Too much football?

The average length of a Bowl Championship Game was 4 hours, 4 minutes. The average length of a bowl game was 3:44.

The average length of a regular-season college football game was 3:21. The average length of an SEC game was 3:15.

That, folks, is too long.

The extra length of bowl games can be partly explained by longer halftimes and longer commercials.

Nonetheless, the NCAA is looking at ways to reduce the length of college games.

The target: 3 hours, like the NFL.

``The more TV exposure, the more difficult it is to keep games at 3 hours," said SEC official Rocky Goode of Knoxville.

The SEC TV contract calls for 16 timeouts, not counting floaters (timeouts after injuries or for replay review). The timeouts last 2:30 to 3 minutes, Goode said.

TV is causing games to last 25 to 40 minutes longer, said another SEC official, Gerald Hodges. Hodges said he worked a non-TV game a few years ago between Mississippi State and Auburn that lasted 2:05. He said he's worked several other non-TV games that were over in less than 2:40.

In the Atlantic Coast Conference, non-televised football games lasted 3:07, while TV games took 3:24.

The NCAA Rules Committee mailed surveys to active officials asking their opinion on various ways to shorten the game.

Ending games sooner ``has clearly moved from the back burner to the front," said SEC commissioner Mike Slive.

Some of the suggestions:

* Dont stop the clock after first downs or don't stop the clock after first downs until the final five minutes of each half. Stopping the clock after first downs is unique to college football.

* Don't stop the clock after a player goes out of bounds except for the final few minutes of each half.

* Don't stop the clock after incompletions.

* Don't stop the clock after a change of possession.

* Reduce the length of halftime, which lasts 20 minutes. NFL halftimes are 12 minutes during the regular season, 15 during the playoffs.

Those changes could reduce the time of a game by 15 to 25 minutes.

They would also reduce the number of plays in a game, which would, in turn, reduce the number of points scored. Thus, many offensive coaches will object to shortening the game.

College games average 15 to 20 more plays than NFL games, according to Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville, a member of the NCAA Rules Committee.

``We have to examine scenarios that make it better for the players and reducing the number of plays is one of them," Tuberville told the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel.

That can be a double-edge sword. In a recent NFL playoff game, the New York Giants had just 35 offensive snaps. Not coincidentally, the Giants were shut out.

A huge concern is the young fan, who can't stay up at night to watch games that often end near midnight.

Many of the suggested changes mirror NFL rules.

``We don't want our game to be a replica of the NFL," ACC Commissioner John Swofford said. ``But we can learn from what the pros did in regard to the flow and length of games."

Instant replay has not added significantly to the length of college games. The national average for review stoppages was less than 2 minutes.


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