NCAA rules panel approves changes to shorten college football games

INDIANAPOLIS – The NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel has approved rules changes that are expected to reduce the number of plays in football games, notably one that will keep the clock running when a team makes a first down except in the last two minutes of a half.

The panel on Thursday approved recommendations forwarded last month by the Football Rules Committee. Since 1968, the clock had stopped on a first down until the referee gave the ready-for-play signal.

The new clock rule affects only Divisions I and II. The Division III Management Council requested the proposal be referred back to the Football Rules Committee due to opposition within its division.

Two other changes were approved. Penalties accepted at the end of the first and third quarters will now be enforced at the start of the following quarter rather than having an untimed down. Also, back-to-back timeouts during the same dead-ball period are no longer allowed.

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

With the College Football Playoff expanding from four to 12 teams in 2024-25, and possibly more in the future, conference commissioners had asked the committee to look for ways to cut down on the number of plays in games in an attempt to mitigate potential injury exposures.

Shaw said the new clock rule on first downs would take about eight plays out of the game, which would be about 96 fewer exposures over a regular season and more for teams that play in bowls and the playoff.

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