Sunday, August 3, 2008

NCAA Football: It Isn't Broke, But They're Fixing It for the Money

Obviously, this happened several months ago, so it's shame on me for not mentioning it sooner. But, without further ado, the NCAA's rule changes for this upcoming season of college football include the following, with my ostensible reasoning for the rule change in brackets:

  • Elimination of the 5-yard facemask [player safety]
  • Coaches get an extra replay if their first challenge is upheld [common sense]
  • When a kickoff goes out of bounds, the receiving team can take it on the 40 [encouraging KO returns].
  • Horse collar tackles are a 15-yard penalty [player safety]
  • No more sideline warnings - 5 yard penalties [game control]
  • The adoption of the 40-second play clock - NFL style. [TV/money]
  • After a player runs out of bounds, the game clock starts upon the spotting of the ball, not the snap. [TV/money]
My problem is with the last two, and the reasoning behind them.

If you're a college football fan, you'll remember the rule changes that occurred in 2005, which were designed to speed the game up. After a great deal of fan outcry, the changes were reversed in 2006, and game times returned to pre-2005 levels. The rule changes lowered the average time of an NCAA game from 3:21 to 3:07, but drove fans nuts - the fans were used to their traditional college game pace, and they felt it had been abused. Seems to me the same thing is happening again.

Here's what anyone should ask themselves when these rule changes come out: why is it necessary to mess with what's already working? Obviously, rule changes that promote player safety are great ideas, as well as basic common-sense ideas for emerging rules issues like the challenge/replay system. But the other rules changes ask us to consider the motives involved.

Who wants the time changes? Fans: heck no - they want more football! Coaches: maybe - they want to play, ostensibly, the most football, but I suppose shorter games makes their work days shorter. Players: no - I can't imagine they want to shorten the games. Individual colleges - I don't think so, as longer games make more concessions money and such, and they keep the fans happy and in the seats.

The people behind the time changes are the TV corporations, pure and simple. They want the games to be more evenly paced [for their commercials] and fit into their three-hour timeslots [for their programming decisions]. I call bullshit. The execs are the only ones who want the games to be shorter and more predictable; the fans, players, and coaches who enjoy the college game enjoy the length/unpredictable nature of the college game.

What's even more hilarious are the comments of the coaches involved in the changes:

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

Why the hell is the head coach at Bridgewater (Va.) College in charge of the NCAA rules committee?

Also, Michael, you didn't get it right. The timing system wasn't broke, and you fixed it worse.

"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.

Again, maybe it's easier on Randy Edsall's playcalling if the game is more predictable, but nobody WANTS that consistency... except the TV networks.

And the most damning comment of them all comes from the ol' ballcoach:

"If the NFL boys are doing it we seem to want to do it, too," South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said.

Game, set, match. Until recently, the college game didn't want to be the NFL, and it gained a serious fanbase because of it. Now, when people realize just exactly how much you can make - 3.375 *10^9 dollars per year for the NFL, which is more than willing to capitulate to the networks for that princely sum. College football is starting to realize that it can make that kind of jack for football-obsessed fans everywhere in America who need their fix on both Saturday and Sunday.

If college football fans really value the quality of their traditional college game, they'll stand up and make noise and get the changes reversed like they did in 2006. If not, another slice of the traditional/pure/aesthetic/"atmosphere" pie of American sports will be gobbled up to feed the TV networks' ratings.


Tonus said...

This is what happens when TV revenue becomes so large. The networks pay out millions (billions?) to the NCAA the same way they pay out billions to the major pro sports. What happens when TV is paying out that kind of money to broadcast your sport? They start calling the shots, and you will let them, because that money spends really well.

Anonymous said...

I hope they leave the "OK in the BCS and Big Fav Rule" intact. Goodness gracious money is nice. In all seriousness though, the game will just be played at a quicker tempo. Will it lose some luster? Maybe. This is the golden rule, after all. What did we expect?

Bengoodfella said...

I don't really like the changes they have made nor do I like the fact the networks are calling the shots. I guess just as great college basketball games are interrupted on the 16, 12, 8, and 4 minute mark even though a timeout could have been called at 4:05 and I have to deal with it, I am going to have to deal with this as well. I just hope it does not make that big of a difference in the game play.

Martin said...

If one remembers 2005, the game actully slowed down, evn though it took less time to play. The pace of the game was a lot slower, with far fewer plays happening each game. The only thing that got sped up was the game ended 15 minutes earlier. Who the hell cares about that other then the networks? It's like listening to the networks bitch about baseball games taking too long when 36 minutes of each broadcast are nothing more then commercials. Between that and the overmanaging of bullpens thanks to LaRussa, baseball games are a good 45 minutes longer then they should be.

I prefer the college game to the NFL in terms of rules, and the more they make it like the NFL, the less I enjoy it.

dan-bob said...

Hear hear, Martin!

Andy said...

My beef isn't so much with the 40 second play clock, because that's about how long it took between plays once the ball was spotted and everything, but the out of bounds rule is just ludicrous. Do they really think that this is a good idea? Please slap the "WRONG" and "dumb ideas" label on this!

Chris W said...

Yeah, no shit. Do they think fans are watching games saying "TOO MUCH ACTUAL GAME PLAY. Can't we find a way to make the clock tick while plays aren't actually being run?"

fucking idiots. At least make the clock stop completely for OOB in the 4th quarter...not just the last 2 minutes...if you're gonna make this fucking rule.

Anonymous said...

Correct me if i'm wrong, but isn't Bridgewater a D-III school? Why is this guy on the FBS Rules committee if he coaches at a school that plays in a playoff system?