Will New College Football Rules Have a Negative Effect on the Game?

Tim CroleySenior Analyst IAugust 19, 2008

With all the recent rule changes in college football, especially with the changes made to how the clock is kept, I am very surprised not to see more people complaining.

Perhaps you are livid, as I am sure most college football fans will be when they realize the severity of these changes.  But just in case you are unaware of these changes, I will quickly explain what has taken place.

First, those governing powers of NCAA have decided that college football games are taking too long.  If you remember back to a couple of years ago, there were changes made to how the clock was kept, and as a result games were shortened by about 15 minutes and 15 or so plays.

Last year those rules were reversed, and as a result the games went back to about the same lengths as before.  Apparently this has upset those in charge.

The questions I raise are: What does it matter if games are 15 minutes longer?  What is so wrong with having a long football game?  Is this being done to help the players not be on the field as long?

Or, as I suspect, does this have something to do with money?

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The new rule changes will drastically affect the game as we know it.

On kickoffs, the clock will begin as soon as the ball is kicked, instead of when it is received.  For me this is not the worst thing in the world, but with each kickoff, the team losing on the scoreboard is also losing precious seconds.

The play clock will now be set at 40 seconds, instead of the traditional 25, beginning as soon as the play ends.  This was initiated to give more “consistency” because of the timing it took with different officials placing the ball ready for play.

However, the play clock will remain at 25 seconds for one occasion: on the first play following a change of possession.  The game clock will also start with the play clock instead of when it is snapped.

Keeping up so far?

Also, when a player runs out of bounds, the clock will begin with the 40-second play clock instead of when the ball is snapped.  Don’t fear though: This rule will not apply in the final two minutes of each half.  So when your team blows their timeouts early in the half, don’t worry—you can still find a way to stop the clock under two minutes.

These are some of the more significant changes.

Think they have no bearing on your team?  Just wait until you get down in the fourth quarter.  If the other team has the ball and is able to pick up several consecutive first downs, they may potentially waste away half the quarter!

Some will say that defenses will just have to stop them then.  That is true, but you just wait until your team falls behind with the clock rolling off 15 extra seconds each down.

Steve Spurrier, head coach of South Carolina, is one advocate of the new changes, according to Tony Barnhart of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.  He thinks that if it’s good enough for the NFL, then it’s good enough for college.  The advantage, according to him, goes to the no-huddle team, giving quarterbacks more time to read defenses.

USA Today reports that Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville, who is on the rules committee, approved the changes to allow for shorter games, thus helping those teams who play in extreme heat or cold.  He referred to the changes as just an “experiment” that can always be changed back next season.

So what about this year?  Is the rules committee willing to allow one season to be determined by an “experiment” when every college football fan knows that each season is so precious?

What if this is your team’s Cinderella year, but they had one less possession that could have been a game-winning drive in the upset over an archrival and vaulted them to an undefeated BCS berth?

Well, the truth is some fans may not realize the significance of the changes.  They may just think the game just “happened” to end that way.

That may be okay for them, but not for this fan.

If my team comes up short because some team ran the ball and killed the clock with the extra 15 seconds, I may look back and know my team should have stopped them.  After all, both teams play by the same rule, and my team may do it to someone else.  But the reality is, I will probably be upset.

So I am just wondering why I haven’t heard more noise over the changes.

Other changes to rules include the following.

Coaches will now be awarded an extra challenge if they are successful on their first challenge.  Two will be the limit for a coach in a game.

If a kickoff goes out of bounds, the receiving team can opt to start at the 40 instead of the traditional 35-yard line.

All face mask penalties will now be personal fouls for 15 yards.  No more incidentals.

The “horse collar” rule will now be in effect, so no more tackling by the back of the shoulder pads collar.

Sideline warnings for players and teams will be eliminated.  Instead, an automatic five-yard penalty will be enforced.

Now don’t get me wrong—not all changes are bad.  But you will have to work hard to convince me that the clock changes will help the game.  If the changes remain, the game will forever be altered.

I agree with the USA Today quote from Oregon head coach Mike Bellotti, who said it best: “I am appalled at the rule changes.  They are major and very severe and will change the game as we know it."

Finally, I respect Steve Spurrier as a coach, but the reason I love college football is because it’s not the NFL!  So why would I want MY college football to changed to be more like the NFL game I don’t really love!

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