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]
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.