NCAA Forces MIAC to Abolish ‘Mercy’ Rule

The Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference has abolished its “running time” rule, effective immediately, at the request of the NCAA. The rule, which had been in effect for more than 10 years, mandated that a game switch to running time in the third period when the deficit was 10 goals. That is in violation of the NCAA men’s ice hockey rulebook.

The hockey world caught wind of the rule after a game between Wisconsin-Eau Claire and Augsburg, when UWEC coach Marlin Muylaert reportedly instructed his team to allow Augsburg to score two goals, increasing the deficit to 10 so that running time would kick in. Muylaert was later suspended for his actions in that game.

The publicity that received alerted the NCAA, which immediately contact MIAC officials.

“When the Rules Committee heard about the MIAC’s running time rule, we notified them that they can’t do that,” said Hockey East commissioner Joe Bertagna, who, among his many hats, is also the Chair of the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Ice Hockey Rules Committee. “The book is clear that a game is three 20-minute periods of actual play … [in other words] not running time.”

Carlyle Carter, Executive Director of the MIAC, immediately sent a memo out to school athletic directors and coaches, telling them that the “mercy” rule was no longer in effect.

“Immediately when we found out it was in violation of NCAA playing rules, we took it out,” Carter said.

Carter, who has been at his post for seven years, said the rule pre-dates him, though no one knows for sure when it was implemented. He said that the 10-goal rule never came up often in men’s games, and that the spirit of it was to help women’s programs.

“With our women’s game, there are programs in varying stages of developement. Some teams are just beginning,” he said. “[But] when I talked to Ty Halpin of the NCAA, he said they spoke with women’s coaches at their annual meeting in Florida. It was a consensus that they would follow NCAA rules.”

Carter said the matter was essentially an oversight, and that the league would never purposefully go against NCAA rules. He did, however, say the rule could be revisited, via the proper channels.

“We want to be in compliance, and that’s a reason we immediately took care of it,” Carter said. “However, from a Division III and ethical perspective, our focus is supposed to be on the health and well-being of those participants. Is it beneficial to either [team] to continue to punish the [opponent]? You’ve obviously proved your point that you have a superior team on the ice that day.

“Perhaps at some point the conference may entertain submitting a legislative proposal [to bring the rule back], because we feel no one is benefitted by anyone being beat by 20 goals. If you’re down 10 goals, the likelihood of mounting a comeback is pretty slim.

“Once you’ve established a 10-goal lead, what else do you have to establish? The rule alleviates running up scores and punishing people for not having a squad that’s developed.”