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September 24, 2004

Televised College Football: Too Much Of A Good Thing?

FROM THE TIME-IS-MONEY DEPARTMENT comes acknowledgement that college football length-of-game totals are approaching the outer limits of tolerability.

Not surprisingly, television has been the culprit in stretching out games. The average length of all televised games was 3 hours, 26 minutes (non-televised games averaged 3:02).

While all parties concerned agree that reducing TV timeouts is not an option, there is no clear consensus on how else to shorten game times.

Among the alternatives:

• Keep the clock running after a first down.

• Restart the clock when the ball is marked ready for play after an incompletion and after a ball carrier goes out of bounds.

Meanwhile, NFL games average 3:06, and all their games are televised. The difference? The 40-second play clock and restarting the clock on the referee’s signal.

This is a tough issue to resolve. Three and a half hour games are not good for players, spectators or TV viewers. However, much of the funding that drives these football programs is sourced from TV rights packages.

“We’ve succumbed to television. They pay a lot of our bills,” says Miami coach Larry Coker.

Sometimes you don’t know when you’ve had too much of a good thing until you’ve already had too much of a good thing.

Stay tuned . . . .

Average length of football games in the six major conferences for the 2003 season:

Non-TV: 3:01
TV: 3:24

Big East
Non-TV: 3:12
TV: 3:20

Big Ten
Non-TV: 3:05
TV: 3:13

Big 12
Non-TV: 3:09
TV: 3:23

Non-TV: 3:20
TV: 3:23

Non-TV: 3:00
TV: 3:22

Avg. six major conferences
Non-TV: 3:08
TV: 3:21

Source: I-A conferences

(this 212 word excerpt—with attendant commentary—was distilled from a 945 word article in the USA Today of 9-22-04)