Wilson Rule would net improvement

By Kevin Wilson: PNT columnist

The mantra is that rules are made to be broken. I disagree. Rules are made to be replaced by better rules.

I was reminded of this while at a not-so-close volleyball match at the state tournament last weekend at the Santa Ana Star Center (rejected slogan: “We’re not the casino, and we’re near no restaurants.”).

And that’s when I came up with the Wilson Rule, volleyball’s answer to the mercy rule.

The sport has undergone quite a few changes at the high school level since I first saw my high school team get knocked out in district playoffs in 1995. That was also the year I won our accounting class’ tournament pool by betting against my own school, even though three volleyball players were in that accounting class.

Each new rule has fundamentally changed the game — as will the Wilson Rule.

There was rally scoring, which eliminated the need to hold the serve to score, and made the game feel quicker because points were scored on every play. But matches weren’t faster, because teams now had to score 25 points to win sets with rally scoring instead of 15 points without. A match still lasts an hour if it’s not close and nearly two hours if it’s a battle for every point.

Next came the libero, a defensive specialist who was designated by a differently colored uniform and could be subbed in on the back row for anybody without counting against a coach’s per-game substitution limit. Now, a girl who’s a great defensive player gets specific recognition.

And I wish we had the Wilson Rule: In a best-of-five match, if a team is down 0-2 and it doesn’t score 15 total points in the losses, there is no third game.

I asked a sampling of fans around the Star Center. From media representative to fan to coach to player, the Wilson Rule received universal consent.

And why wouldn’t it? The Wilson Rule will make matches quicker, and not just make them appear quicker. And it will create a premium on defense for a superior team. It will be like a 35-point mercy rule, except for volleyball.

Other volleyball watchers’ scales may vary, but here’s mine. If a winning team gives up 20 or more points, it’s a close win; 13-19, a convincing win; 8-12, a blowout.

If a team can’t even reach blowout consideration (eight points) in two consecutive sets, what reason do we have to believe they’ll be more than three times as good to reach the 25-point plateau three consecutive times?

It’s the same reason the New Mexico Activities Association ends six-man football games when a team’s up 45 in the second half, and the same reason the NMAA only lets timeouts stop the clock when a football or basketball game has a 35-point margin.

The Wilson Rule would punish slow starters, and reward teams that come ready to play from the first serve. The Wilson Rule would make early blowouts a little more intriguing, because the winning team has an incentive to finish things off — one less game to worry about injuries. And the losing team at least has something to play for.

Just like my accounting classmate volleyball players after that pool, they will have a goal of avoiding the Wilson.