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NCAA committee recommends changes to clock procedures after first downs in college football games

The NCAA Football Rules Committee's recommendation is designed to shorten the length of games

It’s very likely the clock won’t stop after most first downs during college football games in 2023.

The NCAA Football Rules Committee said Friday that it was recommending changes to first down procedures and timeouts as it looks for ways to speed up football games. Game length has been an ongoing issue in college football with many FBS games taking over 3.5 hours to complete without overtime involved.

The game clock currently stops after a team gets a first down and is started once the ball is spotted and the referee declares the ball ready for play when the first down is gained in bounds. The rules committee’s recommendation is that the game clock should continue to run after a first down outside of the last two minutes of each half. Inside the final two minutes of each half, the game clock would continue to stop after a first down.

"This rule change is a small step intended to reduce the overall game time and will give us some time to review the impact of the change," Georgia coach Kirby Smart said in a statement. He's a co-chair of the rules committee.

With college football games mostly scheduled in three-hour windows, the length of games is also a big issue for fans wanting to watch their favorite teams. It's extremely common for games beginning later in the day to start on a different network than scheduled because the preceding game is still going on.

The rules committee also said that teams should be prohibited from calling consecutive timeouts. Right now a team can call all three of its timeouts in a row to ice a kicker.

The recommendations are not official until they are approved by the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel in April. However, the recommendations are likely to be approved by the panel and implemented ahead of the season. The committee said that its recommendations "would modestly reduce the number of plays in the game."

The committee also said that a penalty at the end of the first or third quarter should simply carry over to the start of the next quarter and be enforced on the following play instead of resulting in an untimed down.

Most notably, the committee did not pass on a recommendation to keep the clock running after an incomplete pass. The committee was reportedly considering a rule that would allow the clock to run after certain incompletions to speed up games.

STATE COLLEGE, PA - NOVEMBER 12: A general view of a ball on the field after a play during the second half of the game between the Penn State Nittany Lions and the Maryland Terrapins at Beaver Stadium on November 12, 2022 in State College, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
Some rules changes could be coming to college football games in 2023 in an effort to shorten them. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) (Scott Taetsch via Getty Images)