The time has come to quit tinkering with our game.
The NCAA rules committee last week issued a series of confusing proposals that have to do with the "pace" and "tempo" of the game. That's code for -- watch out.
Two years ago this same group applied a bunch of misguided timing rules that cut approximately 16 plays out of each game. Coaches howled, fans protested. The college game, in 2006, was bastardized. Thankfully, the rules were tweaked again in 2007 to give us back our familiar game.
Now the rules committee is proposing NFL rules that are sure to make our college game more like, well, the NFL.
• After the game is declared dead (not counting change of possession or injury), the offensive team will have 40 seconds to snap the ball.
• On out of bounds plays, the clock will start on the signal from the referee, not on the snap of the ball (except in the final two minutes).
These are two rules that have helped compartmentalize NFL games into nice, tidy, three-hour windows. Games in which each team basically runs 62-68 plays.
Last season, the average I-A team ran 72 plays per game. At least six ran 78 per game. Tulsa led the nation running an average of 80.4 plays. That offense was the first to produce a 5,000-yard passer, a 1,000-yard receiver and a 1,000-yard rusher on the same squad.
Let's see, what was the last NFL team to do that?
The opinions of rules committee folks vary. One source in the room said that teams might lose the equivalent of one series (three or four plays) per game. Some say the 40-second rule could actually add more plays because officials will be more cognizant of getting the ball in play so as not to cheat an offense.
The fact that there is no consensus is scary. We like the game the way it is. What the suits don't realize is that, by and large, fans want to spend as much time as possible on campus on a football Saturday. A lot of them are driving five, six, seven hours to get there. College football is an event, not a commodity.
The average length of a game last season was 3 hours, 23 minutes, 4 seconds. That's up 1:47 from 2006. Anyone complaining?
"I don't know anyone who thinks the game is too long now anyway," said an officiating crew member from a BCS conference. "What do they care if the game is 20 minutes longer, or a half hour?"
We think rules committee member Randy Edsall, the Connecticut coach, has it right.
"We, as coaches, are willing to do some things to speed up the pace of play because we understand the TV games are a little bit longer, " Edsall said. "We also have to have the cooperation of the TV people."
Two changes that were discussed: 1) compel networks to go to a commercial during a replay. That kills two birds. Networks get to sell product, instead of wasting down time with happy chatter.
2) Cut the length of halftime.
"We might have to go to a 15-minute halftime," Edsall added. "Get your (commercials) done before the game. Get them done in your breaks. There has to be some give and take on all three sides. It just can't always be the coaches trying to come up with ways to (speed up) the pace of the game."
All of this year's proposed rules changes are still subject to approval by the NCAA oversight panel. Let's hope the panel takes a long, hard look at the proposals and the rules committee's track record before rubber stamping things. In 2006, that was a disaster.
• Nice job by the Division I-A Athletic Directors Association, which is working on a college version of the Rooney Rule.
The NFL long ago compelled teams to interview at least one minority candidate when filling a head coaching position. The AD's association is doing the same except for one key ingredient.
It has no way of forcing schools to interview minorities. Instead, schools will be "encouraged" to adhere to the standards.
That's a political move without any teeth. Until the NCAA steps in (which it probably can't), expect more of the same. To his credit, president Myles Brand has used his bully pulpit to encourage more minority hiring but more needs to be done.
The college presidents need to agree as a group that their schools will interview at least one minority candidate for every head coaching opening. The ADs have shown they don't have across-the-board support. If they did, they would have agreed to sanctions for schools that don't comply.
• The silly (off)season has kicked off, fittingly, in the SEC. Too much time and not enough to do for our college football stars frequently is a dangerous combination.
• Tennessee kicker Dustin Colquitt, with a history of alcohol-related problems, recently spoke to a group of fifth-graders graduating from a Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) class.
Colquitt was charged Sunday with a DUI and leaving the scene of the accident. The Clinton, Tenn., police chief has apologized for allowing Colquitt to speak.
• Alabama lineman Jeremy Elder admitted to robbing two students on Sunday. One student said Elder got $26 after being confronted at gunpoint. The student also said he was able to identify Elder from video footage taken at Bryant Hall, the athletic dorm.
Elder was spotted walking toward the rear of Bryant Hall after the alleged robbery wearing a checkered black and white (houndstooth?) baseball cap adored with the Alabama "A".
At least the caper was well thought out. Good luck with the rest of your life, Jeremy. You'll need it.