Thursday, February 29, 2024

Swimmer Disqualified for Celebrating? Spirit of the Rule

NC State swimmer Kenneth "Owen" Lloyd finished first in his Men's 1650-yard freestyle Final in record time and climbed into teammate Ross Dant's lane to celebrate. After the race, however, referees announced Lloyd had been disqualified for switching lanes prior to the heat's end in violation of NCAA Swimming's interference rule. Let's talk spirit of the rule vs technical letter of the law.

NCAA Swimming & Diving Rule 2-5-1-b, a section called FOULS with the article titled INTERFERENCE, states, "A swimmer who changes lanes during a heat shall be disqualified."

There it is, black and white. A heat, event, or race effectively ends when the final competitor touches the wall to stop the clock. Replays indicate that Lloyd finished so quickly that other racers were still swimming—in the opposite direction—when Lloyd and opponent-but-also-teammate Dant touched up.

Lloyd then climbed atop the lane divider between himself and Dant's lane before dropping into his teammate's lane to celebrate a dominant victory.

Upon the race's conclusion, referees met (they are allowed to use video review) and determined that Lloyd was to be disqualified for changing lanes during the heat—e.g., while opponents were still swimming.

It didn't matter that Lloyd didn't appear to actually interfere with anyone (Dant had already finished when Lloyd breached the lane)—he was DQ'd based on the strict technicality of the interference rule.

This brings us to spirit vs letter of the rule—should this rulebook-supported decision been withheld due to Lloyd's obvious victory...or are the rules letter-tight for a reason in all situations?

Video as follows:

Monday, February 26, 2024

College Player Ejected for Bat Flip - Unraveling Nebraska vs Grand Canyon U

Grand Canyon University batter Tyler Wilson hit a grand slam to tie the Nebraska-GCU game, but was ejected by the HP Umpire during his home run trot for a bat flip near first base. What are college baseball's sportsmanship rules and was an ejection all over flipping a bat during a big moment in a game necessary?

We begin the night before Sunday's game in question, with both Nebraska and GCU trading celebrations after executing plays that benefited their respective teams. On their own, these celebrations are, effectively, unremarkable—players are allowed to celebrate success on the field.

The issue came to a head, however, in the 7th inning, with GCU pitcher Nathan Ward's exuberant celebration after a check swing strikeout to end Nebraska's top half. That attracted the attention not just of Nebraska, but the plate umpire who ordered Ward back to the dugout. Nebraska's head coach was seen speaking with umpires during the inning break.

After the game, the two teams met in the outfield and exchange unsporting words, indicating held over resentment, all leading to Sunday's game when Wilson hit his game-tying grand slam and flipped his bat, having held onto it until passing the halfway point down the first baseline.

As for why umpires ejected Wilson for his bat flip, we refer to the NCAA Baseball rulebook.

In addition to the Coaching/Players' Code of Ethics prohibiting unsportmanlike behavior, NCAA 5-17, newly amended for 2023-24, prohibits actions that "reflect poor sportsmanship," specifically including, "Bat flips near or toward an opponent or umpire." The penalty in college is a warning after the first offense and an ejection for any further unsportsmanlike conduct after the warning.

NCAA 3-6-b obliges umpires to enforce these rules: "[Each umpire] is obliged to conduct the game under conditions conducive to the highest standards of good sportsmanship."

The Official Baseball Rule (professional/MLB/MiLB) version of the sportsmanship rule is OBR 6.04, with ejections mandated by umpires' rule OBR 8.01(d).

NFHS 3-3-1f prohibits "any unsportsmanlike act" including taunting (3-3-1c: "carelessly throw a bat") while high school rule 10-1-6 authorizes umpires to eject for these violations.

Video as follows: