Monday, May 14, 2007
By Adam Gold
Adam Gold is
program director of the Triangle's "850
the Buzz" and host of "The G-spot with Adam Gold" on
weekdays from 3-7 p.m.
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Timing isn't everything
By Adam Gold
All rights reserved.
In a past life I used to work in network radio.
In one of my many roles, I was the studio host for major college football
games. I anchored from Washington, while the broadcast crew handled things
from the stadium du jour. I gave scores, produced feature stories and
covered the sport while they covered the game.
Back during the Andre Ware and David Klingler
days at the University of Houston, the Cougars threw the ball 50 times a
game as a rule. It was fun to watch, I’m sure it was fun to play, and I know
it was fun for the highlight reels.
But, it wasn’t fun if you were double parked,
had a plane to catch, or wanted to have dinner with your wife on a Saturday
The games took nearly four hours to play — and
we missed our reservations downtown.
Clearly, that was an extreme case, but over the
last several years college football games had crept up to the point that the
3½-hour television window isn’t long enough to hold the entire game. Games
that kick off at 3:30 spill over into the 7 o’clock hour with so much
regularity that it’s almost unnoticeable.
Last year, the NCAA did something about it. A
rules oversight panel, with input from the American Football Coaches
Association, approved changes to the way the game was timed that would
hopefully shorten the game and get everyone home before “Meet the Press”
The clock did not stop
following a change of possession, something not really glaring in the middle
of the second quarter of a 10-10 game, but fairly critical when your alma
mater was racing onto the field down by a score with a minute to go. All the
while your rivals were taking their sweet time getting back onto the field.
Why should they be in any hurry, right?
On kickoffs, the clock
started when the kicker made contact with the ball instead of when the ball
was fielded by the returning team. The time saved was roughly five seconds.
I’m not entirely sure why this change was implemented, but it created the
hilarious scenario of teams intentionally going offsides to waste more time.
Whether you liked those
changes or loathed them, there was no mistaking the fact that they were
effective. Games were — on average — 14 minutes shorter in 2006 than in
2005, thus providing more time for Lee Corso to don his Brutus the Buckeye
swollen nut head.
Coaches, however, were
unhappy with the “new” game. They found that the new timing method cost them
anywhere from 10-15 plays per game and that it was more difficult for teams
to rally from second-half deficits.
Let’s handle these issues
separately, starting with the latter one:
If teams were finding it
more difficult to rally in the fourth quarter it was likely because they
stunk up the stadium for the first 55 minutes, so I’m just going to dismiss
this complaint out of hand.
If the head coach
couldn’t figure out that a quicker-paced game — with what amounted to a
running clock as in soccer — meant that you had to get into your “hurry up”
offense a little earlier, then said head coach might just want to look in
the mirror to find his problem. Yogi Berra, that noted philosopher/football
fan, used to say, “It get’s late early out there.”
Oh, the genius of Yogi.
The other complaint was
staggering. When the coaches signed off on the new timing rules, just where
did they think the gains were coming from? A shortened game was always going
to have fewer plays. They didn’t think the networks were going to give up
commercial time, did they?
The coaches were smart
enough to recognize that their game was dragging closer and closer to the
four-hour mark and that something had to be done, yet they were too dumb to
realize that any changes to the timing rules would result in fewer plays.
I’m starting to think
that playbooks are a little too big for these guys. Maybe that’s why
everyone’s got color-coded cheat sheets and the quarterbacks have the game
plans on their wrist bands.
So, those rules are gone
and we’re headed back to the 2005 system in 2007 — with some alterations.
They’ll kick off from the 30 instead of the 35, with the intention of having
fewer touchbacks. And, after media timeouts, teams will have 15 — instead of
25 — seconds to run a play. That ought to cut out a good minute to a minute
and a half from your average Pirates game.
It’s clear that the
coaches don’t want a shorter game at all, and I’m not sure that anyone else
— except maybe sportswriters on deadline — cares either. I mean, I don’t see
a lot of people staring at their watch at Dowdy-Ficklen, do you?
So, you have to ask
yourself why they did this in the first place.
If you really want to
change the way the game is timed for the better, the solution is so simple
it’s scary. Adopt the NFL clock.
Unlike in college, the
pro clock runs after a first down. The clock continues to run when a player
goes out of bounds with the ball, except in the closing two minutes of the
first half and the final five minutes of the second half. And, we get the
The NFL does a lot of
things right, and they know all about making their game TV-friendly, so why
not just copy its proven formula for timing the game.
I’m not suggesting that
we make all the players wear their socks exactly alike, or only allow the
coaches to wear suits made by Reebok. All I’m saying is that NFL games are
often over in less than three hours.
Yes, there are fewer
‘But, tell me this,
Einstein in a headset,' you say. 'How do you propose we shorten the game
without reducing the number plays?’
Whenever a football buddy
tells you that Coach So and So is a genius, remind him of this issue. He'll
be cured forever.
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06/19/2007 07:59:45 PM