Saturday, January 7, 2017

An idea whose time has come

An old joke, as the Blob ponders what the NCAA is pondering these days: I took my 5-year-old son to a Notre Dame football game once. He had his degree by the time it ended.

Which is to say, I used to love covering college football, and I also hated it. I loved it because there's nothing like the Notre Dame campus (or any major campus, really) on the morning of a big game. There is pageantry. There is electricity. There is ESPN Gameday, occasionally.

Of course, there is also the two weeks it takes to actually play the game. Which is what I hated.

I saw absolutely no reason why a football game that kicked off at 3:42 in the afternoon should, on too many occasions, not end until going on 7:30. The good news is, finally the NCAA sees absolutely no reason why that should happen, either.

The poobahs whose job it is to maintain the fiction that professional athletics on the college level aren't professional have decided, sort of, that too much of as good thing is not a good thing. And so they're looking for ways to shorten the games.

The impetus for this are some unpleasant numbers: In four years, the average length of a college football game has shot up seven minutes, from 3 hours, 17 minutes to 3:24. This is much too long, by the NCAA's lights. The trick will be doing something about it.

Because college football under its auspices is, after all, professional, someone has to pay the freight. That someone is TV advertisers. TV advertisers pay big dollars to put their products out there, which is a major reason why games now run so long. It's unlikely they're going to agree to cut back on their commercial time, since agreeing to pay more for less has never been a solid business model.

So what else do you do?

The NCAA has always been loathe to copy the NFL, even as it copies the NFL. So it has different rules than the NFL. Those rules also contribute to the length of college games.

Maybe the NCAA needs to rethink some of those rules. Because, A) it really isn't all that much different than the NFL, in terms of ethos, and B) the rules the NFL has in place to speed up games, such as starting the clock in situations college football doesn't, actually work. It's a rare NFL game that runs much past three hours, which the Blob has decreed is the appropriate length for a football game.

I mean, let's face it. Chris Schenkel used to rhapsodize about those lovely Saturday afternoons in the fall. He never rhapsodized about those lovely fortnights in the fall.

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