Absolutely no love this Valentine's Day for the NCAA Rules Committee, which continued its never-ending quest Wednesday to break what was already fixed. The bizarre, football-stealing spectre of 3-2-5-e was hated by one and all from the moment it was adopted in 2006, and subsequently - wisely and mercifully - repealed, a day of great celebration. No harm, no foul, guys.
But no, no, why did you have to do this:
"Hopefully this time we got it right," said Michael Clark, the chairman of the rules committee and head coach at Bridgewater (Va.) College.
The first is the implementation of a 40/25-second play clock, similar to that of the NFL. At the end of every play, the 40-second clock will start, which is the rule in the NFL. The old college rules featured a 25-second clock that did not start until the officials marked the ball ready for play. On a change of possession, the first play will be run on a 25-second clock.
The rules committee made another recommendation that will certainly shorten the game.
After a player runs out of bounds and the ball is made ready to play, the official will start the game clock. Under the old rules the game clock would not start until the ball was snapped. This new rule will not apply in the final two minutes of the first half and the final two minutes of the game.
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We love the new rules, cuz football is awesome! Wooooo! Is this game still going on? Which team are we for? Like, where are the cameras?
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Make no mistake: fifteen extra seconds on the play clock is a dramatic, terrible change, and will fail miserably at its attempt to maintain plays and scoring at 2007 levels. Lengthening the play clock produces less plays, and therefore less scoring. If teams take advantage of even half the extra time this rule makes available - let's project a five-second per play increase, to offset plays where the clock remains at 25 seconds (a problem in itself, in staffs and players having to always be aware of which situation they're in) and just to be really, really conservative - this is what you lose in the aggregate:
Based on games and plays last year, we arrive at 108,194 plays over 1,504 games involving I-A teams, about 71.9 plays per team per game (we'll round up to 72). That's 144 plays per game. At 3,600 seconds per game (60 seconds X 60 minutes), that's exactly one play every 25 seconds. If increased time on the play clock allows teams to take 30 seconds per play - again, a conservative estimate - the number drops to 120 plays, 60 per team, a loss of something like three full possessions every game. If it allows enough of a slow down to average 35 seconds per play, the average drops to about 51 plays per team, almost a full 30 percent decline.
That's a staggering decline in actual football in favor of standing around (and commercials, which of course will not be cut), and also in favor of taking knees: 15 more seconds of standing around between every play means 45 extra seconds per three-down series if the clock is running, extending the amount of time that can reasonably be run off by kneel-downs from a little over a minute to a full two minutes. The committee should be devising rules that encourage last-second drama, not choke it out of existence (it's already hard enough to orchestrate a drive in the dying minutes, says Kevin Riley).
This is a much greater hit than 3-2-5-e, which eventually cost about 16 plays and five points per game from 2005-06. The impact under the new, completely unnecessary change will probably be double that.
I reiterate what I said about that bogus rule two years ago: "[L]ong football games are not a problem. Such angst short of three and a half hours is entirely manufactured, and, one would guess, mostly by "fans" who like to tailgate and dress up and drink and engage in non-violent mob whooping and chanting, but ultimately don't really like football all that much." Double that sentiment now.
Three hours, twenty-two minutes is not a long time. One of the greatest advantages college football holds over the NFL is the sheer number of plays facilitated by its clock rules, which have always allowed fewer seconds to tick away between snaps and stopped the clock after first downs, an invaluable aid to creating morea action, more scoring and more exciting comebacks that define memorable games for the casual fan. No one except your girlfriend and prolific fogey John Feinstein complains about the length of football games, and one of them hasn't been right about anything in 20 years (hint: your girlfriend is right about everything, except wanting to leave the game early). Again, the greatest time-waster - commercials - will never be touched; instead, the level of actual activity is reduced to the point that commercials:plays will be pretty close to a 1:1 ratio, as it's been in the pros for years, to the tremendous frustration of people more interested in getting into the flow of a game than the opportunity to go to the bathroom or watching twee-yuns! or other such nonsense.
This is a disaster, and just like its predecessor, won't survive next year's review.