Long games have become the norm in college football, with Syracuse leading the way

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first_imgI have never, ever seen this before. Mack Brown is doing the game for ESPN, and then… “Alright fellas, LATER!”@awfulannouncing pic.twitter.com/lUob4rTVEl— Funhouse (@RNs_Funhouse) October 1, 2016 Facebook Twitter Google+ In November 1912, C.P. Hutchins pulled out a stopwatch and timed a college football game. The former Syracuse head coach (1905-06) wanted to find how much of an hours-long battle comprised actual play. Amount of action: 13 minutes, 16 seconds.More than a century later, little has changed in this sense — games still average only 11 to 15 minutes of action. But the length of games has grown longer.FBS average game lengths this season have crept up to three and a half hours from 3 hours, 11 minutes just eight years ago. Oklahoma State averages the longest games in the country this year at more than four hours. Thirty-seven teams average at least three and a half hour games through Week 9 this season. In 2009, no teams had an average game length that long.Among the leading culprits is Syracuse. The Orange’s average game duration this year, 3 hours, 34 minutes, is almost 10 minutes longer than the FBS average and 20 minutes longer than SU’s average two years ago. No-huddle offenses are one of the chief causes. With his up-tempo, no-huddling scheme, Dino Babers’ first conference game at Syracuse against Louisville, another hurry-up team, took 3 hours, 55 minutes — longer than any SU game in the previous three seasons.The irony of no-huddle offenses slowing down games may baffle some, but it makes sense: More passing and scoring leads to extra changes of possession and clock stoppages.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“We’ve got to remember that 15 to 20 years ago we didn’t have instant replay, we didn’t have all the ESPN, ABC, CBS, all these different TV timeouts that really slow down the game,” Babers said. “Also, I think football teams are throwing the ball more than they threw the ball 20 years ago, and when you have an incomplete pass the clock stops.”A Brigham Young-Toledo game broadcast on ESPN last month was so long that broadcaster Mack Brown left in the fourth quarter to catch his flight. The Orange hasn’t played a game in under three hours since 2014 and, just last weekend, Texas’ upset win over then-No. 8 Baylor —featuring two no-huddle offenses — lasted 4 hours, 8 minutes. There may be no magic bullet, though small changes could help. ACC coaches said last week that they are generally not in favor of rule changes to shorten the length of games. In 2006, the NCAA implemented two rule changes in an effort to shorten the length of games: start the clock on kickoffs and begin the play clock even on change of possession. The rules did not sit well with coaches, as teams lost out on possessions. The guidelines were scraped the next season.There are factors that have a harder-to-quantify impact, such as officiating. The ACC has amped up efforts to increase in-game efficiency, said Michael Strickland, the ACC’s senior associate commissioner for football. ACC administrators work with referees on spotting the ball for play sooner out of breaks. After timeouts, teams should be lined up and ready to go, not huddled on the sidelines, Strickland said. The ACC’s average game length, he noted, is shortest among Power 5 conferences.“We don’t have a whole lot of people that are overly concerned about life of game,” Strickland said. “If we were pushing four hours, perhaps that would change … The 2 hour, 51 minute games are still possible.”What may soon concern coaches is the toll longer games have on players. Such games generally prompt more snaps, which means players are at an increased risk of injury. The more players are on the field, “you start worrying about the number of exposures a player has to injury,” Duke head coach David Cutcliffe said.Teams usually eat three and a half to four hours before kick, but that could soon change. Air Force has experimented with moving its pregame mealtime closer to kickoff to better prepare players for long outings on the field. ACC coaches said they may consider speaking with team nutritionists about eating closer to start times.“You see games go super long, you’ve got to look at student athletes and decide when is enough enough?” Miami head coach Mark Richt said. “If you eat four hours before the game and the game lasts four hours, that’s quite a long time.”The Pac-12 Conference’s commissioner, Larry Scott, has expressed a desire for new rule changes to shorten games. One of which would explore the NFL’s running clock policy. The clock doesn’t stop after first downs in the NFL, whereas in college football, it does.For now, it may take months for any change. The NCAA is forming a committee that will address ideal game length, according to The Wall Street Journal. Whether the steady increase in long games will plateau remains to be seen.“If you like seeing the ball in the air and you like seeing that kind of football,” Babers said, “I think that’s what we’re going to have to grow accustomed to.” Commentscenter_img It’s no coincidence some of the longest average game lengths belong to Baylor, West Virginia, Texas A&M and Syracuse — all schools that run a hurry-up spread offense. Increased plays, pass attempts, incompletions and longer drives come as a result.Last year, Bowling Green’s non-overtime games clocked in at 3:39 and Baylor’s at 3:34. Amid its first year of the spread, Syracuse sits at 3:34. All three programs have run the hurry-up Baylor offense. Babers has coached at each, including most recently as head coach at BGSU for two years before joining SU.Teams that milk the clock via run-first offenses, by contrast, tend to commit fewer turnovers. This style of play lends itself to less scoring, fewer changes of possession and clock stoppages. In 2014 and 2015, years Syracuse ran a slower offense, its average game length checked in a 3:21, 15 minutes faster than this year. The proliferation of both no-huddle offenses and televised matches contribute to elongated games across the nation.“It’s something that we’ve been dealing with in college football since people started going tempo,” North Carolina head coach Larry Fedora said.Rodney Paul, a professor of sport management in the David B. Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics, said games are getting longer not only because of no-huddle offenses but also the need networks feel to televise as many games as possible.No matter a team’s style of play, networks require a set number of commercial breaks, whether it’s a blowout or nail-biter. The use of review, coupled with longer and more frequent commercials, further elongate games. The tradeoff for networks lies in harder-to-schedule lineups. When games run long, they extend into the next scheduled event’s window.“TV revenue is so important, and so all of the sudden you’re getting overlap into what you might be able to cover,” Paul said. “It’s a little bit tricky. You’re cutting into other games.”By expanding timeouts and eroding the flow of the game, networks may be cutting off themselves and those they cover. Leagues and programs are grappling with large problems of their own: declining attendance. The pressure has fallen on leagues to shorten games as fans elect alternative ways to spend Saturday afternoons. Efforts to shorten games and better reach the captive audience could put to rest the steady increase in the length of games. Published on October 30, 2016 at 10:29 pm Contact Matthew: [email protected] | @MatthewGut21last_img

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