DIII coaches sound off on proposed clock rules

Photo by Darrell Gest

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A report surfaced from Sports Illustrated’s Ross Dellenger earlier this week that the NCAA is looking to implement four rule changes intended to speed up the time of the game.

Two of the four proposed rule changes caught the eye, and ire, of Division III coaches. One likely change is continuing to run the clock after first downs except for inside of two minutes during either half. The other change is running the clock following an incomplete pass once the referee spots the ball for the next down.

The new rules intend to speed up televised games that average three and a half to four hours. But Division III doesn’t have media timeouts like Division II or televised games until the semifinals, and their games average a brisk two and a half to three hours.

“Why does everything have to be the same way at all levels? I understand the reasoning behind the rule in Division I, but that shouldn’t affect everyone,” one coach said. “It’s not broken in Division III, so why fix it? We shouldn’t make wholesale changes across every level when only one division has tv games.”

It appears college football is trying to achieve game times at Division I on the same level as the NFL. Both have multiple four-minute television timeouts each quarter, but the professional game typically lasts 2 1/2 to three hours during the regular season. What’s their secret?

Halftime lasts 12 minutes in the NFL, while most college halftimes are 20 minutes long. Why can’t the collegiate game shorten the halftime?

“Shortening the halftime was discussed, but they didn’t want to do that because of the long walks some people have to and from the locker room,” one coach said.

So halftime won’t be shortened because some teams' locker rooms are too far away from the playing field. What happens when Division III games last between 2 to 2 1/2 hours?

“We already have more injuries at this level than I’ve seen at any other level I’ve coached, and I think we would see more injuries because of the physical nature of the game,” one coach noted.

“We have to look at player safety because this is a collision sport,” another coach added. “I’m afraid we’ll see more injuries because our guys won’t have much time between each series of downs.”

That’s certainly not a positive, and that’s not the only issue that arises from the differences in clock rules between Division I and Division III schools.

“It’s going to drastically change the game for us,” one coach said. “After a touchdown, we have 40 seconds to get guys on the field and kick the field goal or go for two while DI has to confirm with replay. It gives them an advantage we don’t have at our level.”

“After a score, the Division I guys get a four-minute media timeout before kickoff,” another coach noted. “We get 30 seconds, and you better be ready to roll, or the play clock will start.”

Like most everything in life, it comes down to money. Should the NCAA have different clock rules for televised and non-televised games? Yes, but the problem is the people making the decisions are trying to maximize their value for future television rights and aren’t concerned about the effect on the rest of college football.

“I think it highlights the continued way that the big schools ramrod their experiences into the rule book, and that has a negative trickle-down effect for the majority of college football,” one coach said. “This is a Power 5 issue, and there will be a negative experience for everyone below that level simply because they’re trying to appease the big media companies.”

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