With the average length of college football games at an all-time high of 3 hours and 24 minutes this past season, there is a consensus among conference commissioners and coaches that the length of games should be shortened, according to an ESPN.com report.
The challenge arises in how to go about accomplishing that goal.
Over the last four seasons, the average length of games has increased seven minutes, from 3:17 in 2013 to 3:24 this season. However, the average number of plays have remained flat (in 2016, there were 142.6 plays per game, compared to 143 in 2013).
Big 12 teams this past season played games averaging 3:36, the longest in the nation, and conference commissioner Bob Bowlsby said, “Staying under 3:25 is an appropriate aspiration.”
Among the suggestions for ways to shorten games: keep the clock running on first downs (until the final two or five minutes of each half); shorten halftime; limit replays; reduce the number of timeouts; shorten the play clock; tweak substitution rules; and limit ad breaks.
MAC commissioner Jon Steinbrecher said that coaches “need to be front and center” in any discussion on changes to the sport that would shorten the length of games.
“We need a good look at this from 360 degrees,” he said.
“I would like to see all possible ways of shortening games before I give an opinion on how,” Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said. “But I firmly believe we have to shorten games for the good of the game.”
Washington State coach Mike Leach’s dissenting opinion is that the length of games is not a problem.
“If they mess with that, they are idiots,” Leach said. “They should have fewer commercial breaks. If they don’t want to cut the number of commercials, then fit them into less (game) breaks.”
The NCAA’s Football Oversight Committee will address the length of games, as well as other issues, when it meets later this month.