The Economics of a Shot Clock

A recent high school playoff basketball game has kindled a shot clock debate in Minnesota.  Shakopee and Hopkins, both part of the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area, were playing a semifinal game last week.  The game went to quadruple overtime and Hopkins won the game with a last-second prayer shot by Amir Coffey, a 60-foot heave that got nothing but net.  Here are the details.  Here is a decent video of the shot.

Here in Minnesota, high school basketball does not use a shot clock.  So part of the Hopkins strategy was to get the ball and stall to give it the final shot.  One of the reasons for having a shot clock is to keep teams from stalling and, thereby, to increase the fan interest in the sport.

One of the reasons why high schools up here don’t use the shot clock is because of the expense.  Here is some information from Reg Chapman at WCCO.

Newer baskets with shot clocks can cost upwards of $5,000, and that’s a lot for smaller boosters.

“There’s a cost of putting it in, there’s a cost of having an operator and there’s a lot of little rules that go along with that,” Merkle said. “The operator has to know what they’re doing. It brings in a whole other level of officials.”

It makes no sense to install a sh0t clock if the marginal revenue from doing so won’t cover the marginal cost.  Chapman notes that some of the bigger Minnesota high schools have installed shot clocks at their courts and have used them on an experimental basis.   But the smaller schools in lower divisions find the cost too prohibitive.  These , schools sometimes don’t even have enough players to fill the rosters(as Chapman notes) let alone buy expensive equipment.

Like it has done with so many other things, perhaps technology will improve enough to where the marginal cost of installing and operating  a shot clock will stop being cost prohibitive.  Until then in Minnesota at least, one can get a feeling for what basketball was like before the shot clock by going to a high school basketball game.

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Author: Phil Miller

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