Basketball committee forwards mercy rule recommendation to Legislative Council

(Ryan Casey/

The long-discussed mercy rule in basketball has hit the home stretch.

On Thursday, CHSAA's basketball committee unanimously recommended implementing a rule that would create a running clock when a game hits a margin of 35 points or more after three quarters. That recommendation, requested by CHSAA's Board of Directors, will be voted on by the Legislative Council at its next meeting in April.

"While I believe the most of the committee was reluctant to recommend a mercy rule, the data and anecdotal information provided to the committee members as well as the request from the CHSAA Board of Directors dictated that something needed to be forwarded to the membership for consideration," said CHSAA assistant commissioner Bert Borgmann, who oversees basketball.

This change would apply to all levels for both boys and girls basketball, if approved by Legislative Council. The clock would only stop on injuries, called timeouts, and free throws.

So far this season, 17.2 percent of girls games (841 of 4,892 total) have finished with a margin of 35 points or more. On the boys side, 12.8 percent of boys (633 of 4,952) have done so.

If the mercy rule is implemented, it would begin in the 2017-18 season.

The idea to stop the clock on free throws came from committee member Chris Noll, Doherty's athletic director, who said the Colorado Springs Metro League currently does that at its lower levels.

"That's where you're losing a minute-and-a-half at a time," Noll said.

The free-throw change was a new wrinkle, and may help soothe some opponents of a mercy rule, who argue that a running clock would shorten games too much and take away playing time, especially from younger players.

"We believe that this is a sound mercy rule that is as non-invasive a mercy rule as possible," Borgmann said. "Teams still will have three full quarters before the mercy rule would come into play."

Brighton Prairie View girls basketball

(Ray Chen/

The Board of Directors had perviously weighed the addition of a mercy rule, talking about it at length at various meetings, but ultimately handed the decision to the basketball committee last October. It did, however, mandate that the basketball committee forward something to the Legislative Council.

"We felt it has been such a topic that we need to get it out to the membership to vote on," said Jeffco district athletic director Jim Thyfault, who is a member of the Board and also the basketball committee.

On Thursday, the basketball committee also considered other mercy rule options, including one that would have been implemented with a margin of 40 points or more after three quarters. It did quickly discuss another option where each league could set its own rule, but moved away from that because it wanted consistency.

The committee took input from audience members, including coaches in attendance, prior to making their decision. Among those ideas: banning a press after a certain margin, and removing players.

But the group ultimately wanted something easy to implement consistently across the state.

"One of the important things when implementing any type of a mercy rule or rule change is to make it simple and easy to implement across all levels," Borgmann said. "Simply having a mercy rule, though, does not mean that schools cannot invoke other rules to help address games that are out of hand."

If the Legislative Council adopts the mercy rule for basketball, it would leave field hockey, volleyball and lacrosse as the only team sports without one.

2A wants to change regional format

The committee recommended a change to the regional format for Class 2A boys and girls.

Currently, the class uses a 24-team format that was put in place by an amendment at the Legislative Council last April, meaning it was not recommended by the basketball committee.

As such, on Thursday, the committee recommended a return to a 32-team format, taking four teams each from the eight districts, and then seeding the district champions Nos. 1-8. The remaining teams, seeds 9-32, would be seeded by RPI.

"They've always had a 32-team region setup, and it became a matter of wanting to return to a previously popular format," Borgmann said.

The current format requires games be played at a neutral site, something that has become problematic for a big swatch of teams on the eastern plains.

"As with any non-committee recommended format, there were unintended consequences," Borgmann said. "In this case, finding an affordable facility for schools to play 20 games over two days became a challenge."

If the 32-team format is approved, the Final 8 teams would be reseeded prior to the state tournament.


  • Dustin Duncan, a representative from the Colorado High School Coaches Association, said a number of coaches had reached out asking that Colorado add a shot clock. Duncan estimated that it would cost each school about $2,000 to add one. But, he added, it would also mean adding an additional worked each home game.
  • Basketball's RPI percentages will stay the same through next season. One reason for this is the timing of the committee meeting, which comes in the middle of the season. The meeting can't be moved after the season, because the committee report must be submitted more than 30 days before the Legislative Council meets.