College football rule changes, including running clock on first down, forthcoming with aim to shorten games


The NCAA Football Rules Committee announced Friday that it has approved several rules designed to speed up college football games in an attempt to control the flow of the game and provide more consistency for in-game management. Once approved in April by the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel, the rules will be implemented for the 2023 season with the committee monitoring how they impact the game, specifically the number of plays run in each contest.

The biggest change is regarding first downs. Currently, the clock stops on first downs until the ball is spotted by officials. The new rule will keep the clock running on first downs except during the final 2 minutes of the second and fourth quarters. This will emulate the current rule in the NFL.

CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd pointed out last month that the model that college football currently uses has been in place since 1968.

“This rule change is a small step intended to reduce the overall game time and will give us some time to review the impact of the change,” said Georgia coach Kirby Smart, co-chair of the committee.

Among the other rule changes the committee has initially approved: 

  • No consecutive timeouts: This mostly impacts field goals attempts when opposing coaches call multiple timeouts in order to “ice the kicker.”
  • Untimed penalties: Rules violations that occur with no time on the clock in the first and third quarters would carry over to the next quarter, thus limiting “untimed downs” to the end of the halves.
  • Replay adjustments: During games in which there isn’t a replay official in the booth, on-field officials will have optional replay in which they can use available video after a coach’s challenge.

The committee also clarified a couple current rules. Drones will not be allowed over the playing surface or team area when teams are on the field, and teams will not be able to warmup ahead of the second half until the field is cleared.

The panel will vote to officially implement these rules on April 20.

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