The NCAA has implemented several rules changes this season, some of which affect the clock:
— Following a play that goes out of bounds, the game clock will now start on the referee’s signal and not on the snap, with the exception of the last two minutes of each half.
— The play clock will be set to 40 seconds and will start when the ball becomes dead on the previous play. A 25-second clock that will begin on the referee’s signal will be used after a penalty administration, measurement, change of possession and timeouts, whether they be charged, media or injury.
Ah, game times. The NCAA keeps trying to find that sweet spot that will satisfy coaches, fans and… the 800 pound gorilla in the room.
… Trying to shorten games — because television networks aren’t reducing their commercial time — was the primary motive for the change. Another new rule that should have a bigger impact in that aspect is the game clock now will start once the ball has been made ready following a play that goes out of bounds.
Under old rules, the game clock would not start until the snap, and the old rules have been left in place for the final two minutes of the half and game.
Two years ago, sweeping changes that included starting the game clock after changes of possession resulted in the length of games going from 3 hours, 21 minutes to 3:07. There were roughly 13 fewer plays a game, however, and five fewer points per contest than the year before.
When the NCAA scrapped that plan and went back to the old rules a year ago, the number of plays and points returned to former levels. The length of games, to nobody’s surprise, ballooned to 3:22.
Three significant rules changes in three years. I have to admit some sympathy for Urban Meyer when he complains that
“The clock rule is the third one in three years, and I don’t want to get started on that because I don’t agree with it,” Florida’s Urban Meyer said. “You keep moving that hat around a little bit. Now coaches have to relearn a rule that’s going to have a significant impact on the game. How significant? I have no idea, but it just keeps changing and that bothers me.”
The “I have no idea” part – I’m not sure anybody does at this point. Part of that may be because there’s something of an all things to all men component to the new rules. Here’s what Mark Richt has to say with regard to that:
“The officials are going to get out of the way, and there might still be 30 or 32 seconds on that 40-second clock, where before the most you would ever have is 25 at the line,” Richt said. “I think you’re going to see more teams quick-snapping it, and I think you’re going to see more teams also simulating like they’re going to quick-snap to try to recognize what’s going on and then sit there at the line of scrimmage and have literally 20 or 25 seconds to deliberate.
“That might drive some people nuts. I don’t know.”
There are some limits. The offense doesn’t have complete control over the clock. As the article notes, offenses still can’t substitute freely or go from one personnel group to another and snap the ball quickly, and defenses still will get time to make their own personnel changes. Plus, there will be a number of situations during a game where the clock rules revert to the previous regime.
Still in all, it could be an interesting experiment. Game management becomes an even bigger chess match between coaches that want to generate as many plays as possible and those that want to shorten the clock as much as they can. The effect of the new rules on certain statistics related to game management, such as number of plays run and time of possession will tell some of this story. Let’s just hope that this set of changes makes us happy… or at least comfortable. Enough with the tweaking.
Speaking of happy, let’s let Richt have the last word here.
… Georgia’s Mark Richt labeled himself “jealous” when asked about the change, because he tried to play fast earlier this decade with David Greene at quarterback…
“Seven years ago, I would have been thrilled about it,” Richt said. “My ambition was to play as fast as we could possibly play and run the no-huddle and get to the line of scrimmage as fast as possible and get the ball snapped in a hurry and run as many plays as possible. We were not allowed to do that.
“In my opinion, the officials in this league were more deliberate than in any league I had been. The SEC, to me, was grinding it to a halt. Now, all of a sudden, you can play as fast as you want to play.”