Francois: It’s time to add the shot clock

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Luke Francois/For the Times-Tribune
Former Middleton athletic director Luke Francois, who's now the Superintendent at Waterford High School, believes adding a shot clock would be good for high school basketball.

Editor’s Note: The Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association recently conducted a survey asking schools whether they supported the adoption of a 35-second shot clock.

Each school throughout the state was asked to provide one response. A total of 339 schools responded with 45.7% (155) favoring the implementation of a shot clock and 54.3% opposing it (184).

Luke Francois, a former standout athlete at Middleton High School and the Cardinals’ athletic director from 2003-2011, is the now the Superintendent at Waterford High School.

Francois has studied the pros and cons of the shot clock and recently shared his thoughts with Superintendents throughout the state, as well as the Times-Tribune. What follows is a copy of that letter.


Fellow Superintendents, 

As a lifelong wrestling enthusiast serving on the WIAA Board of Control a few years ago, I was asked to study the shot clock and determine whether or not it had any merit in our state. In my research, I quickly realized that there was much more to consider before making an informed decision. All superintendents should take the time to understand the issue at hand thoroughly and consider all potential implications before making a decision.

One of the main issues I have noticed is that many superintendents need help understanding what is wrong with the game as it currently stands. I share my research now to engage superintendents in a meaningful dialogue to arrive at a well-informed conclusion.

My research as to why the game needs to change:

· A shot clock shifts the game to focus on defense as much as offense.

· A shot clock cleans up the end of the game with forced fouls to gain a turnover and instead is replaced with good defense to get a possession change.

· Although legal, the stall tactic that players, coaches, and fans overwhelmingly despise is eliminated with the shot clock.

· Teams in the last minutes can compete as there will be changes in possession with a shot clock.

· The shot clock teaches varsity athletes the complete basketball game and another level and dimension of the sport.

Former University of Wisconsin women’s basketball coach Jonathan Tsipis writes of high school girls basketball:

"I have had the experience of coaching and watching games in states that already have the shot clock instituted (MD, NY, RI) as well as those that do not. In my experience, the shot clock has helped the girls game increase their ability to execute better in each possession as well as provide even more time and score opportunities for the student-athletes. Many people believe that the shot clock only favors teams from an offensive perspective but in reality defensive teams that still are looking to control the tempo of the game are benefited by the shot clock. The addition of the shot clock I believe will help develop more well-rounded players in our state as well as high school teams that can compete at a higher level. . . I truly believe that the institution of the shot clock will grow our girls game in the state of Wisconsin."

For superintendents worried about lopsided scores, the running clock is already in place and would remain in place with the shot clock.

Justin Fletschock, Assistant Director of the North Dakota High School Activities Association, a state that implemented the shot clock, writes, "The same concerns that you (WI) have expressed came from our schools (unfunded mandate, have to pay another desk worker), but honestly, I have not had one coach, administrator, or fan say anything negative about the shot clock since its implementation. In fact, we've had a lot of compliments on how it has made the game more exciting, especially in allowing teams that are down in the 4th an opportunity to come back. The shot clock has been an overwhelmingly positive addition to North Dakota high school basketball." 

The experience of North Dakota was mirrored in many ways by the experience of South Dakota. John Krogstrand, Assistant Executive Director of the South Dakota High School Activities Association, a state that also implemented the shot clock. Krogstrand stated that regardless of opposition, "with some of the same concerns that always come up – cost of installation, and hiring of personnel" their Board of Directors forged ahead with implementation, much like Wisconsin. Krogstrand stated there were efforts to repeal the change by some member schools citing cost and personnel concerns … (and) after giving full hearing to these efforts, our Board of Directors stood behind their original decision." 


Following 10 years of shot clock implementation in South Dakota, Krogstrand highlighted the following benefits:

· The value of the shot clock outweighs the one-time cost.

· Many coaches and administrators who have adamantly opposed the use of shot clocks have since become some of the most prominent advocates.

· The cleaning up of the end-of-game situations is invaluable.

· A balance of offense and defense was re-established.

· Finding shot clock operators has not been an issue.

As a sports reporter that has spent a lifetime writing about, broadcasting, coaching, and watching games in Wisconsin, Rob Hernandez inherited the shot-clock concept when he moved to southern California in the summer of 2016. With one daughter still playing high school basketball using the shot clock, Hernandez writes, "I figured . . . that a Ph.D. in basketball might be expected of the operator of the shot clock. Hardly! Our school requires a minimum of 40 hours of community service over four years to graduate, and our shot clock was typically administered by a student in need of those hours who was trained in when to reset the shot clock and how to do it. We rarely had a problem and the handful of times that we did, the game officials would briefly stop action and ask the clock to be reset to the proper time."


I remember when the game did not have a three-point line, as I was in high school when the three-point line was introduced, and it wasn't immediately embraced. The game has evolved with so much excitement from the three-point line that the game would never return to the original two-point game. Comparing the addition of a three-point line to a shot clock may not be an apples-to-apples comparison; however, basketball's history shows how the game evolves, and there is a natural resistance to evolve, but afterward, the resistance fades to a distant memory as the game is enhanced.  

As superintendents, we make decisions based on what's best for students. My research consistently shows student-athletes want the shot clock, and the majority of coaches always support the shot clock. The WIAA has already adopted the shot clock. It was rescinded not because students or coaches thought it was terrible for the game, but because administrators needed more time to be ready to remove barriers and find ways to support change. Wisconsin needs the shot clock, and now is the time again to implement change.


Luke Francois, Ed.D.
Waterford Union HS District


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