College Softball News

2018 NFCA Day One Highlights, Notes, and Hot Topics

It was an eventful first day of the 2018 NFCA Convention being held in Chicago, IL. The day was highlighted by the session “Pregame Chatter: A Discussion of Issues Surrounding the Game of Softball” and the keynote address featuring Holly Rowe.

In the Pregame Chatter session all memberships levels were represented and presented the items on each group’s “to-do” list for its caucus; officiating topics with umpiring coordinator, Craig Hyde; and what would become an intense conversation with secretary-rules editor, Vickie Van Kleeck.


  • Rule changes that focuses on player safety, general changes, equipment and technology.
  • Gender equality and championships
  • Recruiting rules


  • Early Recruiting and recruiting calendar
  • Rising tournament fees and the effect on student-athletes and programs
  • Stay to Play restrictions


  • State tournament and sites
  • Seeding and best formula for RPI


  • Regional re-alignment
  • Membership overlap with NFCA to help increase numbers
  • Signing date
  • Access to NCAA Transfer Portal
  • Transfer rules
  • All-American alignment


  • Automatic walk-on proposal
  • Double base at first base


  • Expand to a 19 week season
  • Fall playing dates for student-athlete well fare. Currently schools are limited to 21 innings on one date.
  • Recruiting calendar – how DI is effecting DIII
  • Post season uniformed roster numbers


  • Getting playing dates back in 2020 – losing 10 dates in 2019.
  • Revamping the fall season. Currently DII limits teams to three scrimmages and an alumnae game and requires only 15 hours of contact with two days off. Looking to increase that to 20 hours with two days off.


  • Rule changes – 4th coach, addition of summer activities, transfer rules, and recruiting.
  • Recruiting calendar – contact period
  • Scholarship increase from the current 12 schools are allowed. Increasing roster sizes quoted in need for this.


Key Notes from Umpiring Conversation with Craig Hyde and secretary-rules editor, Vickie Van Kleeck.

Secretary-rules editor, Vickie Van Kleeck; Umpiring Coordinator, Chris Hyde; and Tennessee Co-Head Coach, Karen Weekly.

– Umpiring procedures were a big point of focus from Hyde things like angles; focus on when to “go out” on a fly ball or when to say in in order to help eliminate the issue of umpires getting out of position on tags or plays back at a base; looking to allow U3 to shift to either the shortstop or second base side of the base with a runner on first to better allow positioning on checked swings; strike zone and natural stance; and changes to signaling on catches, umpires will no longer make a sell out call but a strong “hammer” or “safe signal” depending the outcome of the play. On catches, umpires will also no longer make a “catch”/”no catch” call but instead a loud “out” or “safe” call.

– Hyde also strongly emphasized that there will be big focus on crews coming together to ensure they are getting calls and rules correct. He asked for people’s pro-active patience with crew’s to give them the time to “get it right”. In a quote from Hyde he said, “you will see crews working more as a team more than ever going forward.”

– Dot Richardson started off the conversation with Kleeck regarding the transfer portal and if any conversations were set to be had about how it is or isn’t working and if any tampering was taking place

– BIG NEWS: Kleeck responded by saying there is a NCAA proposal set to be presented at the NCAA Convention that would disallow any student-athlete who participated in fall ball to transfer mid-year and play that following spring. This would only apply to the DI level.

– Rule changes from Kleeck include: changes to pitchers taking the signal (both pitcher’s feet must be on the rubber, hands separated, take sign. Aiming to eliminate quick pitching) and changes to the illegal pitch rules that have been exploited in order to remove runners from bases (pitchers making two arm revolutions, not releasing on the first one, in order to make the runner jump off the base and then being called out). Kleeck called this a loop hole in the former rules and a “travesty to the game”.

– Obstruction was yet again a hot topic of discussion. Per Kleeck in a play where the catcher is obstructing the plate and the runner intentionally causes a collision, the collision and out take reign over the obstruction. UCLA Head Coach Kelly Inouye-Perez kept it going with questions about issues of plays taking place up the line and the above interpretation and definition of a catcher “obstructing” to induce a collision/obstruction. Kleeck shared in her personal opinion she doesn’t believe that all the rules “really allow our catchers to play defense”. It was a spirited discussion with a heavy amount of back and fourth.

– Visual obstruction can be called should an athlete intentionally block the view of a runner on third so they are unable to tag up if the umpire believes the runner on third would have safety reached home.

– Another hot topic was the issue of calling a batter out of the box. Complaints included inconsistency; clarifications if touching the line is considered out or does an athlete need to be over the line; and lack of understanding and enforcement through different levels of play. Another key compliant was when asking a second umpire for clarification but being told it is not “their call”. Hyde shared that it is being tested to have U3 up the middle or U1 counter rotated to see if that could help those officials see and make those calls. This could be decided and enacted in 2019. A key point Hyde drove home about this rule is that he teaches umpires that call is “an absolute call and you have to know for sure. Don’t guess, know that call, or don’t make that call.”

– Kleeck offered the clarification on the above that a batter’s foot must be outside of the line to be called not. Simply touching the chalk line does not result in an out.

– Replay was the next topic brought up. Kleeck offered that it is being looked at and that the SEC will be using it during the 2019 SEC Tournament. She made a clear stance against instant replay being used “as it is in the MLB” to show that a runner’s foot barely left the bag while a tag was held resulting in an out citing strongly “that is not the point of replay”.

Opening Welcome and Key Note Speech 

Holly Rowe delivers her keynote speech at NFCA Convention 2018

Karen Weekly kicked off the evening’s event with a beautiful speech that included the story of Alex Wilcox and the 4:28 Wall Sit Challenge, Mike Lambros, and many others.

Carol Bruggeman followed with a speech that focused on the growth of softball and how to continue that success. She challenged all in the room to turn this “success into significance” and not allowing softball to become a “one and done” sport.

Bruggeman sited the significant changes that have contributed to softball’s success that include moving the pitching mound back to 43 feet; changing from a white ball to the current yellow ball while changing the core to make the ball more lively; making coaching a profession; adding media rules to speed up the game; and working to end early recruiting.

Then it was time for the evening’s keynote speaker: Holly Rowe.

Rowe took the stage to her own, self-selected “walk out” song and introduction video which highlighted her time covering softball and footage from the Women’s College World Series. Rowe’s took the stage and became choked up when sharing her excitement to be speaking to the convention and about her love for the game of softball. She talked about her story and journey to getting to ESPN with the message of “working passionately with purpose” in everything she does.

Rowe also talked about her fight with desmoplastic melanoma, a rare and aggressive form of skin cancer, and how impactful the rallying of the softball community in support of her was during that time. She also expressed her goal to work with the NFCA and coaches about putting on more melanoma games and awareness events due to the risk to coaches and student-athletes face everyday. Rowe has been cleared and currently cancer free.

By the way, Rowe’s walk out song? “Run the World” by Beyonce.


To Top