The 9 Biggest Policy/Rule Changes In Sports History
This week, a number of NBA players, including Dirk Nowitzki and LeBron James, spoke out in favor a shorter season consisting of 60-70 games. This comes on the heels of the NBA experimenting with 11-minute quarters in the preseason to see the effect it has on game length and the players. Of course, a short game means you can still sell tickets and broadcast rights to 82 games, and a shorter season means…you can’t. This would be a huge change for the league, but how would it rank among the biggest policy and rule changes in sports history? Let’s see.
In 1954, the NBA adopted the 24-second shot clock. To see what a difference it makes, compare the NBA to NCAA basketball. Sure, the NBA athletes are far better, but when it was implemented, the average scores immediately went from 79 to 93 PPG. Meanwhile, college ball, which has a shot clock of its own, albeit a 35-second one, generally hovers around the 40-55 mark. Sure, there are also eight minutes more in pro games, but the shot clock created a sense of urgency that resulted in far more frequent action. College doesn’t necessarily need that selling point, because their fanbase is essentially assigned to the schools.
9. 24-Second Shot Clock (NBA)
Instant Replay came about in rudimentary fashion in 1985, but it wasn’t implemented as a formal system with the flags and the timeouts and all that until 1999, when technology allowed it to be used without killing momentum more than it does now. Nary a game goes by that doesn’t have at least one play, questionably or incorrectly called that doesn’t impact the outcome of the game. Or at least the spread. It’s a game-changer all right.
8. Instant Replay (NFL)
The shootout has always been a favorite of casual fans, though traditionalist lament that it favors a team with just one specific skill, and not necessarily the better team overall. That may be, but after 60 minutes of hockey, and five minutes of 4-4 hockey, newer fans don’t want to be left with a tie at the height of the conflict. And nothing heightens the drama even more than a shootout. It may not be “fair” to traditionalists, but it was a big step towards winning back fans after the strike.
7. The Shootout (NHL)
For a long time, about 80% of baseball fans had to enjoy the journey of the regular season, because there wasn’t much room for runners-up in the original division/pennant system. If your team won a hundred games, but someone else in your division won 101, you were fishing in September and October. However, as the fans evolved and baseball became more of a business, fans wanted more of a chance for their teams. In 18 seasons of Wild Card play, the Wild Card team has taken the Series five times. Hard to argue that they don’t belong in the hunt with a record like that. The newer Wild Card rules, implemented in 2012, build on that, but the 1994 advent was still the more important one.
6. The Wildcard (MLB)
There was no formal system for determining the national champion in college football before the BCS. Isn’t that crazy? The BCS was formed in 1998 to give a standardized ranking system to teams, and allow #1 to play #2 for the title, but it wasn’t much less arbitrary than the coaches’ poll and the AP poll. And it only guaranteed that the top 2 teams had a crack. But without the BCS, we’d probably still be ranking our team exclusively on paper, rather than on the field in any capacity. Now we’re moving to a playoff, which is even more inclusive and far less subjective. Progress…
5. The BCS (College Football)
I would love to see a season without the three-line. There would be no more three-pointers (duh), but also far less of a threat from the long ball. Defense’s wouldn’t have to stretch, and a long 2 could seem ill-advised. Guards could play further in, and the mid-range jumper could become as big of a weapon as a layup or dunk. I’m sure Dirk Nowitzki would like to see that world as well.
4. 3-Point Line (NBA)
It’s almost comical how long it took baseball to not only ban PEDs, but actually start testing for them. Starting in 1991, steroids were on the MLB’s banned substances list, but the league didn’t start actually testing for them until 2003. What were they going on, the honor system? Unfortunately, prior to 2003, a lot of important stuff happened in baseball, and now no one knows how to treat those accomplishments. Do you hang an asterisk? Do you deny its existence? Baseball isn’t a totally different game now with testing, but some of the recent greats have been written off due to the steroid scandals.
3. Testing for PEDs (MLB)
This may not sound like a policy or rule change, but it changed EVERYTHING in sports. Imagine the difference between flying for 45 minutes from Dallas to Houston and driving 4 hours to play a game the next day. Imagine not being able to play a west coast opponent because it’s just too far. In essence, sports were regional until air travel came about, and now it’s not just national, but almost global. More games can be played with less impact on the players. It gives the fans a better product as well.
2. The Airplane
It’s REALLY hard to imagine the NFL without, you know, “passing.” The heart of every team is the quarterback, and before the forwarded pass was made legal in 1906, it’s hard to imagine the QB as little more than a go-between from the center to the running back. Or tailback, or ball-runner, or whatever they called that position in 1906. The forward pass came about after a number of deaths occurred, and no less than president Teddy Roosevelt took to tinkering with the rules to create a safer, more viable sport. I would say he did a good job, no?