Rule 9.9: Backcourt Violation

BackCourt Violation (Rule 9.9)

The backcourt violation is a seemingly simple rule yet has many elements that can make the application of this rule quite difficult. Previous to this year, the backcourt rule was:

A player shall not be the first to touch a ball after it has been in team control in the front court, if he/she or a teammate last touched or was touched by the ball in the frontcourt before it went to the backcourt.

With the throw-in rule change for this season where team control is established upon being at the disposal of the thrower, the backcourt rule has changed and now reads

A player shall not be the first to touch the ball after it has been in player and team control in the frontcourt, if he/she or a teammate last touched or was touched by the ball in the frontcourt before it went to the backcourt.

Thus, in order to have a backcourt violation, “player and team” control must first be established in the frontcourt. This means a player must have been dribbling or holding the ball entirely in the frontcourt.

There are three (3) specific exceptions to this rule and, because of the change in the rule to accommodate team control being established during a throw-in, one (1) implied exception to this rule.

The specific exceptions are described in Article 3 of Rule 9.9 and states during a JUMP BALL, THROW-IN, or WHILE ON DEFENSE, a player may legally jump from his/her frontcourt, secure control of the ball with both feet off the the floor, and then return to the floor with one or both feet in the back court.

The implied exception is there must have been “player and team” control in the frontcourt before there can be a backcourt violation unless Article 2 of Rule 9.9 applies. Article 2 states

While in player and team control in its BACKCOURT, a player shall not cause the ball to go from the backcourt to the frontcourt and return to the backcourt, without the ball touching a player in the frontcourt, such that he/she or a teammate is the first to touch it in the backcourt.

Another point to remember is the above exceptions apply to the specific situation (Jump Ball, Throw-in, While on Defense) and only to the one player involved. Once those situations have ended, the exception ends. Thus, once the Jump Ball ends (Rule 4.28.3) and the Throw-in ends (Rule 4.5), the exceptions end. So, for example, if a throw-in is tipped by a player, the exception ends as the throw-in has ended and when a player subsequently jumps from his/her front court to catch the ball and lands in the backcourt, a violation has occurred. OF COURSE, basketball being the fickle game that it is, you just know if such a thing happens to you, the subsequent throw-in will involve a situation where a player jumps from his/her front court to catch the throw-in and lands in the backcourt and, since this is an exception to the backcourt rule, NO VIOLATION will be called. See if you can explain that one to a coach so they then calmly say “I perfectly understand. Thank you for the explanation. You are a very professional official and I am very glad to have you working this game!!!” FAT CHANCE.

The above shows a special emphasis regarding the ball. This is because the rule should be considered a “ball” centric rule. While a player must touch the ball illegally, the rule has as its emphasis on the status of the ball. It really can get complicated here and I have been presented with some extremely convoluted plays regarding this rule but for the most part, you should concentrate on the “status” of the ball. Was the ball in “player and team” control in the frontcourt, did the ball attain backcourt status, and was the team in “player and team” control the first to touch “the ball?”

The final point to remember is the part of this rule stating the ball must be “secured.” This especially applies when the defense is pressing and is able to steal the ball in the backcourt of the offense near the division line. A defender may be in the process of making a steal of a pass near the division line and then, because of momentum, cross the division line. The key to remember here is when did the defender actually “secure” control of the ball. Most times in these situations, the defender is still gathering the ball, has tipped the ball into the air, or tapped it to the floor. Even if it looks like the defender has “directed” the ball to the floor, the official can rule he/she was still in the process of gaining control and had not yet “secured” control of the ball. Until it has been “secured,” control has not changed. Until the ball has been secured and control established in this situation, a backcourt violation cannot be called.

In summary, with the change of the backcourt definition, officials should reread the Rule and Case Book sections regarding the backcourt violation and consider its implications more closely than before. In general though, don’t be quick to determine a backcourt violation has occurred. If there is doubt, there probably was not a violation.

In rare cases, if a possible backcourt situation is such as it should be considered more throughly, stop play and discuss with your partner(s). Again, this should rarely happen, but if it is necessary, start with whether there was player and team control established in the frontcourt and then consider the exceptions.

The Advanced Officiating e-mails are part specific rule discussion and part my opinion. I welcome your comments and questions to the backcourt rule or other situations.

– Eddie Monaghan

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