Smart says the new 1st down rule is a good start for shortening plays

Georgia coach Kirby Smart says proposed clock operating rule changes shouldn’t materially affect college football games next season, but he called them a good first step in increasing the number of games in the name of health and safety to reduce the player.

The NCAA Football Rules Committee on Friday approved a proposal to let the clock run when a team makes a first down except in the last two minutes of a half. Since 1968, the clock has stopped at a first down until the referee signals the game is ready.

The committee submitted two other proposals to keep the Games going. Penalties accepted at the end of the first and third quarters would have been enforced at the beginning of the following quarter rather than having an untimed down. The other would remove a coach’s ability to call for back-to-back timeouts during the same dead-ball period.

“We think the changes here will be very small,” said Smart, the committee’s co-chair. “You might say, ‘Why did you change it in the first place? It will flow better.”

The committee did not seriously consider a suggestion to keep the clock running after an incomplete pass.

The proposed changes would go into effect in the 2023 season if approved by the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel on April 20.

Steve Shaw, NCAA Secretary’s rules editor and national officials coordinator, said the rules committee took a conservative approach to begin the process of shortening the games.

With the 2024-25 College Football Playoffs expanding from four teams to 12 teams and potentially more in the future, the conference commissioners had asked the committee to explore ways to reduce the number of plays in games to mitigate potential injury exposures .

Shaw said the new clock rule for first downs would take about eight games out of play, which would be about 96 fewer exposures in a regular season and more for teams playing in bowls and the playoffs.

The NFL keeps the clock running on first downs throughout the game, and Shaw said keeping the old rule in the last two minutes of halftime makes a “nice difference” between the pro and collegiate games.

“The last two minutes are crucial,” Shaw said. “By stopping the clock it gives teams an opportunity to make a comeback. Everyone on the committee was determined: We’re not going straight to the NFL rule.”

In a move primarily affecting Divisions II and III, the committee approved the optional use of Instant Replay in games that do not have a Replay Official. It would allow the referee to use available video to make decisions about verifiable plays after a coaching challenge.

Also, with some exceptions, drones are not allowed over the playing surface or team area when teams are on the field.


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