College football is on the precipice of making a monumental change to the way the game is played, according to a report from CBS Sports. After more than five decades of the clock stopping after a first down is gained in college football, that mechanism is set to be eschewed.
A final decision will come from the Playing Rules Oversight Panel (PROP), which each year examines proposed changes to the rules from the NCAA Football Rules Committee. The rules committee recommended this timekeeping change in March.
The change in the rules will apply to all levels of NCAA football except for Division III, which recently announced a new, separate set of playing rules.
Sports Illustrated’s Ross Dellenger added that the PROP didn’t pass the rule change for Division III.
Dellenger also reported that two other timekeeping changes were approved: No consecutive timeouts and no untimed downs for penalties at the end of the first and third quarter.
The first down clock stoppage came to college football in 1968 and is one of the main rules differentiating the play in both leagues. With the elimination of the first down clock stoppage, college football rule makers are hoping to increase the pace of play, lower the number of overall plays and make the games run in less time.
Eliminating the first down clock stoppage is one of several changes the NCAA considered
Steve Shaw, the national coordinator of officials, told The Athletic’s Nicole Auerbach in February that the committee was considering a change to clock stoppage rules. Currently, an incomplete pass stops the clock. However, given the increase in passing in college (and in the NFL), the clock stoppages are making games longer.
Shaw shared that, moving forward, the committee is considering likening an incomplete pass to a run out of bounds.
“That (rule change) probably would have the biggest impact of anything we could do because there are so many passes now, and, unfortunately in some of these long games, there are a bunch of incomplete passes,” Shaw said. “That could be a way to keep the game moving … and it would still leave the offense in control of not only the tempo but also the clock. If an offense said, hey, I don’t want to lose plays out of this game because they’re going to restart the clock, they can simply get to the line and get there quickly, so when the ball is there you can snap it.”
Another option to speed the game up would be to adjust the clock stoppage following a first down. Shaw noted that he believes the NCAA’s officials are already very vigilant about stopping and starting the clock efficiently.