NCAA approves running clock after first downs

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The NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel on Friday approved a rule change for 2023 that will allow the clock to run after first downs in all divisions except Division III, the NCAA announced on Friday.

The clock will continue to stop during the final two minutes of each half, maintaining at least part of a rule that long helped differentiate college football from the NFL.

“That’s important,” said Steve Shaw, NCAA secretary rules-editor and officials coordinator, “because the beauty of the difference in our game, and it allows a team late in the game, even without timeouts, to have a chance to advance the ball and come back and that sort of thing. So we’re still going to stop it in the last two minutes.”

The NCAA also approved two other rules that were proposed in February and will modestly impact the time of the game. Teams will now be prohibited from calling consecutive team timeouts, and penalties at the end of the first and third quarter will carry over and be enforced on the first play of the next quarter.

Currently, if there is an accepted penalty for a foul on the last timed down of any quarter — by either team — the officials extend it.

Shaw told ESPN on Friday the combined changes are estimated to shorten the game by seven to eight minutes and eight plays, but the changes weren’t directed at just shortening the game time. He said it was more about keeping the game moving while reducing the number of plays.

“We’ve got to live it to see if really does that or it’s more or less,” Shaw said. “So it’s a minimal change, and I think a good change directionally for the game. We looked at the number of plays and Division I is averaging about 178, 179 plays per game — all divisions are in the 170s — and you compare that to 151 plays last year per game in the NFL. It’s something we need to look at. It’s a conservative step and we’ll see what this does for the year.”

Division III will continue to review the proposal to run the clock after first downs.

The NCAA also said it will have the optional use of instant replay in games that do not have an instant replay booth official. Last season, the Division II Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association conducted a successful pilot program of this rule. This model allows the referee to use available video to make decisions on reviewable plays after a coach challenge.

According to the NCAA, guidelines were also established for second-half warmup activities, including requiring teams to wait until the field is made available to return and having designated areas of the field to warm up. The NCAA also announced that when teams are on the field, drones are not allowed over the playing surface or the team area.

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