Let's Get Home at a Reasonable Hour
Four potential rule changes should speed the college game up whether you like it or not.
Sports Illustrated reported that “Executives” are finally moving forward on getting college football to cut down on the length of its games.
High-ranking college football leaders have been reviewing four specific changes to clock rules, two of which are considered non-controversial, one that has garnered wide support and a fourth that has left some divided. The non-controversial proposals include (1) prohibiting consecutive timeouts (ie, icing kickers) and (2) no longer extending a first or third quarter for an untimed down if the quarter ends on a defensive penalty (the down would be clocked starting the next quarter).
While those are considered to be incremental changes that will save only a fraction of time, the other two proposals are more significant.
In a third proposal that is garnering wide support, the clock will continue to run after an offense gains a first down except inside of two minutes in a half. In a more controversial fourth proposal, the clock will continue to run after an incomplete pass once the ball is spotted for play.
While the changes would be implemented this fall, they are several weeks away from final approval. Several athletic administrators spoke to Sports Illustrated for this story under condition of anonymity because the changes have not yet been recommended, approved or even widely socialized with member schools. However, many officials involved in the process expect at least a portion of the proposals to pass—something that did not happen last year during a similar exercise.
I’m not important enough to be one of those fancy TV executives, and my voice certainly won’t be heard by any of them either. But if I had a proverbial ballot to vote with, here’s how I’d fill my sheet out:
This, to me, reads as something that’s more of a pro-television move than it is pro-college football.
Seeing a coach call two timeouts in a row just to ‘ice’ Johnny Kickball 12 seconds before halftime is a bore to watch. It creates a lot of downtime between plays and, most of the time, it’s a pretty ineffective choice.
In points of the game where kickers aren’t involved, it gets boring for the viewer whenever there’s a long exchange between opposing coaches before a big play. These clearly don’t happen every game, but it’s not uncommon to see happen either. Usually, it’s right before a big play when the offense is in a must-score situation, and coaches want to spend minutes upon minutes talking about the next play. Not fun to watch, but we did give these coaches three timeouts for each half, right?
What’s the point of suddenly politicizing when coaches can or can’t use their timeouts? We’re really waiting until now, after the major round of conference realignment to make these kinds of changes?
The compounded use of timeouts isn’t fun to watch, but it’s certainly not great content for FOX or ESPN. But I was told they wanted to broadcast live college football — warts and all.
I get that the goal we’re trying to fix is the game’s length, and this move would (and will) help do just that. But calling two timeouts in a row really isn’t hurting anybody other than FOX and ESPN, because they’re the ones responsible for the lame content.
It’s very hard for me to have many opinions about the untimed down change. I’m going to guess there’s a good 70% of regular fans that won’t even notice the change next time they watch a game.
This is a change that a lot of fans I’ve noticed being on the fence about, but I’d like to see this implemented. I’d change one thing though.
Stopping the clock after a first down pickup has long been a huge separator, stylistically, between the college game and the NFL’s game. Personally, this isn’t really a reason why I watch more college than NFL, and changing out of it certainly won’t make me suddenly not like college football. There are still 130+ football teams out there with varying levels of skill and different-looking playbooks all over the map. I, the viewer, don’t need the clock to stop after a first down spot to help my appreciation for the college game.
If we’re going to finally make this switch though, why wait until there are just two minutes left in the half to stop the clock after a first down? At this point, you might as well extend it out to the final four or six minutes of each half, or just don’t ever stop the clock after the first down at all.
A running clock through incomplete passes, though it takes away from how much TV exposure these athletes get, is probably something this sport should’ve always been played with, especially at the college level. Too many quarterbacks are being tasked with 50+ pass attempts per game, and too many times those quarterbacks throw 20+ incompletions, and everybody has to sit and wait for the clock to start back up after each one. Is that really necessary?
I have one question though. Can you still spike the football to stop the clock? That seems like a really important part of crunch-time football being ripped away just for the sake of speeding these games up.