As College Football Looks to Shorten Games, Here’s How It Should Be Done


Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The games are too long.

This, according to those with influence inside college football, is one of the sport’s most pressing concerns. At a time when the game is growing and the season is getting longer, the length of these games is an issue.

Well, at least to them.

As a result, according to Ross Dellenger of Sports Illustrated, executives are inching closer to changes that could speed up games, reduce the number of plays and help improve the safety of the sport.

Those ideas include eliminating the ability for coaches to call consecutive timeouts, removing untimed downs after the conclusion of the first and third quarters following defensive penalties, running the clock after a first down is gained outside of the final two minutes of halves and running the clock after incompletions.

None of these have been approved. That decision won’t take place for weeks. Some of these proposals are more radical than others, with the final concept serving as the most unusual.

The first three ideas seem reasonable, though there are plenty of other ways to speed up college football.

Here are a few other ideas worth considering.

Improve the Review Process

College Football: Peach Bowl: Referee performs a booth review on Georgia Kenny McIntosh (6) touchdown run vs Ohio State at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. 
Atlanta, GA 12/31/2022 
CREDIT: Carlos M. Saavedra (Photo by Carlos M. Saavedra/Sports Illustrated via Getty Images) 
(Set Number: X164268 TK1)

Set Number: X164268 TK1

Major League Baseball, brilliantly, has found a way to eliminate downtime. Its controversial pitch clock, which is taking the game by storm in spring training, does one thing notably well.

It removes meaningless intermissions between every at-bat, creating more activity.

Given the nature of football, ample time between plays is important for the flow of a game and the safety of its players. Downtime is actually a critical component given the physicality required. But that doesn’t mean the sport can’t target certain moments of inactivity.

The review process, more than any other moment in a typical game, has become the most useless time in a stadium. To be clear, reviewing questionable plays and calls is hugely important. This process is critical, and we should do everything possible to ensure that the outcomes are decided properly.

But we should also look to streamline a clumsy process. Game officials view small screens in packed stadiums. And sometimes look at plays that frankly shouldn’t be looked at.

In short, we can do better.

There needs to be more reliance on conferences to provide timely feedback from their headquarters, taking the emphasis away from the officials on the field. We also need to be better in assessing which plays are reviewed.

Accuracy, of course, is paramount. But given the frequency of these plays, it would behoove all conferences to put increased attention on streamlining these stoppages—for fans in attendance, fans at home and the integrity of the games.

Shorten Halftime

INGLEWOOD, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 09: An overall view of the field while the Georgia Bulldogs band performs during halftime of the College Football Playoff National Championship between the Georgia Bulldogs and the TCU Horned Frogs game at SoFi Stadium on January 09, 2023 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

This one hurts to suggest, though it must be suggested. (I’ll explain why it’s painful momentarily.)

NFL halftimes (outside the Super Bowl) are 13 minutes. College football halftimes are 50 percent longer, coming in at 20 minutes. It’s one of the largest differences between the two products that rarely gets discussed, though that time is significant.

Looking for an easy way to cut some time? Look no further.

The reason this is painful to suggest is because it could detract, at least somewhat, from the pageantry of the sport. The marching band could lose some of its moment, and that’s a significant piece of the tradition—especially in some places.

A reasonable counterpoint is simple: This band is celebrated at tailgates, during pregame and on far more occasions than just halftime. Shortening halftime shouldn’t diminish an important fabric of a sport baked with rituals.

This one is both easy and obvious. If you want to move the game along, well, move the game along. Highlight the band and other halftime elements throughout the college football Saturday and get back to the action quicker than before.

There are very few open minutes to get back. This would, at the very least, provide some.

Eliminate Kickoffs

TUCSON, AZ - DECEMBER 30: Wyoming Cowboys kickoff team during the Barstool Sports Arizona Bowl between the Wyoming Cowboys and the Ohio Bobcats on December 30, 2022 at Arizona Stadium in Tucson, Arizona.  (Photo by Christopher Hook/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Christopher Hook/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

This one is radical. Let’s get that out of the way. But we are much closer to this movement than you think.

For years, football has been telling you that kickoffs are being phased out.

Fair catches were introduced, and new rules have made kickoffs far less meaningful than they have ever been. That is not to say they aren’t capable of producing big plays. But their impact on the sport has significantly dropped over the past five years, and that has come by design.

We still acknowledge these moments as some of the most dangerous in football. It’s why we’re trying to eliminate the number of times a player will return a kickoff in a game.

So, why not get rid of them?

We could speed up the game by eliminating a play that is becoming a formality. Teams could instead start with the ball on the 25-yard line, which would align to the fair catch many teams and players make routine right now.

Need an onside kick? We have a solution for that. The onside kick could still stay in the game and be called upon when needed, or college football could adopt a similar rule to what the XFL is trying.

Instead of an onside kick, an offense can attempt a fourth-and-15 from its own 25-yard line. It’s certainly a much different strategy, though the results have been compelling.

Want more action? We’ve found a way.

This play speaks to having options when it comes to these moments. And if time and safety are truly a concern—and they should be—kickoffs, which have continuously lost influence in recent years, could be the next to go.

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