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A new ending

A new ending

Thomas M. Columbus September 19, 2023

group of UD students was watching a 2004 Elite Eight game, as the regional finals of NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament are nicknamed. “It was tense and competitive,” one of the students, Nick Elam ’04, said. “But near the end, all that came to a screeching halt. There was little suspense.”

Nick Elam stands with ESPN sportscasters.
Nick Elam (third from right) with ESPN. 

Suspense was replaced by timeouts. And fouls. A few minutes of basketball on the game clock took an eternity. For a fan, this was not good. And Elam, who now at Ball State University teaches future principals and superintendents, is a lifelong sports fan.

A Cincinnati Reds fan, he complemented his career in education by working on the Reds’ grounds crew. During the first year of the pandemic, he and his fellow crew members were the only fans at the Great American Ballpark, which after one game led to them being applauded by Joey Votto and company.

Elam specializes in being a UD Flyer fan.

“In 2003,” he said. “I was one of the fans running onto the Arena floor when the Flyers hosted and won the Atlantic 10 Tournament. My senior year I went to Buffalo to see us lose an NCAA First Round game in double overtime. I’ve traveled to almost all the A-10 cities. I remember the 2009 Kansas game. In 2014 I was in Memphis when Flyer fans celebrating Dayton’s run to the Elite Eight turned Beale Street into a Flyer reunion.”

Elam loves basketball. But that night in 2004, he and his friends watching the Elite Eight on Evanston were bored.

“We looked at each other,” he said. “We thought it odd how the game developed. We tossed around ideas of how to prevent that. None of them were viable.”

It wasn’t until years later — March 10, 2007, to be exact — that “the light went on,” Elam said. “I thought of an ending that was viable.”

Thus was born the Elam Ending, variations of which have been used in the NBA All-Star Game, the NBA G League, the Canadian Elite Basketball League and The Basketball Tournament. At the end of those games, although there is still a shot clock, the game clock is turned off and teams play to a target score. For example, fans watching The Basketball Tournament at the regional this summer in UD Arena saw the game clock disappear at the first whistle with up to four minutes remaining. The winner of the game was then the first team to score eight points more than the score of the team leading when the clock was turned off.

“The Elam Ending is not designed to change the game ...”

“The Elam Ending is not designed to change the game,” Elam said, “but to preserve its style of play. I’m old school in a lot of ways.” In baseball, he’s a fan of the pitch clock — it restores the game to its former pace.

In 2007, Elam was convinced his idea for basketball would work. 

“I didn’t know,” he said, “that it would be 10 years before it came to life.” He has taken that delay as an opportunity, now complementing his teaching career with motivational speaking.

“I enjoy sharing that story of positive thinking and persistence.” 

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