a learning curve. The person running the shot clock has to really pay attention.”

But even with the cost, Semple feels “the benefit outweighs the cost. It will create a really great experience for the kids. Ultimately, we will see a better brand of basketball.”