Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Time is on Our Side | by Pat

Hurrah! The NCAA has decided to scrap Rule 3-2-5e. For those not up to speed on their NCAA regulations (shame on you!), Rule 3-2-5e is the one-year-old collection of regulations that were designed to shorten the length of games. Studies showed that while the games were in fact shorter last year (dropping nearly 14 minutes on average), the time saved came at the expense of actual football rather than from the interminable commerical airtime. Football games were, on average, 12 plays lighter last season.

With fans and coaches up in arms over the new rules, the NCAA Rules Football Committee decided to repeal the new regulations at their yearly meeting, currently underway in Albuquerque.

“The changes we made last year, overall, did not have a positive effect on college football at all levels,” said Michael Clark, chair of the committee and head coach at Bridgewater (Virginia) College. “Our charge is to protect the game and do what is best for college football. Last year’s game lost too many plays, but it accomplished the need to shorten the overall time it takes to play a game. The changes we have made for 2007 balance both of these issues.”

In Rule 3-2-5-e, the committee altered its rule to have the clock start on the snap after a change in possession, as opposed to the 2006 rule which started the clock when the referee signaled the ball ready for play. Also, the committee returned its rules on free kicks to 2005 standards, starting the clock on kickoffs only when the ball is legally touched in the field of play.
The proposed changes still need to be approved by the Playing Rules Oversight Panel on March 12th before becoming the new law of the land.

The committee did propose new rules to keep the games shorter without reducing the number of plays; the full list of tweaks can be checked out at the above link.

The only one that really jumps out at me is the proposal to move kickoffs back from the 35 yard line to the 30 yard line. With ND's troubles with deep kickoffs, an extra 5 yards will make it even more imperative that Ryan Burkhart, Brandon Walker, or whoever handles the kickoffs get enough leg into it so that the balls aren't regularly landing in someone's arms at the 15 yard line. And with a likely reduction in touchbacks, ND's special teams tackling will need to really be on point.

Getting back to the length of the games for a second...for Irish fans, the NBC broadcasts have been a running source of criticism ever since the contract was signed. But credit where credit is due: the home of Dwight Schrute does a much better job of cutting down on the dead air than its peers.

In a superb collaborative effort, Marty of the excellent, Matt of College Sports Schedules, and Gary of Steriod Nation analyzed the length of college broadcasts of all TV networks and found that NBC is the only network that actually improved the plays per minute ratio of their broadcast this past season, so much so that NBC games had more plays/minute than games on ABC, CBS, or ESPN. For a more in-depth breakdown, check out the Wizard of Odds, who rightly should be credited for staying on top of this topic and making sure it got plenty of exposure.

The NBC games are slightly still longer than those on other networks, but NBC managed to bring the overall broadcast length down from an average of 3 hours and 40 minutes in 2005 to 3 hours and 18 minutes in 2006, the biggest drop of any network. The Wiz details the full breakdown here. (It is worth noting that ND played only one overtime game in 2005, and none in 2006, and that's something that likely kept NBC's averages low.)

This is great news, and all the more surprising that the NCAA recognized a mistake and moved quickly to rectify it. And it's nice to know that the home of ND football, NBC, is doing better than the others in delivering a quality product to the fans: a better ratio of football to ads, a superb online pre-game show and webcast of the halftime band performance, the revamped intro, and of course, the retirement of the Halls Fruit Breezer Fan of the Game. Hurrah.