Why speed up college games? Saturdays exist in an idyllic, clock-free sphere for college fans: waking up late, having a drink at an hour usually reserved for people with the DTs, and watching one epic game bleed into another over lackadaisically arranged hours in front of the tv or at the tailgate. Time’s not particularly relevant on a day measured more by the number of beer bottles on the coffee table than by the inconveniences of the clock.
Yet rule gremlins—pressured by television networks and their tight schedules and conference financial interests—ran amok this offseason in the rulebook in an attempt to speed up game. To wit:
For the first time in college football history, the game clock will start at the referee’s ready-for-play signal — not at the snap — following a change of possession. Officials estimate that could reduce the number of plays in a game by a dozen or more.
The other change: The clock will start on the kickoff itself instead of when a player from the receiving team first touches the ball.
Reducing plays and possessions…nah, that won’t affect the game. At. All. Unless you’re playing the game, watching it, or officiating it. Everyone else will be fine, though, and don’t panic: you’ll see the Yella Wood ads you crave in triplicate hourly.
Spurrier’s suggesting underdogs just earned an edge in reducing the number of possessions. Pete Carroll hates it period. Mike Riley’s concerned about the odd sight of ending a game with an empty field. The rules have received universal notice across conference media days, and with an almost universal verdict: they’re total, utter crap.
Speeding up the game shouldn’t fall on the shoulders of officials or players. It should fall with advertisers, who should go live and uninterrupted for the whole course of a game with a single break at the quarters or the half. It works magic for soccer, and rather than being subjected to the torture of watching the same ATV ad fifteen times—WOOOOO!!!—we could see the Yamaha Logo for a languid fifteen to thirty minutes posted up in the upper right hand of the screen accompanied by periodic mentions by the announcers. Hell, put two logos on the screen if you like, so long as they don’t block out the play on the field.
10-20 plays a game=fifteen more viewings of this.
Better yet, sponsor individual players and coaches when you show their names. Since they’re effectively chattel of the NCAA, why not put them on the players names when you introduce them. Chris Leak, sponsored by Turtle Wax. Willie Williams, sponsored by Lil’ Wayne’s new joint, Shot Ya N Da Neck Biotch. Paul Pozlusny, brought to you by Pain: Hurting the Human Species for 500,000 years.
The answer to speeding up games comes in speeding up the ads, not the game itself. But it’ll take a couple of public, embarrassing pants-crapping anticlimaxes at the end of big games to illustrate just what the rule changes entail. Imagine if the OSU/Texas game ends with an empty field after a see-saw thriller? Or the complaints from major programs if the “November Surprise” games they usually pull out at the last second become crippling losses when they lose 10-15 snaps a game? The rules could do marginal wonders for parity, but parity has rarely seemed to be a priority of the CFB Brahmins pulling the strings on rules flubbing like this. The rules don’t innovate; if anything, they point to a failure of imagination on the part of advertisers and the rules committee. Given that this comes from the same people who find the exuberance of youthful celebration penalty-worthy, there's little to get shockedified in that respect.