“But yes, we need to cut some plays out of the game.”

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.


Filed under College Football

23 responses to ““But yes, we need to cut some plays out of the game.”

  1. Gaskilldawg

    I was not as dismissive of Todd Berry’s comment as you are. I interpreted it as criticism of the number of television timeouts.

    I don’t want a shorter football game. I want a shorter television production, if that makes sense.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Eh, maybe I’d be more sympathetic if it weren’t for Berry saying in the previous paragraph he’d be okay with any dramatic rules changes, such as a running clock after first downs, as long as they applied to all NCAA divisions… which I presume means even the ones without the lengthy commercial interruptions.


      • Gaskilldawg

        That is what I get for not reading the linked article. Perry Sentell would call me a legal leach.


        • I think it’s safe to assume that the only way you’ll get the guys making the rules to blame ESPN for time problems is by waterboarding them.


          • I agree with Gaskill. I think this is driven by ESPN not liking the overlapping games. They have sold X amount of commercials and have Y amount of time allotted for each game. If the game and the commercials combined runs over the allotted time–it must be the game that is the problem. It could never be the commercials that are the problem. Just like the NFL (and this is why I refuse to watch the NFL)…they are putting the cart before the horse.

            Soccer and the way it is broadcast looks better and better every season in comparison. If there was a match at the same time as a cfb game–even a UGA game, I’d watch the match and record the football game.


          • doofusdawg

            I’m surprised you haven’t brought up the inevitable “restructuring” of the conference tv contracts. I know a cram down when I see one… especially if some of the other financial bubbles burst. When zirp goes away then maybe adgm won’t look quite so bad.

            Then again there will always be a lot of stupid money out there. Especially when it’s not their’s.


  2. Chi-town Dawg

    Didn’t they make some rules changes a few years ago to help shorten the game? It would be interesting to put the stop watch on TV stoppage time now vs. 7-10 years ago, so we could compare how much of the longer games is directly attributed to commercial breaks. The other uncontrollable factor is player injury stoppage.


    • Sherlock

      Yes, they did. IIRC, the changes shortened the game by 10-12 minutes. Now with games being 12 minutes longer than from before the change equates to 20-22 minutes of more commercials. That seems about right.

      I remember most commercial breaks being in the 4 minute range and only happening at semi-natural times e.g. between PAT / FG and kick off, end of quarter, maybe after a punt if . Now it seems as if they still have all of the old tv timeouts with the 3-4 minute breaks, but they stop for 60-90 seconds after every kick, anytime someone is slow to get up, or the offense managed to keep the ball for more than six plays. I went through a CBS game last year counting the time for commercials vs the game. I stopped when the amount of commercials exceeded the hour of game time. IIRC, there were more commercials than plays as well. I deleted all of the games from my DVR. I’ll do a count next season and post the results.


  3. Mark

    College football was the last sport I cared a lot about. Lately, I find myself caring much less about it. Its sad for me too. But eventually, I just got tired of all the back ground noise. Now I consider myself a casual fan and get more entertainment from reading about it.

    I grew up listening to Munson on the radio while fishing with my buddies. If UGA was on TV, I would watch them. Who cared if the game lasted 4 hours? That was part of the pleasure.

    Monopolies rarely improve the mousetrap they are selling because they don’t have to. I think it will take something drastic to change the trajectory of college football for the fans. I am not sure what that drastic thing will be, but right now, college football considers TV to be their customer rather than the fan.


  4. Huntindawg

    Ridiculous. The problem is not how long the game lasts. The problem is that is lasts so long because of the absurd number of commercial interruptions. Touchdown. Commercial. Kickoff. Commercial. Literally they have 7-8 minutes of commercials between a touchdown and first down on the next drive. That’s just one example.


    • Macallanlover

      Agree. They should put a ceiling on number of commercial minutes, price it accordingly, and move on. I also think the number of commercials in the example you provided should be revisited, eliminate the commercial before the XPT, and after the kickoff….even if they need to add another 30 seconds after the point try and the upcoming kickoff…just too disruptive. ESPN/CBS/FOX doesn’t care about the number of commercials, just the dollars generated from ads. Price it at a higher dollar amount per minute and reduce the number, simple solution and corporate marketers will pay it because the demographics are too important to them.


      • DoubleDawg1318

        ^This. I don’t know why they aren’t doing that if game length is a concern.


      • Debby Balcer

        Amen too many commercials can impact the game by killing momentum.


        • Huntindawg

          I bet in a typical broadcasted game that they are complaining lasts too long there are 45 minutes in commercials outside of the halftime break. Someone do the research and tell me how close I am –


  5. DoubleDawg1318

    Yeah, let’s nibble away at the actual product I pay to see on the field, in favor of keeping the commercials I never wanted in the first place.


    • HirsuteDawg

      Not just keeping the commercials but making time to add additional ones.


      • Mark

        Bingo. What’s the over/under on how many years it would be before those “saved” minutes were filled right back up again with commercials?


  6. JCDAWG83

    Give the coaches one review per half and don’t penalize them a time out if it doesn’t go their way. Do away with the review on every catch, fumble, interception, first down, touchdown, etc. If a play is going to be a game changer and a coach is confident in his take, let him call for a review. Do away with the targeting penalty and the resulting 5 minute review period. Replace it by actually calling spearing and enforce it as a personal foul, two personal fouls and the player is ejected. Too many of the people running college football are living under the illusion that the fans are sitting there wanting “to get this thing over with”. The fans love watching football, they hate watching commercials or enduring tv timeouts at the stadium.

    I’d guess the end result is going to be less actual play and the same amount of commercials. TV and the schools are going to continue to “improve” the game experience until no one watches or goes anymore.


  7. Go Dawgs!

    Why in God’s name are they trying to make less of that for which I wait all year?! Make the games longer, not shorter.

    If losing viewers is truly what you’re worried about, ban FBS-FCS matchups. Require that your league partners impose a mandate for more conference games or P5-P5 head to head out of conference games. Make the product better and more watchable. And if you’re worried about retaining viewers until the final whistle, the “few minutes” that are saved by a running clock are a half=measure compared to reducing the number of ad breaks. But we all know y’all aren’t going to do that, right?

    Hey, maybe we can get a stretcher crew to run players off as soon as they fall down injured! That’ll save about five minutes a game, at the very least!


  8. Chico Dawg

    I realize my lead here may run a lot of you off to reading the rest of the comment, but here goes…
    I love European soccer- not the US version because the players suck. But the parallel to the passion associated with the English Premier League and the SEC is quite intriguing. One of the reasons why I like it is that the investment is only 2 hours of my day- primary inhibitor is a running clock, meaning that there are no commercial breaks. The game is about 90 minutes long with half time and extra time-very rarely does it go over 2 hours. HOWEVER- there are tons of commercials while the game is going on; across the top of the screen or even in the bottom right corner- and there are billboards (a la Ebbets Field outfield wall) across the back of the sideline. I say all of that to say this- in spite of the rules of the game, advertisers have found a way to get their product in front of their audience.
    Why can’t they stop messing with the rules of College Football and create different ways for ESPN/ CBS to pay the SEC a butt ton of money for broadcast rights? There are tons of places (between plays for example) where a 10 second commercial can be bought and not take away from watching the game-They shouldn’t monkey with the game product- it’s doing just fine- I love all the offense and all the plays as I would imagine a good bit of us do (except maybe Dantzler who wants every game to finish 7-0) If I am watching at home, I set my DVR and start one hour later than scheduled kickoff- without fail. And my end time is usually about the same. That means that TV is slowing the game down 1 hour. Stop all the bitching about clocks starting after incomplete passes or whatever and fix the real problem! Where it sucks the most is at the stadium- where you are literally sitting there for 1 hour and watching “where’s UGA” or the damn french fry game. You cannot change the channel and there is little else to entertain- thank God for Twitter.


  9. Watch a HS game. Its shocking how fast it feels in comparison.


    • JCDAWG83

      I went to a Georgia Southern game before they moved up to FCS. It was amazing how great the game watching experience was. The flow of the game was so much better than a Georgia game. It almost felt odd seeing one team punt, the other team run their offense out on the field, huddle and run a play, all within about one minute. Seeing a team score a TD, kick a PAT and line up for the kickoff without a five minute break felt like someone was breaking a rule. The entire game took about two and a half hours. The kickoff was at 1:00 and we were back at the tailgate spot (in a lot adjacent to the stadium, what a crazy idea!) before 4:00.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I attended two Div. 3 games this last year and was reminded again how fast they go without the TV timeout man standing on the 20 waiting and waving for the game to restart. I would recommend seeing some of the lower level games. Commercials and TV are driving me away from the Div. 1.