On Friday, college football leaders took a step toward shortening games and decreasing the number of plays per game. It’s an issue that has been front and center for a number of years, but has taken on added urgency this offseason as the sport is one year away from an expanded 12-team college football playoff, which will lengthen the season for some teams and increase potential injuries. exhibitions for players.
The NCAA Football Rules Committee has officially recommended three rule changes, which will need to be approved by the Playing Rules Oversight Committee in April. These are the following:
- A clock running after first downs (like the NFL), except for the last two minutes of each half.
- Prohibit the use of consecutive timeouts by a team.
- Postponing a foul in the second or fourth quarter rather than playing a timeless down.
What you need to know about recommendations
The recommendations come after the annual rules committee meetings in Indianapolis this week. The Division I Football Competitions Committee also met this week to discuss the matter. All three of these rule changes received broad support. Other more dramatic ideas – like running the clock after incomplete passes – didn’t have enough support to move forward at that point.
Tulane athletic director Troy Dannen, who chairs the competition committee, said Athleticism this week that he expects the three rule changes combined to eliminate seven to 10 games per game.
“It’s a first step,” Dannen said.
The question of the duration of the game is twofold. College football games take too long, far longer than their NFL counterparts. And, perhaps more importantly for this discussion, they average far more games per game.
College football games average about 180 total plays per game, compared to about 155 in the NFL, according to an NCAA study of the 2022 season (which included special teams). It’s both a player safety issue with an expanded CFP on the way and a fan engagement issue, as FBS games average nearly three hours and 30 minutes, while the NFL average is from 3:10 a.m.
With so many plays per game, there are more opportunities for collisions and injuries. Experts call them “exposures”. Commissioners, perhaps most notably the SEC’s Greg Sankey, have been saying for more than a year that there are ways to expand PCP in a safe way by looking for ways to reduce exposures.
“These are not games,” he said last winter after expansion talks initially stalled. “These are exhibitions. It’s contacts. So you think, how can we adjust gaming in the modern era to meet a different set of demands? »
ACC Commissioner Jim Phillips has campaigned over the past year to look at college football holistically before making changes to any particular area. Colloquially, this is called the 365 Day Review, and it includes an overview of the number of games per game, among other topics. Phillips supports all three proposed rule changes and said they have support in all 10 conferences in the Football Bowl subdivision.
“With the expansion of the Playoffs into 2024, a thorough review of options to reduce the total number of games has been a priority among FBS commissioners,” Phillips said. “If you’re going to extend the Playoffs, it can’t be to the same number of games. You have to try to call that back.
“It’s the first step. It’s not the only step, but it’s something that we hope to integrate into the next 2023 football season.”
Why this? Why now?
It would be essentially impossible for college football executives to add games and then get paid a lot more money without doing anything else, especially in the current climate. Schools and conferences know they need to do more for athletes, whether in the form of health and safety protocols or possibly putting more money in their pockets.
You can’t ask college football players to potentially play 17 games in a season without doing anything to mitigate the risks associated with more snaps. The three rule changes that have been recommended won’t bring drastic changes – Dannen estimated they will affect seven to 10 games per game – but it’s all helpful. The NCAA continued to tweak its launch rules to make this game safer until it found what worked best. This process could be similar.
Some of these proposals were considered a year ago but did not receive enough support to be adopted. What changed? Well, the presidents and chancellors who oversee the PCP have officially approved the expansion from a four-team field to 12.
“Maybe that was the straw that broke the camel’s back, because we now know for sure that there are scenarios where games are added to people’s schedules,” Dannen said. “Another thing that triggered this was the ACC’s call to take a holistic look at football. We went through recruitment rules, schedules, the role of coaches and analysts. It was also one of the areas.
Dannen said there “wasn’t really support at any level” for the idea of running the clock after incomplete passes.
“We’ll want to look at anything that takes games out of the game,” Dannen said. “(Running the clock) would take a lot of games out of the game – probably 15 or 20. But it’s hard to stick together when it’s so contrary to the way we time the sport of football.”
Dannen expects the concept to continue to be reviewed along with any other ideas that come up over the next year.
“The steps we take are measured, in terms of the clock,” said Georgia coach Kirby Smart, co-chairman of the rules committee. “We are going to find out a lot this year how much that changes. But I think it’s a smart move to look in that direction as we look to face more games.
(Photo: Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)