Increasingly, college basketball's three-point shot has been criticized by many who believe that a field goal scored from 19 feet, 9 inches isn't worthy of three points.
In response, the NCAA men's basketball rules committee yesterday approved a measure that would move the three-point line back one foot, to 20 feet, 9 inches, beginning with the 2008-09 season.
The change is expected to be approved by the playing-rules oversight committee on May 25, which will mark the first alteration to the three-point shot since it was adopted in 1986-87.
"I like to say the day it passed was the day we began discussing moving it back," said Larry Keating, chairman of the rules committee.
Area coaches agreed that moving the three-point line back would have an impact on the game, but perhaps more so for frontcourt players than for shooting guards, because it could create more space for post players and make the game less physical around the basket.
"If I had a criticism of our game, I'd say it does seem the court gets crowded at times," St. Joseph's coach Phil Martelli said yesterday. "I think pushing the three-point line back will give the bigger players more of an opportunity to work in space and make plays, and I see that as a positive."
Penn coach Glen Miller doesn't have a problem with the change, either.
"It's a chip shot right now, and this won't take the three-pointer out of the game," Miller said. "You'll have to close out on defense a little further, and that might open up the lane, but it will be a part of most teams' offenses."
Temple coach Fran Dunphy, who used to serve on the rules committee, said the idea behind the change was to bring better balance to a game that's become so dominated by perimeter players that it's not unusual to see three and sometimes four guards playing at the same time. In recent seasons, both Villanova and St. Joe's enjoyed success employing four guards simultaneously.
"I don't think there are that many opportunities for post-position guys to do a good job down on the blocks," Dunphy said. "I don't think we have that many great offensive block players. So maybe this will help."
After joking that the longer three-point shot wouldn't matter to him because "I don't have any shooters," Drexel coach Bruiser Flint, who has the area's most polished post player in 6-foot-10 Frank Elegar, agreed.
"It'll give you a little more spacing on offense around the basket," Flint said. "But it won't make much difference. People who can't shoot them [three-pointers] still won't be able to shoot them."
Villanova's Jay Wright doesn't think the longer distance will hurt.
"I think players will adjust and still make the shot," Wright said.
Dunphy was surprised that the rules committee didn't widen the lane, too.
"I thought they probably should go hand-in-hand," he said. "If the three-point line was moved out a foot, I thought the lane should probably be widened a foot. But I'm sure they had their reasons."
Dunphy predicted that the men's game will adopt a rule used in the women's game that has players line up farther away from the basket during free throws.
"I do think they'll probably go to the women's rule with the foul-line situation," he said. "I think you need to take away the distinct advantage the offensive rebounder has on a missed foul shot."
Although there was not a significant change in three-point percentage when the 20-9 line was used on an experimental basis during some early-season tournaments, Dunphy said it stands to reason that the percentages will drop.
"Of course, it remains to be seen how much," he said. "The fact is the farther you are from the basket, the harder it is to make a shot. You have to go through a full season to find out how much impact it'll have on shooting percentages."
"I don't think it will change much," Martelli said. "I have some international coaching experience, and I saw the players are comfortable from that distance."
The three-point line in international play is 20 feet, 6 inches. In the NBA, the three-point line is 23-9 from the top of the key and 22 feet from the corners closest to the baseline. Apparently, there is no movement to push back the line at the high school level.
The NCAA women's rules committee voted this week to keep its three-point line at 19-9.
Keating said the international three-point line was under consideration.
"We made it a point to come up with a distance that was correct for us and not necessarily mimic the international line," he said.
Martelli and Dunphy said there should be uniformity in the rules at all levels.
Keating said change won't take place this season because the committee did not want to force schools to take on a surprise expenditure, since most budgets already have been approved.