A FOGO's Response To Proposed NCAA Face-Off Rule Changes

A FOGO's Response To Proposed NCAA Face-Off Rule Changes


Proposed NCAA Lacrosse Rule Changes

As I am sure you could imagine my phone and email has been quite busy the last few days. I am writing to you tonight for two reasons. Firstly I want to let you all know how much I respect the process that takes place when decisions of this magnitude take place, I have the utmost respect for the committee, coaches and the game we all love and any decision that is made I will honor and abide by.  Secondly I want to voice some concerns and show you some evidence of what you are going to see moving forward.

As you are all aware I work with a lot of face off guys all over the country. Some are really great athletes, big strong and physical. Most are not, most are smaller hard working kids that don’t have the means to be able to hold off bigger stronger opponents at the X.  Many of those students were ending up with concussions and injuries when they were pushing the ball out on the ground. It was this evaluation that lead me to start teaching the pinch/drag/carry method.  At the time the decision was purely based on safety of the kids that I was working with. It had almost an immediate effect on the amount of injuries I was seeing. Whether it was bruises from slashes or concussions from collisions because the kids had their heads down running into challengers. It was only as we started to really drill down and teach the technique more effectively that we really started to see some exciting results and fast breaks.

I think it is fair to say that I probably watch or coach or think about face offs more than most people on this planet. I care deeply about the kids that I coach and mentor. I have received hundreds of emails and texts and phone calls mostly from kids but also from parents distraught sometimes crying that this decision will be made. These kids have worked so hard to perfect what they do and they feel they are constantly being singled out for no reason.

I held a face off clinic this am and I have attached some video of the new rule proposals and what you can expect to see. Its not going to be pretty.

Here are some other assessments that I witnessed as I tried to react as to what may happen-

  • There will be little to no more fast breaks out of the face off X. it is just too hard to control the ball to a place where you can have a physical advantage without dragging it. I know we used to be able to do it, but that was back when both face off guys were trying to go fast break and no one was balanced, they both were essentially trying to hit a home run and were getting out of each other’s way. Seems interesting that we are seriously concerned with the pace of play but we are going to enforce a rule that will slow the game down and evoke more scrums????

  • If these rules take effect you will see the re-introduction of the jam move. For those of you that have been around long enough you will know what that means- CHEATING!!!  The last time there was ever any cheating in the NCAA face off X was when guys were jamming. Your hands just naturally get closer to the ball and it is much easier to direct the ball with your hands than your shaft or head.  Isn’t this a major concern for the committee and coaches??

  • One of the biggest concerns you all share with me is the officiating of the position. If these rules go through we will be placing more of a burden on these guys. When is the ball clamped? Did he drag it? If the athletes are jamming again, did their hands touch the ball. Most of the guys pinching the ball now don’t have to fully clamp to win they are just getting their top edge under their opponents and that is enough to have the advantage. I think we all would agree that the officiating of the position is sub-par and now we are going to ask more of them? Wonder how that is going to work out…

  • More ground balls in high impact areas. There are few parts of the game where four players run directly to a designated area at full speed to an defenseless opponent. If it’s a groundball war you want, stand by, because you are going to see it. The players and athletes we have now at the d1 level are able to reach the face off athlete’s in under 3 secs. That is more than enough time to cause some serious damage. Especially to a player that has his head down looking for the ball. The least you could do is come up with some protection rule for the face off athlete. Players are bigger faster and stronger than they were 10 years ago. The game has changed!

  • Even sets equal longer face offs. I hate to say this but when the refs allowed the players to set themselves, often it was the player with the better set that would win the face off clean. Now that we will be going to a truly 50/50 set we will see more tie ups and scrums than ever before. I saw it a hundred times this am.

  • Just a heads up. I taught 25 kids today how to pinch the ball in the front of their sticks. And by the end of the session most were proficient if not good. By the start of the season they will all be excellent. That’s how dedicated these kids are to their craft.

  • These rules will directly affect the parity that we are seeing in this great game of ours. Since Alex smith made the position sexy again we have seen many teams make it further than ever because of a dominant face off man. Delaware, Drexel, Yale, Bryant( to name just a recent few) all made long stretch runs to the tournament on the success and strength of their specialty positions. The way I see it { just my opinion} we will start to see the teams that have more bigger stronger athletes prevail at the X. The bigger and deeper your bench the more you can withstand the attrition rate. I am of the opinion that it is one of the cooler things about our game that any kid whatever size can work at this game to have great results. Our game has been littered with non-athletic but gifted players. Their talents may range from stick skills to hand eye coordination. one of my favorite things about this game is that you don’t have to be huge to play at a high level as long as you work hard and practice. These rules will put an end to kids that are not physically gifted.


The face off position has given me a lot, I owe everything I am in this sport to the position I played and now passionately coach. I urge you all to consider the above factors when you vote this week. There are thousands of kids hoping that you leave the position as it is, they have all worked so hard to make their respective teams and be an integral cog in the wheel of the clubs they play for. In many instances this is all they do. This is who they are. They are celebrated and recruited and cheered because of their ability to win the ball clean and give their teams more opportunities to score in an exciting fashion.  I love all these kids as if they were my own. I would hate to tell them this week that the thousands of hours that they have spent practicing and working and diligently perfecting was all for nothing. Please don’t make me do that. I hope you all can think about these athletes when you make your decision and I hope I can work with all of you in the near future to help keep the face off a great part of the game we all love so dearly.

Yours in lacrosse-

Matty Schomburg
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