ACC Changes Bowl Order, Replay

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – The future of the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game, instant replay, bowls and changes of rules were all discussed during commissioner John Swofford's annual address to the media Tuesday morning.

After what Swofford deemed a very successful inaugural championship game between Florida State and Virginia Tech last December in Jacksonville, the conference is likely to use the two-year option and keep the game there for at least another three years.

"We felt like Jacksonville did a tremendous job of hosting this year," he said. "I'd have to say things look very, very positive of continuing here after this year."

By all accounts, that decision is just fine with the coaches, who prefer the game to be played in Jacksonville rather than Charlotte.

As Clemson coach Tommy Bowden said last year, "Warm rain is better than cold rain."

Instant Replay
The NCAA has adopted the NFL's version of instant replay. Well, sort of.

Like the NFL, coaches will now have the right to challenge a ruling on the field, but unlike in the pros, they will only be allowed to do it once per game.

Also, the coach challenging the play has to use a timeout in order to have it reviewed. And in order to issue a challenge a coach much have a timeout remaining. If the team is out of timeouts, he's out of a challenge, regardless if he's used it or not.

If the coach loses a challenge, he loses the timeout. However, if he wins the challenge, he regains his timeout.

Also, regardless of whether a coach is right or wrong with his challenge, he loses that challenge for the rest of the game. "It's going to put the coaches on a different plane," Tommy Hunt, the coordinator of ACC football officials, said. "They're really going to have to think at times."

Several coaches said Monday there weren't happy with the new rules regarding instant replay. Several thought they should retain the right to use another challenge if they won their initial one. They also thought they should be allowed to ask for a challenge regardless of how many timeouts they have remaining.

New bowls and formats
The ACC now has a contract with eight bowls and a new picking order in place to ensure what happened last year with Boston College getting sent to Boise despite having an 8-3 record doesn't happen again.

The new bowl picking order is as follows: BCS, followed by the Chick-fil-A Bowl, which jumped the Gator Bowl, which now picks third. It is followed by the Champs Sports Bowl picking fourth, with the Music City Bowl, Meineke Bowl and Emerald Bowl selecting next. The MPC Computers Bowl now picks eighth instead of sixth.

Also, there's a one-win rule in place, which means bowls must select the team with the most conference wins or a team within one conference victory of it.

For instance, if Clemson finishes 5-3 in the ACC and Georgia Tech finishes 4-4, the bowl picking can select either team because they finished within one game of each other. However, the bowl wouldn't be allowed to select a 3-5 Virginia team because it has two less wins than the team remaining with the best record.

"You're always trying to find the right balance with what happened on the field competitively," Swofford said.

Other bowl news centered on an agreement reached between the ACC and the Orange Bowl, which now automatically gets the ACC champ on years the bowl doesn't host the national championship game.

Rule changes
* In the illegal equipment rules, only eye shields that are completely clear will be allowed. This was put in place because medical personnel couldn't see the face and eyes of a player when attending to him on the field.

* A kicking tee may not elevate the ball's lowest point more than one inch above the ground. The lowering by one inch was done to lessen the number of touchbacks.

* The intermission between halves shall be 20 minutes, but it can be lengthened up to 25 minutes if each coach agrees. This was done to allow more recovery time by players and to give bands more playing time on the field.

* On free kicks, the clock will start when the toe meets the ball and not when the ball is returned.

* When a team is awarded a first down, be it on a change of possession or on a sustained drive, the clock will be started and deemed ready for play and not at the snap.

"The starting of the clock will shorten the game by five or six minutes, which is about 10 or 12 plays" Hunt said. "These changes can make a big difference in the game."

* Referees no longer have a discretionary timeout for crowd noise. The rule was rarely used as most teams use hand signals to communicate.

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