NCAA reverses changes in rules

Number of plays had decreased

College football

April 13, 2007|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,Sun Reporter

The NCAA has approved football timing changes that will bring back plays that were lost last season because of rules revisions designed to quicken games.

In effect, the NCAA yesterday returned to the rules used two seasons ago, with the clock starting on a snap after a change of possession rather than when the referee signals the ball ready for play and time beginning on kickoffs only when the ball is legally touched, not when it is kicked.

The rules oversight panel also moved kickoffs back from the 35-yard line to the 30 -- which should increase the number of returns and their distance -- and limited the play clock to 15 seconds after commercial breaks in TV games.

"It's all positive," said Towson's Gordy Combs, a member of the rules committee of the American Football Coaches Association, which makes recommendations to the NCAA. "People were worried about the integrity of the game. Records would not be broken and that has been addressed."

Said Navy's Paul Johnson, another committee member: "I think what happened is the committee rectified some of the mistakes they put in previously. So many teams were losing so many plays out of a game. I think this helps."

Rules will also limit charged timeouts in TV games to 30 seconds, plus the 25-second play clock, although certain contractual agreements could override this policy.

Last year's changes cut about 14 minutes off games, but created problems. Trailing teams would sprint onto the field, while teams with the lead stalled because they could use 25 seconds without running a play.

Maryland coach Ralph Freidgen estimated there were four occasions when that happened and the official wouldn't let the Terps snap the ball.

"So I'm being penalized because the defense wasn't out on the field," he said. "The [ref] said, `If they're not there on time, it will be defensive delay of the game.' I said, `But how does that help me when I'm dealing with less than 25 seconds to start the play? What if I gotta shift, what if I gotta motion, what if I gotta check? You won't let me snap the ball and the clock is running down.'"

Said Johnson: "The old rules really bothered the coaches and really affected games in Division II and III. You have a player going to a Division III school paying $40,000 a year and the rules were taking 20 plays out of their games. It had a negative effect. And in some cases people were taking advantage of the rules. You can't blame the coaches; they're trying to win."

Combs estimates at the Division I level, the old standards were costing teams eight to 10 plays per start and that teams were rushing to the line, going to no-huddle formations and were often unprepared to play on a referee's signal.

Morgan State's Donald Hill-Eley -- who returned yesterday from the funeral ceremonies for the legendary Eddie Robinson -- said the old rules "put teams at a disadvantage when close games came down to seconds. The initial rules changes weren't so much about coaches, but TV trying to squeeze down the time."

Television prefers games in three-hour blocks for programming purposes.

"I think sometimes we're trying to shorten the game," Friedgen said, "and yet take five minutes on the review play.

"One thing I haven't seen them do is shorten the commercials."

Sun reporter Heather A. Dinich and the Associated Press contributed to this article.

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