BOISE, Idaho - A new football rule aimed at shortening college football games has football coaches in the Western Athletic Conference scratching their heads in amazement.
The new rule centers around when the clock starts following a change of possession and on kickoffs. The rules are 3-2-5 and 3-2-5-e.
Under the old rule, the clock would not start on a kickoff until the offensive team catches the ball. Now, the clock will start when the ball is kicked.
Also, when possession changed, the clock never started until the ball was snapped.
Now, the game clock and the 25-second clock will start when the ready-to-play signal is given.
No official reason was given, but many of the coaches believe that it was television driven. College football games nowadays are lasting almost four hours sometimes, and that's too long.
"The time of game was added by the rules committee," WAC commissioner Karl Benson said Wednesday morning. "Some believe TV is the culprit with the number of timeouts and extended timeouts. Coaches aren't going to like anything that is going to reduce the number of plays."
And, the commissioner was dead on.
Not one coach was pleased with the rule. In fact, most think it was pretty drastic means to make the game shorter.
Most of the coaches agree that it really changes the end of the game strategy by coaches on defense and offense depending on whether you are ahead or behind. The coaches insist that it will be easier for teams to run out the clock.
"The offense is on the field and you have three timeouts left for your defense, and you're trying to get the ball back," Louisiana Tech coach Jack Bicknell said. "Before you could take one after each down. Now, you may have to take one before first down, just to keep the clock from running. They will get a free play on third down now. People are going to wonder why you are doing it.
'They shouldn't have messed with it. I'm sure that's an issue (TV). Obviously they don't want the game to go on forever. It's new right now, and that's why it's scary."
One coach suggested that if a team was trying to protect a lead, say with just a few seconds left, it could kick the ball out of the end zone or out of bounds to run out the clock.
Bicknell reminded everybody that he had a five-hour flight back home to Ruston, and that he would be thinking about that new clock rule. That comment brought a laugh from the media.
"That's the biggest issue (not the instant replay)," Fresno State coach Pat Hill said. "It could change the effect at the end of games. I don't know why they're doing it. It will be harder if you are trying to catch up."
A big key could be the officiating crews themselves.
Are they going to be patient or impatient in terms of when they put the ball into play? Will there be consistency between the crews that work WAC games? Certainly coaches like to see consistency. One theory was that it could cause more problems in nonconference games because you are dealing with different officials, guys that you won't see during the WAC season.
"It's tough; tough on officials," said San Jose State coach Dick Tomey. "It's something we'll all have to get used to."
No doubt the coaches will get used to it - grudgingly.
One thing is certain, it will be interesting to see how teams handle it in the early part of the season.
Hawai'i coach June Jones predicted his team would lose between 12 and 15 snaps a game, and that would cost the Rainbow Warriors 14 points. He also correctly pointed out that the NFL changed things in an effort to get the game into a three-hour window.
There are three other new rules this year, but none as significant as the "clock" rule.
The first rule bans eye shields that aren't clear.
A kicking tee may not elevate the ball's lowest point more than one inch above the ground.
Lastly, fouls concurrent with the snap on scrimmage kick plays may be enforced at the previous spot or succeeding spot.