Rules In Sports

Here’s A Situation Where Rules In Sports Go Too Far

The world of track and field experienced what basketball fans might call a “Trent Tucker” moment earlier this month when Devon Allen did something that technology says a human can’t. That’s because the University of Oregon sprinter and hurdler did something in the same amount of time, one-tenth of a second, that caused the NBA to create the Trent Tucker rule three decades ago. What did Devon Allen do, and why was he disqualified from his last collegiate race after doing it? Let’s take a trip to the World Athletes Championships. 

On July 17th, Devon Allen was competing in his last race for the University of Oregon in the 110 Meter Hurdlers at Hayward Field, his home track that was playing host to this year’s World Athletes Championships. Allen made it to the final race and was, for the last time as an Oregon Duck, lined up in the starter’s block. The starter’s pistol went off and the competitors took off, only to be stopped by a false start alarm. Somebody started running too soon, it was Devon Allen. Or did he start running too soon? A look at the video replay showed no sign of early movement out of the blocks by Allen, but something else did, technology.

Sensors are set up at the starting line for track and field events, and in this case, they picked up that Devon Allen moved 0.099 seconds after the starter’s pistol was fired. By rule, anyone who moves within one-tenth of a second is considered to have started too soon; and for this race, Allen was deemed to have false started, causing his disqualification from the race.

The rules are clear in a case like this: Once a false start is recorded by the technology in place, a runner is disqualified and there’s no avenue of appeal … and so ended the college track and field career of Devon Allen.

Speaking on “The Dan Patrick Show” two days after his DQ, Devon Allen said:

“It’s really unfortunate that that’s the rule. I understand the rule. It’s in place so there’s no false starts. But not to have a little bit of leeway for margin of error or anything that goes on for a thousandth of a second kind of is a little bit frustrating because I didn’t get a chance to compete.”

My reply to those who want more leeway in this rule is two-fold:

  1. Everyone knew the rules going into this event, so, like it or not, they must be adhered to.
  2. If you want a margin of error built into the rule, then what you are saying is the technology is unreliable, and should be scrapped, or you start bending the rule itself, and from there, you make the rule meaningless whenever it needs to be applied during competition.

Think about it: how big should the margin of error be? How far is enough to make everyone happy, and then what happened when someone is one-tenth of a second off the build-in margin of error, do we give them a break, too?

One-tenth of a second might as well be one toe to an NFL wide receiver or the width of one baseball to a pitcher trying to get a called third strike … the rule in this case MUST be the rule, period. To do otherwise would return the element of chaos that using technology is trying to remove from sports.

And if you are looking for a way to cheer on Devon Allen, you may do so by rooting for the Philadelphia Eagles where he is trying out to be a wide receiver. While not having played for the Oregon Ducks since 2016, Allen did tally 54 catches for 919 yards in three seasons and ran a 4.35 40-yard dash on the school’s Pro Day. Let’s just hope the Ducks taught him what the offsides rule is before he reports to the team’s training camp on July 26th. 


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TooAthletic Takes is the News division of TooAthletic. Launched in 2019, TooAthletic Takes is a source for all your sports takes. TooAthletic Takes will make you laugh, cry, get mad, and even call us “idiots.” We strive to give our readers another viewpoint on any sports situation, and we look forward to disagreements with the hopes that it leads to healthy discussions and debates.

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Here’s A Situation Where Rules In Sports Go Too Far |

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