When the state’s Class 6A schools voted in March to utilize a 35-second shot clock during basketball games and later received approval from the National Federation of High School Associations, the Class 5A schools were ready to do the same thing.
The principals and superintendents for that classification’s 32 schools had scheduled a meeting to vote on it during the state basketball finals in Hot Springs, but the vote never took place because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Those schools, as well as the state’s smaller schools, will finally get their opportunity to vote Monday during the Arkansas Activities Association’s annual meeting of the governing body. Proposal No. 6, if passed, will allow schools in all classifications to use the shot clock during basketball games.
“I hope it passes,” Clarksville boys Coach Tony Davis said. “We play like there is a shot clock. Whether we’ve had good teams or bad, we’ve always played with pace. I’m a big fan of it.”
If the proposal passes — and since it is a bylaw, it just needs a simple majority vote from the state’s schools — it would go into effect during the 2022-23 season. Class 6A schools were approved to start using it next season on an experimental basis, and it will be used during conference games and the state tournament.
Arkansas would become the 10th state to use the shot clock in high school basketball games. New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Washington, California, Maryland, North Dakota, South Dakota and Georgia already use it.
“A lot of states are looking at it,” AAA Executive Director Lance Taylor said. “I think it’s coming eventually all across the country. We put this out on our spring survey, and 70% of the schools said they liked the idea.
“But any time it becomes a money issue — and shot clocks will cost money to buy and set up — we waited until the next cycle to put this into effect so it would give them extra time to get everything in place and not just spring it on them. We want the schools to be able to save up some money to buy shot clocks.”
The cost of the shot clocks — approximately $2,000 for a set of two and an extra cost for installation, according to Fair Play — is one of the driving forces against such a proposal, especially when it comes to the state’s smaller schools. There’s also the thought of having another person at the scorer’s table who is able to run the shot clock during games.
Omaha boys basketball Coach Rocky Dodson said he isn’t 100% against the shot clock, but having them put in the Eagles’ gym will put a serious hit on the school’s athletic budget.
“I’m not a fuddy-duddy, but we’re just a Class 1A school,” Dodson said. “A lot of schools have football teams that can make money for the school, but we don’t have it. We have a nice gym, but even if we fill a lot of seats we might make $700-$1,000 a night. Once we pay the officials and the other expenses, we might not break even.
“We’ve been fortunate that we have had a mother and son who has volunteered to keep our scoreboard and scorebook during games. If they aren’t there, then we have to find a person to keep a book and the clock. Now we might have to add another person to our scorer’s table, and that puts more stress on us.”
The bigger argument with shot clocks is how they can dictate the pace of the game. Some coaches who want the shot clock installed don’t want to see opposing teams hold the ball for minutes without taking a shot in hopes of keeping the game a low-scoring affair.
It also could cut down on the number of fouls called late in games when some teams prefer to run the clock out.
“I think this will make us coaches have to be prepared more,” Alma girls Coach Codey Mann said. “It’s going to cause teams to have a lot of set plays in its offensive scheme, and it’s going to require more coaching.
“Defensively, a coach could set up some sort of token press and cause the other team to use six or seven seconds to bring the ball into the front court. That would leave opposing teams with about 10-12 seconds to run the offense before trying to get set and get a shot off. It’s going to make things more exciting and add a lot more dimensions to the game.”
Coaches who oppose the shot clock say it takes away the option to be deliberate with the offense when a slower pace will give their teams a chance to win, especially in the closing seconds.
“In previous years, teams knew if my team had the lead with two minutes left to play, there was a good chance they weren’t going to get the ball back,” Prairie Grove girls Coach Kevin Froud said. “I like that aspect because it gives your team a chance to win, even against teams with more talent.
“By not having a shot clock, it gives us the time to run a certain set play. If it doesn’t work, then we can pull the ball back and try another play. It allows the teams with a little less talent a chance to stay in the game and gives them a chance to win against those superior teams.”
Henry Apple can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @NWAHenry.