Focus Of Officials Remains On Getting The Calls Right
We live in an era of immediate gratification.
Don’t think so? Think back to the last time your computer slowed down. Like you weren’t going anywhere, had nothing to do, but you were ready to throw it across the room.
Or the last time you were out driving from here to there, no appointment, nowhere really to go, and you just miss a green light. You sit and you sit, sometimes for almost 30 seconds and you’re ready to floor it.
And, oh my gosh, if when the light changes the car in front of you doesn’t surge forward immediately, you’re on the horn.
It’s the same with sports.
The biggest complaint you hear most often these days is they take too long. And that’s from fans. Us media types, we have deadlines so you can imagine how we are with an 11 p.m. deadline and at 10:55 to have a team driving for the tying touchdown, which would force overtime.
It’s not a mirage that games are taking longer than ever.
Major League Baseball set a record last year with 3:05 for the average game. When I began covering the sport in 1969, a three-hour game was thought to be endless. The shortest game in MLB history was played on Sept. 29, 1919, and they completed the nine innings in 51 minutes with the Philadelphia Phillies beating the New York Giants, 6-1.
But what we care about around here is college football and, yes, folks, those games have gotten a lot longer than they ever were. In fact, the average college game is about 20 minutes longer than the average NFL game.
That makes you wonder what’s going on, and brings us to Greg Burks, the new Coordinator of Officials in the Big 12.
That subject came up during Big 12 Media Day as he was introduced to the press and there was one thing he said that you had to love … to say you love anything about an official around these parts is saying a lot.
Burks was asked about the time difference and why the NFL was playing faster.
This was part of his answer:
“I use the NFL games to fall asleep to, to tell you the truth, because after you watch college football all day Saturday, I really don’t care what they do in the NFL. I’m concerned what’s happening in college football.”
Now the knee-jerk reaction is to blame the use of replays on difficult calls as the culprit.
Burks doesn’t necessarily buy that, nor does he buy that it makes much difference if you can cut 10 minutes out of a game.
“I don’t understand what the difference is if our game goes 3:20 or 3:30,” he said. “It matters for TV. But for most college fans they spend the day going to the stadium, and whether the game takes 3:20 or 3:30, I don’t think they really care.”
Indeed, a college football game isn’t a game at all. It’s a party. People begin gathering in the morning, even for night games, tailgate and enjoy each other’s company, pouring into the stadium around kickoff and often leaving early if the game is a rout … not to go home but to go back to the tailgate.
Burks understands that you want a game moving along.
“All of us don’t want dead time in the game,” he said. “But the reason our game goes 3:20 is because of timeouts, TV timeouts. It’s not because the game is not moving rapidly enough. I know I’m in the minority when I talk about our timeouts.
“I would rather focus on getting plays right if that means 1:45, 1:50 on a replay then us hurrying through a replay and getting things right because I don’t think 3:20 or 3:30 matters. If our game goes to four hours, I get it.
“The fact that our game has sped up, we are having 200-plus plays on games and we’re throwing every down there is not much we can do about that [as officials],” continued Burks. “If we want to look at speeding that up, we go to running the clock during incompletions.
“That’s a huge step that most offensive coaches don’t want to do. That’s why you see us making changes on starting the 40 in a dead ball situation to address some of those things.”
Burks notes that replays by officials are not nearly as frequent as we all believe they are, just as that time at the stoplight is measured in seconds, not decades.
“Let me say this: Last year we averaged 2.2 stoppages a game, 2.2. So I think we’re saying it feels like 10 stoppages in some games and it feels like it’s too long, but in reality it’s not,” Burks said.
“Officials work by, besides the rule book, a whole other set of standards that are philosophies,” Burks added. “Prior to instant replay, the philosophy was a runner is down and it’s not a fumble. What we would talk about is we don’t want any cheap turnovers.
“So when in doubt, if you didn’t see it, he’s down. What replay has allowed us is not to guess on that play anymore, within reason. Honestly, when we’re at the goal line and they run right in the A gap, whether he’s down or not even with eight cameras, sometimes we can’t tell and sometimes we have to make the best ruling we can in that scenario.
“But the things where it’s important is, if a runner is running down a sideline and you’re chasing that runner and it’s very close to whether he’s in bounds or out-of-bounds. If you don’t know that he’s out-of-bounds, let him be in-bounds because we can run that back and look at that and maybe it will take 20 seconds but we will get that play right.”
If you want to cut the times of games down, take them off TV because that’s where the time is.
In 2016, FBS games too, 3:24 to play with almost game on TV and replay in use. FCS games were 3:05. Division II were 2:48 and Division III were 2:40 … all with about the same number of plays.
So, you know the culprit, it’s just that time isn’t much of a price to pay to have the games broadcast on TV … free TV, at that.