Today, the WNBA announced both new and updated rules for the upcoming season, including the implementation of a Coach’s Challenge, heightened penalties for transition take fouls, as well as adjustments to both resumption of play procedures and bench conduct.
The Coach’s Challenge will allow a team one challenge per game (including OT), regardless of whether the challenge is successful. A team can use its challenge to trigger an instant replay review of three specific events: a called foul on their own team, a called out-of-bounds violation, or a called goaltending or basket interference violation. Replay for a called goaltending or basket interference violation will only be triggered by the on-court officials during the last two minutes of the fourth period or last two minutes of any overtime period replay.
The league has also added a heightened penalty when a defensive player commits a transition take foul.
“The modified rules regarding transition take fouls will lead to improved game flow and increased fast break scoring opportunities while still allowing strategic ‘take fouls’ in the last two minutes of the fourth quarter and last two minutes of all overtime periods,” said Bethany Donaphin, the WNBA’s Head of League Operations.
When a transition take foul is called, the offensive team will be awarded one free throw, which may be attempted by any player on the floor at the time the foul is committed. The offensive team will also retain possession of the ball, while the defensive player who commits the foul will be assessed a common personal foul. The primary factor to determine if a foul constitutes as a ‘take foul’ is whether the defender made a legitimate play on the ball.
The resumption of play rules have also been modified. If connected to a Coach’s Challenge, or any call treated as an inadvertent whistle (e.g., a shot clock violation overturned via replay review initiated by the on-court officials during the last two minutes of the game), possession will be awarded to the team that clearly and conclusively would have gained possession at the time of the whistle. If possession is inconclusive, play will be resumed via a jump ball.
In the last of the rule updates, the league is striving to reduce disruptions during live play. Specifically, players on the bench may not remain standing at or away from their team’s bench during the game for a prolonged period. Players and coaches will also be prohibited from attempting to distract their opponents in an unsportsmanlike manner. Violations of the updated bench conduct rules are subject to penalties (e.g., technical foul, delay of game).
The most drastic change is the implementation of the Coach’s Challenge, which Donaphin said will be looked at on a trial basis. The league will monitor the data around use of Coach’s Challenges throughout the season to help determine its future. The WNBA tips off its 27th season on May 19.