With the start of a new college football season comes some “rule tinkering.” This year, the money-hungry NCAA (likely with some encouragement from its corporate sponsors) seems to be attempting to make each game shorter. But don’t believe their rhetoric about “the safety of the student-athletes” – it’s all about the almighty dollar. Think about this: How many times have you been waiting for a “Noon game” to get over so you could see the start of a “3:30 game,” only to have to wait
an additional 4 minutes after the conclusion of the Noon game just so the TV station could get in its allotment of commercials? That’s
what this is all about – shortening games so they finish on time, which allows TV networks more flexibility and prevents us consumers from swearing off certain products for life just because they’re keeping us from seeing the kickoff of “our game.” You know those “Lexus Post-Game Shows (time permitting)”? You don’t see those very often, do you? Well now time will “permit,” and Lexus will get its advertising dollars worth. This certainly isn’t the worst thing ever, it’s just more shadiness from an organization that cares more about the bottom line than its fans.
So here are the most important rule changes, in my opinion, in laymen’s terms:
- Kickoff tees will be shortened from 2 inches to 1 inch, with the desired effect to have fewer touchbacks. On a related note, the game clock will start when the ball is kicked rather than when it is caught (for both kickoffs and “free kicks” after a safety). As a Michigan fan, this is OK with me – More Steve Breaston returns this year, but probably fewer Ross Ryan touchbacks. I guess I’ll take that trade.
- Maybe the most bizarre rule change is that the game clock will start running after a change of possession as soon as “the ball is ready for play,” not when it is snapped. This is horrible. End-of-game and end-of-half turnovers are going to be a mess now. Teams will have to have their units ready to go out onto the field ASAP in order to save precious time. Think you can line up and spike the ball in 3 seconds? Think again, Ryan Leaf! From the standpoint of a Michigan fan, while this rule just doesn’t make sense and doesn’t seem fair, I think we will do OK with it. If Lloyd’s teams are good at anything, it is organization – rarely do you see an utterly confused Michigan team out there. Also, I can’t wait to see John L. Smith blow a gasket when MSU inevitably messes up one (or ten) of these situations this year.
As the head Duck puts it
"As a coach, I am appalled at the rule changes," said Oregon’s Mike Bellotti, dean of Pac-10 coaches. "They are major and very severe, in my mind, and are going to change the game as we know it — especially starting the game clock at the ready signal after change of possession… That changes a lot of strategy, a lot of opportunities at the end of a game. And I’m disappointed because I can’t find anybody who says they were in favor of that."
- I would describe this next rule change as “close but no cigar:” Coaches will be allowed one, and only one
, instant replay “challenge” per game
, as long as they have a time out available for use. This is how it will work: The coach will call timeout (no red flag, nothing fancy), and then go ask the ref for an instant replay review up in “the booth.” As long as he actually had
a timeout when he called it, he will be granted the review (provided that it is a “reviewable” thing (penalties are not reviewable, for instance)). If he did not have a timeout, his team will be penalized 15 yards for Delay of Game, regardless of the merit of his “review argument.” Note that a coach will only get one “challenge” per game, regardless of the outcome! Most fans think this is dumb. If you have timeouts, shouldn’t you be allowed to continue challenging? That seems to work for the NFL, doesn’t it? Or, alternatively, if you get your challenge “right,” shouldn’t you be able to challenge again later on? As mentioned above, this is another result of the NCAA’s attempts to shorten games, and really makes no sense to me.
So here’s where I see it getting interesting:
(1) Coach calls a timeout, team doesn’t have one. Team is penalized 15 yards. But play is stopped during this time, and review booth has plenty of time to review the play. Do they review it anyway? Are they allowed to? Are they prohibited from reviewing the play in this situation because the coach intentionally “stalled” the game? I haven’t seen any answers to these questions, so I predict… drama!
(2) When to use your challenge? It’s gonna be a crapshoot. Since you only get “one bite at the apple,” you have to figure out when you want to use your challenge. I’m sure the idiot announcers are gonna have a field day with this one, without ever mentioning that college should just go to the NFL system and everybody would be happy (except the greedy corporate suits).
- Not a new rule, but the wording was changed to make it clear that a team scoring with no time left is not
required to attempt an extra point.
- Helmet Visors (“shields”) are no longer allowed. They used to be allowed with a doctor’s note or something dumb, but now they’ve been eliminated altogether.
- The somewhat controversial (in Penn State fans’ minds, at least) “crowd noise” penalty has been officially removed from the books. You can’t “draw” a penalty on the home team just because you can’t hear yourself think. This rule was used a few times in the mid-90s, but had been effectively eliminated in practice in recent years.
- The teams can agree to shorten or
lengthen the normal 20 minute halftime. Again, the NCAA has mentioned this rule over the past few months in press releases, but has only referred to shortening the intermission, while the text of the rule says shorten or
lengthen halftime. It’s clear what the NCAA prefers.
A few more important quotes
Bellotti and [Washington Head Coach Tyrone] Willingham said they haven’t heard from fans complaining that games are too long. "It’s an event. It’s an all-day event," Bellotti said. "People tailgate before and after. I don’t think cutting five or 10 or 15 minutes out of a game is really going to make any difference (to fans)." For less-talented teams, fewer plays could act as an equalizer, another way to shorten the game against teams with more highly skilled players.
NCAA, you are dumb.