The Football Rules Committee was right. An average game lasts too long, especially when it comes to games telecast by CBS.
The network's telecasts averaged 3:47:04 to blow away the competition. By comparison, the average game in the 2007 season lasted 3:23:04. That's up from 3:21:17 in 2005 and 3:07:24 in 2006, when the controversial 3-2-5e rule not only dramatically cut the length of games, but the number of plays.
The 3-2-5e rule was abolished for the 2007 season and the average number of plays returned to 143.42, on par with the 2005 average of 140.71 (a difference of plus-2.71 plays).
What is disturbing is that the average length of a game increased 1:47 from 2005. Hence the conundrum facing the Football Rules Committee: How to keep the integrity of the game in place while not damaging revenue streams (often referred to as commercials).
A study conducted by Marty of cfbstats, the ultimate site for college football stats junkies, and Matt from the excellent College Sports Schedules, has given us another network-by-network breakdown. We're once again happy to serve as the press agent for this project — as we did last year — and you can view the full details of this year's study at cfbstats.com.
Extracting commercialization from a telecast is difficult. Perhaps the best method is to examine the impact on a game. The chart above shows the average number of plays per minute in a 2007 telecast. As you can see, the fewest number of plays per minute belonged to the networks whose games also lasted the longest, suggesting increased commercial time.
Above and below we have charted the plays per minute of networks who have been broadcasting games each of the past three years. (TBS, NFL, Big Ten Network, Versus and the mtn. did not meet the three-year criteria.)
You can see the impact of the 3-2-5e rule in 2006 across the board and how the number of plays rebounded in 2007 to meet or exceed the 2005 averages. It's also interesting to note that CBS and Fox have had a stranglehold on fewest plays since 2005, again suggesting that games broadcast by these networks have higher than average commercial breaks.
Our thoughts: While commercialization is arguably the leading contributor to games dragging on to no end, other factors — increased passing, overtime and instant replay — are also to blame:
Passing: Blame this on the popularity of spread offenses. Increased passing results in an increase in clock stoppages. Simple as that.
Overtime: While this has been a huge success, the rules committee blew it by not taking a look at overtime rules in an attempt to speed play. We will address this in detail on Thursday. Stay tuned.
Instant replay: A necessary evil, but one that can be streamlined. That's why the Wiz was mystified that the rules committee — while trying to shorten games — would agree to give coaches an extra replay challenge if the first one is upheld. Instituting this rule guarantees longer games.