Steve Shaw has his own version of the Process, it seems.
Inside the SEC office this winter in Birmingham, Alabama, three SEC employees are going through the mind-numbing task of retiming several college football games as if different playing rules applied.
How many plays might be lost and how much actual time could be saved if the game clock kept running after first downs? What if the clock started after incompletions on the ready-for-play signal? These questions are now getting asked as the average Football Bowl Subdivision game steadily grows longer, having reached three hours and 24 minutes in 2016 — up 12 minutes from 2010.
The work by SEC officiating coordinator Steve Shaw, director of video operations Cole Cunningham and video assistant Robert Milligan is not an inexact science. Through side-by-side cut-ups of video from coaches film and television broadcasts, they are analyzing different kinds of games — such as those with lots of incompletions and others without many passes — to come up with ballpark numbers on saved time.
“The offense right now completely controls the tempo of the game,” Shaw said. “But if you change the rules, you can change the behavior of a team. You may see ball-control teams that, on an incomplete pass, literally slow down and let that whole time run. You could have up-tempo teams speed up and be ready to snap because there’s more urgency with the clock moving. What would those rules mean as it looks today? I don’t think anybody has the answer to that.”
The SEC plans to provide its results for the Division I Football Competition Committee and NCAA Football Rules Committee meetings in late February and early March. The ACC did a similar study by examining eight games and found a “few minutes” would be saved with a running clock after first downs or if the clock started after incompletions, ACC officiating coordinator Dennis Hennigan said.
No major actions on game lengths are expected in 2017 since this is an off year for rules changes unrelated to player safety. But there’s a multi-faceted, big-picture conversation starting to occur again related to game lengths that involve fan enjoyment, player safety and competitive balance. They’re all intertwined to these central questions: Has college football shifted too much to offense, and if so, is there a desire to swing the pendulum back?
Everybody’s using analysts these days.
Yeah, the Competition Committee is a new thing. It’s what organizations that don’t know what to do do best — form committees to scratch their collective asses and make proposals so others can have something over which to stroke their chins and ponder.
In the meantime, we’re back to the same old, same old. College football looks for a way to rob a few minutes here and there to keep the ESPN train on schedule. (Although it’ll be dressed up in concerns about the fans and player safety robes, to be sure.)
“There’s a growing sense on the administrator side we need to make sure we’re keeping an eye on length of game,” said NCAA associate director Ty Halpin, the liaison for the football rules committee. “Certainly, the television partners are part of that. But there’s also a factor of how attractive it is to spend your entire Saturday at a game. Plenty of people want to continue to do that, but we have to make sure the next generation of fans also want to be a part of that.”
Is there some sort of swelling fan movement complaining about the time spent on Saturdays at football games I’ve missed? The only bitching I’ve consistently noticed is over the seemingly interminable television time outs as Buicks are hocked to a public that’s usually scrambling for the restrooms while the paying customers are stuck watching the time out official stand around waiting to signal the game back in.
Unless you’re American Football Coaches Association executive director Todd Berry, I guess.
“I went to eight or nine games this year, and by midway through the third quarter, I was getting tired,” Berry said. “I never recognized it as a coach because you have so many things you’re thinking about. But for the spectator, you can only watch the entertainment on the field during breaks so many times before it gets really old.”
Todd sounds like the kind of guy who tells the people in front of him to quit standing up so much during the game.
You can read the rest of Solomon’s article, if you so choose, but all it boils down to is a lot of nibbling at rules changes without really knowing much about what kind of effect they’d have on the game, and, of course, nary a word about there being too many commercial breaks during games. It’s almost as if these people are bound and determined to screw up a good thing.