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NCAA extends play clock
Pace of play addressed again by rules committee

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 02/13/08

Two years ago the NCAA Football Rules committee, concerned that games were running too long, put in a series of changes in hopes of speeding things up.

They worked. In 2006 the average game time dropped from 3:21 to 3:07 but fans and coaches howled because there were about 13 fewer plays and five fewer points per game than in 2005.

So last season college football went back to the old rules and the bad news is that games averaged 3:22, a minute longer than in 2005. The good news is that plays and scoring also went back to the desired 2005 levels.

In an attempt to produce more plays and points in a shorter game, the rules committee went back to the drawing board and on Wednesday recommended a few changes for the upcoming season.

"Hopefully this time we got it right," said Michael Clark, the chairman of the rules committee and head coach at Bridgewater (Va.) College.

The first is the implementation of a 40/25-second play clock, similar to that of the NFL. At the end of every play, the 40-second clock will start, which is the rule in the NFL. The old college rules featured a 25-second clock that did not start until the officials marked the ball ready for play. On a change of possession, the first play will be run on a 25-second clock.

A number of college coaches have said they wanted the 40-second play clock because officials from league to league used different amounts of time to mark the ball ready for play.

"We think this will give us some consistency when it comes to pace of play," said Connecticut coach Randy Edsall, who is a member of the rules committee.

"If the NFL boys are doing it we seem to want to do it, too," South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said. "I think it favors the teams that run the no-huddle. That gives the quarterback a bunch more time to stand up there and read the defense."

The rules committee made another recommendation that will certainly shorten the game.

After a player runs out of bounds and the ball is made ready to play, the official will start the game clock. Under the old rules the game clock would not start until the ball was snapped. This new rule will not apply in the final two minutes of the first half and the final two minutes of the game.

In other recommended rules changes announced Tuesday:

A coach will get an extra instant replay challenge if his first one is upheld. Under the old rule the coach had only one challenge whether he was right or wrong. Under the new rule the coach, if he's right, will get one extra challenge, but no more.

If a kickoff goes out of bounds, the receiving team will have the option of taking the ball on its own 40-yard line. The previous rule gave the receiving team the ball on the 35-yard line.

The incidental five-yard facemask penalty will be eliminated. Only the 15-yard facemask penalties will be called.

A "horse collar" tackle, where the defender grabs inside the back collar of the shoulder pads to pull the runner down, will now be a personal foul.

There will no longer be sideline warnings for players and coaches who crowd onto the field during the game. The official may assess a five-yard penalty without a warning for the infraction.

The recommendations must still be reviewed and given final approval by the NCAA's Playing Rules Oversight Panel, which meets in April.