Collegiate Soccer – The Birth of a Rule

Published on September 30, 2010


C. Cliff McCrath, Executive Director, NISOA
Secretary-Rules Editor, NCAA Men’s and Women’s Soccer Rules Committee

There are myths about where babies come from and stories about Loch Ness Monsters and rumors of UFOs and aliens everywhere. So why not a little trip down Perry Mason Avenue to help the vast listening audience understand how the rules of soccer are developed?

It may be helpful to provide a little backdrop, historically, that will serve as a quick reference when follow-up questions surface. To wit, in 1905, when the game first showed signs of becoming a staple on the college level, an NCAA ‘committee’ was convened to serve in an oversight capacity as well as suggest various guidelines for playing the game. Coaches were largely volunteers who agreed ~ prior to each game ~ how long the game should be…usually, determined by viewing the passing clouds as to what the weather would allow. As time passed things became more structured and an organizational pattern began to surface.

This ‘new’ beginning ~ recognized and appointed by the NCAA ~ was known as the Men’s Soccer Committee whose primary responsibility was championship matters pertaining to the postseason tournament. The rules were developed by a subcommittee, which usually spent up to one and a half days during the annual NCAA meetings developing rule changes. Those early meetings were held conterminously with the National (Division I) Men’s Championship in December.

In the 1980s, a Women’s Championship Committee was formed (as well as one for each division and gender), and in 1989 the committee was reconstituted to form the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Soccer Rules Committee. Annual meetings shifted to February and, as much as possible, continue to be held in conjunction with all championship committees. The NSCAA/NCAA Forum was created to provide opportunity for input, discussion and an exchange of ideas that are carried forward to annual meetings. Today’s committee is as follows:
Current Men’s and Women’s Rules Committee: Eight voting members
• Division I – four voting members (two reps each m/w).
• Division II – two voting members (one each m/w).
• Division III – two voting members (one each m/w).
• One non-voting secretary-rules editor.
• Members are elected by Committee on Committees for four year term.
• Chair rotates every two years ~ usually between Division I M/W reps

It should be noted that beginning in 2008 the NCAA adopted two-year rules books and a two-year cycle for developing rules changes; however, the committee meets annually ~ February ~ to monitor rules changes and anticipate new ones for the following year.

With reference to how the rules get changed it may be helpful to know that there are eight access ‘routes’ for such action:

1. A Rules Survey ~ online in the nontraditional season spring ~ is sent to head coaches, administrators and conferences, all divisions.
2. Experimentation ~ usually in the spring season is a viable source for testing new ideas.
3. Individuals. (Members may submit written proposals).
4. Conference proposals.
5. Executive Committee (safety, fighting, blood, etc.).
6. Constituent associations invited as liaisons to annual meetings (NISOA, NSCAA, US Soccer, NAIA, NCAA, other).
7. NSCAA/NCAA Forum ~ begun in 1990 as a means of communication between the rules committee and NSCAA.
8. Annual rules committee meeting where voting members may propose new rules.

At one time the Executive Committee represented the final step in approving rule changes and, to that extent ultimate approval for any item that affects the game still resides with the Executive Committee. However, more recently PROP ~ the Playing Rules Oversight Panel has been put in place to review and approve any changes that become part of new rules.

As for interpretations, filing protests, etc, all such matters for all collegiate soccer playing institutions (NCAA, NAIA, NJCAA, etc.) are mandated to be sent to the Secretary-Rules Editor whose contact information is in the front of the book and set forth in the easy reference chart that follows. (It should be noted that the chart is from the 2009 rules book and has some changes: Janet Oberle has replaced the departing Veronica O’Brien-Strother as Chair and new members Colleen Bruley (DIII) and Amanda Cromwell (DI) have been added. All divisional reps serve one, four-year term.


Rule Making Flowchart (Click to see full size)

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