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February 14, 2007

Game-shortening rules may be on way out

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Rules that shortened college football games and college football coaches' tempers were recommended to be repealed by the NCAA Rules Committee on Wednesday.

The committee's opinions are forwarded to the Playing Rules Oversight Panel for approval. The Panel meets on March 12.

The rules, which were implemented last season, were designed to shorten game times. It has been estimated the new rules trimmed games by an average of 14 minutes, but it also led to 12 fewer plays per game.

"The changes we made last year, overall, did not have a positive effect on college football at all levels," Michael Clark, chair of the committee and coach of Bridgewater (Va.) College said in an NCAA release. "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."

Last year's rule changes often caused confusion and led to controversy.

In the 2006 season, the game clock started on a kickoff and when whistled in play after a change in possession.

Previously, the clock did not start after a free kick until legally touched by the receiving team and not until the ball was snapped after a change in possession.

Starting the clock immediately after a change of possession changed the game's dynamics and hindered teams' chances to post come-from-behind victories.

Coaches were also able to manipulate the rules, as Wisconsin's Bret Bielema did just before halftime in a 13-3 victory over Penn State.

The Badgers took a 10-3 lead on John Stocco's 14-yard touchdown pass to Paul Hubbard 23 seconds before halftime. Bielema's strategy on the ensuing kickoff did not allow Penn State a chance to answer that score.

Bielema instructed the Badgers to intentionally go offside on two kickoffs to drain the clock without giving Penn State a final possession.

He was criticized for violating the "spirit" of the rule. In the end, the committee may have determined the rule itself to be the bigger violation.

The committee still feels the need to shorten games, and offered new plans to accomplish that. Their recommendations include:

Liming the play clock to 15 seconds after television timeouts
Kicking off from the 30-yard line rather than the 35
Shortening timeouts by 30 seconds
Enforcing all penalties against kicking teams at the end of the run
Starting the play clock when the ball is handed to the kicker on free kicks
Limiting instant replay reviews to 2 minutes.

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