With national rules changing, installing basketball shot clocks a logistic concern for Oregon schools

The OSAA basketball state tournament brings with it drama and excitement every year. Some student-athletes are able to fulfill a dream of hoisting a title while others face the agony of season-ending defeat.

It also brings up another topic of discussion: a shot clock.

During practically every game in the multiple OSAA basketball state tournaments over the past two weeks, the team that was leading in the fourth quarter used the lack of a shot clock to their advantage. With quick passes and movement, teams are able to drain minutes off the game clock at a time. In the 6A girls second round, Barlow took nearly three minutes off the clock in the fourth quarter on a single possession against Ida B. Wells. In the state championship game, the Bruins were on the receiving end as Beaverton ate time off the clock with the late lead.

When teams go into clock-killing mode, fans from the opposing team loudly jeer and many take to social media to vent their frustrations

But why doesn’t Oregon have shot clocks for basketball?

That part is simple. The Oregon School Activities Association is required to follow sports rules that are set by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS). And until recently, the NFHS’s rules stated that high schools are not to have shot clocks for basketball. This will change with the 2022-2023 school year as the NFHS Basketball Rules Committee created a rule that allows states to adopt a 35-second shot clock for high school basketball during their meeting in April 2021.

Getting shot clocks in Oregon isn’t as simple.

According to OSAA Executive Director Peter Weber, the OSAA Executive Board has touched on shot clocks in the past, but there was no major discussion as it was outside of the NFHS rules. He added it has been a topic of discussion among the Oregon Athletic Coaches Association (OACA) and the Oregon Athletic Directors Association (OADA) in the past.

“In general, there seems to be support from coaches and concern from ADs,” Weber said.

Pricing a shot clock can be tricky, Weber said, as it varies based on what scoreboards are already installed at a school. Some schools already have a shot clock feature installed in their gym. But Weber ranged the cost of a shot clock to between $2,000 and $5,000.

A price tag of $600,000 would be on the low end if the nearly 300 OSAA member schools were to install a new shot clock and every school would be left footing the bill.

Tom Snook, the athletic director at 3A Vale High School, said the cost isn’t his primary concern for a new shot clock. His biggest worry is the logistics of it all. This would include a whole new electrical job in Vale’s gym and also the task of finding another person to work at every basketball game — something that’s not always easy for small schools.

“At our size of school, it can be difficult to get people to work the games,” he said. “I’m more worried about the logistics of wiring and having someone to run it.”

Weber said the costs of installation and finding an operator are concerns that other athletic directors mirror, and will be a topic of conversation in the OADA conference in April.

Snook said he does think that the implementation of a shot clock in Oregon is more of a matter of when, not if.

“We know it’s coming in the future. So it’s better if we get on that,” he said.

Weber said he would anticipate the rolling out of shot clocks to be an all or nothing situation, meaning that there would not be shot clocks set up for the 6A and 5A classifications and not at the smaller schools.

Snook, who was previously a basketball coach at Vale, said that he anticipates that many smaller school basketball teams will have to make philosophical changes if a shot clock arrives in the state. In his scheme, the Vikings played a patient style of offense and relied on defense to carry them in games. The low-scoring affairs may not have succeeded with a shot clock.

“You just have to adjust,” Snook said.

The next meeting of the OSAA Executive Board will be on May 2.

— Nik Streng, nstrand@oregonian.com, @NikStreng

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