Tail wagging the dog?

Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer hasn't decided yet whether he approves of the new clock rules aimed at shortening college football games. But he's sure about one thing: He doesn't like non-Division 1-A teams telling 1-A how to play their game.

The NCAA Rules Committee consists of three Division 1-A representatives, two Division 1-AA, two from Division II and four from Division III.

``Personally I think it's probably a farce,'' Fulmer said of the committee's makeup. ``We don't get nearly enough representation for the millions of people that watch the games on Saturday and the millions of people that follow their school.

``The AFCA (American Football Coaches Association) has tried to address that a couple of different times. Not that anybody on the committee has their own agenda, but we're not well enough represented to get our things done on the Division 1 level.''

Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville is the only 1-A coach on the rules committee. Fulmer said he was asked to serve, but declined because he had just finished his tenure as president of the AFCA and wanted a break.

Fulmer said he and other SEC coaches – besides Tuberville – had very little input in the clock-rule changes before they were adopted. He said the league coaches didn't know about the changes until the SEC spring meetings in early June.

``That was a little bit surprising to us all that it went that fast through committee – or we all missed it,'' Fulmer said. ``It really wasn't talked about that much. Usually something as significant as this takes a couple of years to go through the system and this one didn't.''

Fulmer said the reaction at the SEC spring meetings was typical. The offensive coaches didn't like it. The defensive coaches did.

Fulmer said he's heard enough complaining that he thinks the rule will be rescinded, or at least tweaked.

The new rules – starting the clock on change of possession on the ready signal and when the ball is kicked on a kickoff rather than when it is being returned – has taken about 11 plays out of a 1-A game. One SEC team had just 37 snaps in a game. Another had 45.

Several Division III games have ended in 2 hours, 30 minutes. That's a bit too quick even for Michael Clark, chairman of the Rules Committee and head coach at Bridgewater (Va.) College, a III school.

Clark said he expects some discussion about changing the clock rules.

Some fans have felt cheated by fewer plays and shorter games.

``If I were a paying customer, and I was at the game probably 30-45 minutes maybe an hour less than I had been before, I might have some complaints about it as well,'' Fulmer said.

Starting the clock on the ready signal after a change of possession caused some teams to burn a timeout because they weren't ready coming off the sideline, thus, they ran the risk of getting a delay penalty.

``We did a good job for the most part with that,'' Fulmer said.

Other teams found it difficult to rally at the end of a half because of the running clock. One suggestion is going back to the old clock rules the last two minutes of each half.

``That's certainly something to look at,'' Fulmer said.

Tennessee's coach doesn't like the idea of a team getting the ball in the last 25 seconds of a half and being able to run out the clock without taking a snap.

``I don't think that's fair to let the clock run out without going out there to run a play,'' Fulmer said.

But Fulmer sees some positives with shorter games. The demands of playing a 12-game schedule are tough. If a player plays five fewer snaps per game over the course of a season, that's 60 snaps, which equates to one game.

Asked about playing 12 games in 12 weeks, which a number of teams did this season, Fulmer said: ``It's really, really hard to ask our young people to do that.''

Fulmer doesn't mind playing 12 games in 14 weeks, which would mean starting the season, typically, the last week of August. Some college presidents are against the idea. But they sure don't oppose making a few million extra by playing a 12th game.

To play a 12th game, Fulmer would like to have more than 85 scholarships, given the likelihood of incurring more injuries. Since he knows he won't get more scholarships, Fulmer is less likely to fight the new clock rules that require fewer players.

Meanwhile, he'd like for officials in 1-A to vote on rules governing 1-A. He doesn't want to be told by someone in Division II or III how to play the game.


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