Saturday, January 6, 2001
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Posted on: Saturday, January 6, 2001

Scoring change may help rally sport

By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Columnist

To hear the purists decry it, rally-scoring will be the scourge of men’s collegiate volleyball as we have known it.

An abomination — and worse — is what they’re calling the implementation of rally-scoring that comes to an arena near you tonight.

When the University of Hawaii men’s volleyball team opens its season with the annual alumni match at 7 at the Stan Sheriff Center, rally-scoring makes its regular season debut, and will be with us for the duration of the campaign.

What was once speculated on and experimented with has become official. Instead of siding out for a point, it will be a point-a-play with the first four games in the best-of-five going to the team that reaches 30 first and winning by at least two points. When a fifth game is necessary, it will be to 15 points.

Whether the new format will catch on as the rulemakers intend, remains to be seen. But, at this point, what does men’s volleyball really have to lose by giving it a fair shot?

Certainly not the meager crowds, the limited TV exposure or scant sponsorship it current enjoys in most places. Definitely not the declining popularity among schools cutting back on their teams.

Let’s face it, there are only a couple of places where the collegiate version draws anything approaching a crowd anyway. That would be here, Brigham Young and, come NCAA final four time, UCLA. Otherwise it is pretty much a cult following.

And that’s too bad because, as anybody who has followed the sport here can attest, there is much to recommend it for action and entertainment.

If the rule changes that bring it into line with international and Olympic play can help speed up and popularize the sport for a wider audience, so much the better.

But in the current format, in which a match can go well beyond three hours, few outside of Hawaii or beyond the hard-core followers seem to have the patience for it on a regular basis.

And because, unlike basketball or football, it doesn’t fit into a neat two-hour window, TV has shied away from it. Even the final four matches, when they are televised, are relegated to ESPN2, and usually on a delayed basis.

Not only is collegiate men’s volleyball not picking up fans or exposure at any kind of pace, the inability to increase revenue is costing it teams. Just in the past year two West Coast schools, San Diego State and Loyola Marymount, have dropped the sport and nobody else is adding it.

With only 21 teams playing men’s volleyball on the Division I level, the sport is a couple more dropouts away from risking its standing as a national championship event.

At this point it isn’t a question of whether or not rally scoring should be tried. Rather, it is a matter of how can they afford not to give it a shot?

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