In anticipation of the upcoming MLU Season, the league has released its updated rule book for 2016.

With the 2016 Major League Ultimate season just around the corner, the league has released its updated and amended set of rules.

At the end of each MLU season, the league’s rules and their enforcement are reviewed and any clarifications, modifications and extensions to the rule set for adoption in the upcoming season are discussed.

The 2016 Rules Committee was led by Mark Evangelisto, MLU investor and former General Manager of the Philadelphia Spinners, and comprised of  New York Rumble Coach Anthony Nuñez, players Chris Rupp of the Seattle Rainmakers and Misha Sidorsky of the Boston Whitecaps and officials Jamie Rhodes (Boston), Bob Ransdell (Portland) and Mark Moran (Vancouver).

On the recommendations on the Rules Committee, the league’s Executive Board has agreed upon a series of adjustments and revisions to the MLU Rule Book that will be used in 2016.  

Game Clock:

In 2016 any whistle during the last 60 seconds of play, during any period will stop the game clock.  During the review of previous seasons, it became clear that if a team was trying to score before time expired, the potential time lost from a foul or infraction could hurt the team on offense, even if they were the one’s getting fouled.  Now, the game clock will be stopped on any referee’s whistle during the final minute of play.

Verbal Cue:

The stall count can be a defender’s best friend or a handler’s worst nightmare, and mastery of the stall is crucial for any player at the professional level.  With that in mind, and after taking feedback from the player members of the MLU Rules’ Committee, the referee’s will now give a verbal cue four (4) seconds into the stall count, as opposed to previously doing so after five (5) seconds.  This change was made solely at the request of the players and will better help them manage their offensive possessions.

Updated Half-Field Pull:

As fans will certainly remember from 2015, MLU instituted a new rule last season that allowed pulls from the midfield line following a timeout by the pulling team.  After positive reviews from players, coaches and fans, the midfield pull rule will stay on the books, with one new caveat.  In the event of a second overtime, which by rule is sudden death, teams will no longer be allowed to pull from midfield following a timeout.  What we learned in 2015 was that being able to pull from midfield did give the D-line an advantage, one that was deemed too significant to be in play during a sudden death situation.

Furthermore, the 2016 pull rule ensures that any yardage resulting in a penalty on a scoring play will be assessed on the ensuing pull.

Additional Timeouts:

One unintended result of the 2015 addition of the half-field pull was how it changed the value of a timeout to a coach.  In 2016, especially as the year progressed and coaching staffs began to recognize the value of the half-field pull, timeouts became increasingly used to try and pin opponents deep in their territory.  While this was the point, with every timeout used to pull from midfield, coaches lost the opportunity to change their personnel after a turnover.  To counter this, or at least give coaches more flexibility with their strategy, the 2016 rule set affords teams an additional timeout per half, increasing each team’s allotment to three (3) per half.

Fouls and Infractions:

Arguably the most significant change from the 2015 Rulebook is a reclassification of fouls and infractions as yardage penalties, no longer resulting in a change of possession.  This rule change applies to two specific types of penalty: Travels and Downfield Contact.

During the first three seasons of MLU gameplay, the penalty for a travel or for making contact with a defender downfield was a change of possession.  The thought behind these original rules was to make the penalty strict as a way of discouraging players from making the infractions.  However, the truth of the situation was that referees were only making the call when the the foul was egregious, and choosing not to enforce the rule on calls that were less obvious.

Anybody who has played ultimate knows that a game is decided by turnovers.  While such a strong penalty was meant as a deterrent for players, the truth of the matter became that referees were hesitant to call travels and contact penalties because they did not want to so severely affect the outcome of the game due to minor missteps.

On the advice of referees and players, as well as former Head Referee Jamie Rhodes, the penalty for travels and contact by the offense have been changed in 2016 to a 10 yard penalty.

Flagrant Fouls:

While minor infractions such as travels and unintentional contact by the offense will see lesser penalties in 2016, most serious penalties will be enforced more strictly.  Flagrant fouls are described by the MLU as an “intentional or unintentional foul that seriously or immediately endangers players, or otherwise undermines the public image or health of the league.” Starting in 2016, these flagrant fouls, if occurring during a play that results in a score, will now have their penalties assessed on the following pull. 

With the 2016 MLU Rule Book in place and approved, the work of enforcing it now falls to the league’s officiating crew, lead by new Head Referee Steve Kreider.

Check out the entire 2016 MLU Rule Book.

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