Does College Lacrosse Really Need Instant Replay?

(Photo: NCAA)

In last week’s Notre Dame-Syracuse game, Fighting Irish goalie Liam Entemann stopped a Finn Thompson shot on the doorstep early in the fourth. Or did he? Entemann dropped low for the save and his stick fell back across the goal line. Under the rules, if the goalie has possession of the ball his stick can cross that plane and it is a save. If a loose ball crosses that plane its a goal.

The call on Saturday was extremely tough. On replay it is hard to see if Entemann has the ball of his stick or not when it crosses the goal line. Syracuse head coach Gary Gait said postgame that the referees said that he did have the ball in his stick when the ball crossed the goal line, which would mean a save.

If it would have been called a goal, Syracuse would have taken a two-goal, 13-11, lead with 12:14 remaining in the game. Notre Dame would go on and score the final nine goals and win 20-12 so maybe it wouldn’t have mattered anyway. But still, the situation seen in the Dome on Saturday has reignited the debate and discussion about replay in college lacrosse.

And, as you would expect, Saturday’s game isn’t the first that involved a questionable call. Remember the 2019 NCAA Quarterfinals between Virginia and Maryland? Michael Kraus’ shot actually hit off the crossbar and even bounced all the way out to midfield. However, it was called a goal.

Currently, there is no instant replay in the sport. The rules committee has tinkered with the idea and its is something that many across the sport have discussed over the years. However, there has never been any real true movement towards brining it to the sport at a broad scale.

While lacrosse would likely benefit in some regard to replay there are couple of problems that I see with it in the sport. First off, would every school be able to have it? Yes, a lot of games are broadcast on ESPN + but that is mostly the school producing those and not every institution has the resources needed for that correct setup. The ACCs and Big Ten schools can do it, for sure. But how about all the ASUN and MAAC schools? Some maybe can and some might not. Maybe that isn’t as big of a deal as some folks make it out to be but it is still something that has to be taken into consideration.

One way to implement instant replay in the game that I have heard mentioned over and over again is that maybe it just gets put into TV games or conference and NCAA Tournament games. WhileI can understand the sentiment that the most important games might benefit the most from replay, this approach makes no sense to me. Why would you have some games have it and others not? And I can’t imagine a rule being put in place that impacts only certain games.

The last thing to take into account when considering adding replay in college lacrosse is what the impact could be. We have seen relay enter football, basketball, and practically every major sport. And guess what? Games are still imperfect. Calls are still made wrong all the time and replay doesn’t always help to correct those calls. Remember when sports TV talked about one single catch or non catch in an NFL game for nearly an entire year?

And in many of these cases where calls are looked at but not overturned, what are the players doing? Standing around. Play is often time stopped for minutes at a time to look at the most in depth parts of a play. And as mentioned, sometimes nothing comes of it. But what does happen is that the game is paused and made much longer than it needs to be.

If you aren’t a fan of referees reviewing everything in other sports, than I can’t imagine you would be a fan of it in lacrosse. And while adding instant replay would be aimed at correcting a few calls, it likely wouldn’t be long until EVERYTHING is under review. It is a slippery slope that lacrosse ought to be careful to begin down.

Human error is part of the game and always will be. That will never be taken out no matter how hard anyone tries to perfect officiating whether it be via instant replay or any other tactic. It is just a fact that everyone has to live with.


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