NCAA Eliminates Two-in-Four Rule

By Staff

Coaching Management, 14.6, August 2006,

The contentious “two-in-four” rule, which limited NCAA Division I basketball teams to playing in two exempt tournaments every four years, has been put to rest. Teams will now be allowed to play in an exempt tournament every season as part of a scheduling package that will take effect this fall.

Under the new rules, teams can play either 29 regular season games or 27 regular season games plus no more than four games in one multi-team tournament for a maximum of 31 games. Conference and other postseason tournaments do not count against the limit. Before the change, teams were limited to 28 games, with exempt multi-team events counting as one of those 28 contests.

The NCAA also set the second Friday in November as the standard date for the first game of the season. Previously, the starting date was 136 days before the championship game and usually fell around Nov. 20, but several pre-approved events were allowed to be held before the starting date.

“I think it’s good that everybody will have the chance to play 29 to 31 games,” says Chris Wollard, Assistant Commissioner of Conference USA. “In the past, we were all over the place about when you could start playing and how many games teams were allowed to play. This brings some uniformity to the scheduling process.”

Enacted in 1999, the two-in-four rule was challenged by tournament operators who claimed it violated anti-trust laws. The operators won an injunction against the rule, but that injunction was overturned on appeal and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear their subsequent attempt to have it reinstated.

Coaches have been lobbying to eliminate the two-in-four rule since it was introduced. “I’m very much in favor of the changes,” says Fran McCaffery, Head Coach at Siena College. “Depending on your team in any given year it might make sense to play in a tournament or it might not. So having the ability to play in one every year, if you want to, is great. And I like starting the season a week earlier so we can get more games in during November and December. This will give us the opportunity to play more games while students are on campus, and we won’t have to play five times in nine days.”

The new rules do contain some restrictions. Qualified tournaments cannot have more than one team from any conference and schools can make only one appearance every fours years in the same event. The removal of the two-in-four restriction will make it easier for organizers to fill their tournaments, though the lateness of the change will provide a challenge for the upcoming season.

Some teams may decide to pass on the opportunity to play 31 games in order to schedule more home games. “Programs that draw very well at home can add home games to their schedule, which can really generate a lot of revenue for a program,” Wollard says. “This will create a chance for mid-majors to step in and play those games and for high-majors to create appealing match-ups in the non-conference schedule, both of which could be very good for college basketball.”

For a downloadable list of additional NCAA rules changes for 2006-07, go to, click “Sports & Championships,” “Winter,” “Basketball (M),” “Rules & Officiating Web Page,” and “PROP Approved Rules Changes.”