Just about every sport could be improved with some kind of rule change. Football, being the most complicated of all American sports in terms of its rules (which, for what it’s worth, is why I think the officiating seems so subpar at all levels — it’s just too darned complex for a bunch of humans to adjudicate), has a lot of options on this front.
In recent years, the NFL has been aggressive in terms of rules changes that are designed to insert both a little more spice (longer PAT kicks) and safety (shorter kickoffs, touchbacks to the 25-yard-line).
As stodgy as the NFL often is, college football tends to move even more slowly when it comes to rules changes — likely because there are more stakeholders, and it’s harder to create a consensus.
For today, though, we’re giving you a genie. You get one wish with regards to this question:
What one rule would you change in college football?
Obviously, your decision here depends on what it is you’re looking to improve. Since I think the game is already fundamentally pretty great, I’m not looking for a way to radically change the play on the field. Instead, I’m looking for ways to make the fan experience better. And for me, that comes down to one thing.
Making games shorter.
The length of college football games has become a stain on the sport — when the Cougs have a game on the ESPN family, it’s a running joke every Saturday as to what channel on which the game actually will begin (ESPNU? ESPNews?), since the preceding game inevitably runs into next.
It’s actually one reason why I haven’t made it back to Pullman as much as I would like; I like to travel with my family, but taking a trio of children aged 10 and younger to a 7:30 p.m kickoff that will end close to midnight is not my idea of an enjoyable experience. And I’d be willing to bet WSU’s overall attendance also suffers because of this, as those who might otherwise drive down from Spokane for a game aren’t real enthused about getting home at 1 a.m.
Ever notice the NFL doesn’t really have this issue? Barring something unusual, you can virtually count on an NFL game fitting in the three-hour broadcast window it’s allotted. That’s on purpose.
The reason for the difference is fairly simple — college football just has a crap ton more clock stoppages:
- Lots more scoring;
- Lower completion percentages, often combined with a higher volume of passing;
- First downs.
Obviously, I don’t want to dramatically reduce scoring — that’s one of the things that makes the sport fun. So it comes down to doing something about the other two in a way that won’t take away from what makes the game great.
PROPOSED*: Clock Stoppages. With the exception of the final two minutes of the second quarter and the final five minutes of the fourth quarter ...
- The clock will no longer stop on first downs.
- The clock will stop on incompletions, but will start again when the ball is placed and ready for snap.
Is the game enhanced by the clock being stopped for 10-15 seconds in the second quarter as we wait for the refs to spot the ball after a first down? Is the game made better by the clock being stopped for 20-30 extra seconds in the first quarter after an incompletion? No? Then get rid of those stoppages and save us all what I think would add up to a pretty significant chunk of time.
However, the game is augmented by those clock-stopping mechanisms being in place when time becomes a factor near the end of each half — the lower level of execution in college football really necessitates these stoppages. So let’s preserve that, particularly at the end of the game, where we actually want those stoppages so that we can see the wild finishes that college football is famous for.
What would you change? I’m particularly interested in those of you that would propose something revolutionary. Answer in the comments below.
*If you want to be a stickler and say I actually proposed two rule changes, be my guest. But since I write the posts, I say it works!