College football games are long. Wait, check that. College football games aren’t long, Football Bowl Subdivison games are long.
According to NCAA data compiled by Jon Solomon of CBSSports.com, the average FBS game ran three hours and 23 minutes in 2014, six minutes longer than 2013 and more than half an hour longer than the typical Division II or Division III game.
The large reasons for that are beyond the control of any one group of people. Television timeouts aren’t getting any shorter, or less frequent. And the number of snaps, incomplete passes and scoring plays seemingly rises by the month. But a pair of conference commissioners have a simple solution of how to shorten games: end the rule that stops the clock while the chains reset after first downs.
“You’ll always get traditionalists who won’t change it,” Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott told CBS. “I don’t find it concerning or daunting that there are some that would oppose it. I think the job for commissioners is to take a step back and look at it holistically. The health and welfare of student-athletes is first and fans are a close second in terms of keeping games appealing. Three-and-a-half hours, to me, is too long.”
The NFL keeps a running clock after first downs, and that’s precisely the reason college football has resisted to adopt the change – fear of becoming too much like the NFL.
“I think our fans are expecting shorter games, and I think when you see attendance is down, we need to address it,” said Sun Belt commissioner Karl Benson.
One group that could inact change, and in a hurry? The same group that runs everything else in college football: TV.
“That 3:30 timeframe is kind of the magic number as we schedule games for television,” MAC commissioner Jon Steinbrecher added. “There’s a continued creep. We’ve had peaks and valleys to it. We have to get our hands around it. If I’m looking at it from a fan perspective, when you get beyond three hours, are you starting to lose people’s interest?”