Last week, the Football Rules Committee made several changes in an attempt to reduce the time of games. We've been examining the changes since, but have yet to hear from the man in the middle of all of this.
Michael Clark, who is the coach at Bridgewater (Va.) College, is also the chairman of the rules committee. We asked Clark if he would explain what the changes could mean to games in 2008 and to clarify the position of the committee in making these changes. Here is what he had to say:
"Length of game is really a product of television (at the Division I level) and the amount of passing that now goes on at all levels of college football. I think what people need to understand is that when the rules committee meets there are a lot of important players sitting around the table.
"Although they are not all voting members, the trainers, game officials and conference commissioners are a few of the groups who are there and have legitimate input into the process. They have different perspectives, an example being that the trainers lobby heavily on safety issues.
"In my time with the group, I do believe all of the Divisions remain committed to keeping the college game the same at all levels. To do this there is some give and take among the groups.
"From an ESPN perspective, I believe 3 hours and 20 minutes is the number they would like to work near [for length of games]. However to do this there has to be all three groups involved and not just the played game itself. Television production has to be more disciplined with time of commercial breaks and piggy-backing replay and commercial time together. College administrators need to keep halftime events tracked tightly and the like. In the past, all game-length responsibility has been pushed on the game product itself.
"It is our hope that the 40-25 clock will add a consistent pace of play. NFL studies show when they made this change it also added four plays per game. The live ball carrier out of bounds happens on average about 12 times a game. A couple of those are in the last two minutes where there will be no change and the handful of plays lost through this should be replaced by the 40-25 pace of play. It should be a push.
"Two years ago there was an overreaction to game length that had a negative impact on college football. Last year we tried to attack dead time in games while returning plays and game time increased beyond the 2005 levels. (Although offense and scoring are a variable here, too.)
"The subtle game-timing adjustments — trying to eliminate second kickoffs with ball being placed on 40, and the referee starting the 20 minutes of halftime after the final play is completed (have those bands ready to go) — we hope this time we got it right. It is a great game."