sports (2006-37)

New rules cheat NCAA fans out of some football

Speeding Up to Slow Down

by Tony Basilio

So I’m sitting at a charity golf tourney last week that my show was sponsoring, and I overheard a conversation about me. Actually it was about my genre, sports radio, and the bloviating callers who fill the airwaves daily in Knoxville radio. Overhearing the conversation was amusing, as those engaged in it were obviously unaware of my being in the vicinity.

One guy said, “Is that sign for Basilio?” The other uttered, “Yeah. I think he’s a sponsor.” Then they both launched into me as one creating a haven for horrible callers who go off on personal agenda diatribes. I did gain a momentary reprieve when they both agreed that it wasn’t only my show but all the shows in town that repeatedly allow “bad callers” on the air.

So there I sat, taking it all in while wondering if I was guilty as charged. Is my radio show a safe haven for those with verbal diarrhea? Good thing those in charge of the NCAA don’t have discretion over my radio show. If they did, here’s what would happen. In an effort to limit the amount of exposure each caller received on the airwaves, the amount of commercial inventory would be increased per hour on my program from 12 to 24 minutes. Besides this, each hour would also be filled with at least two mindless vignettes or segments. No one in their right mind would agree to this. Talk about a great way to alienate your audience.

So back to the brains that govern sports in higher education, the NCAA. They’ve overheard fans and media alike complaining in the past couple of decades about the overlong nature of Division One football games. Nationally televised games became marathons that left fans exhausted and emotionally spent, and more importantly, local affiliates hurting for commercial inventory at night’s end. Games scheduled for three hours were routinely becoming four-plus-hour affairs.

So, what did the thinkers come up with as a solution? Shorter halftimes? Fewer commercial breaks? Less cutesy features from sideline reporters? College football decided, in a curiously reactionary move that would make the Bush administration itself blush, to completely alter its game.

Steve Spurrier always said that the aspect of college football (before this season) that the NFL could never touch is the number of plays. In college ball, the clock has always been more ally than enemy to offensive football teams. This has created an offensively festive, fan-friendly game. As the old saying goes, that was then, and this is now.

In 2006, new rules that have been instituted to speed up games. The game clock is now running during kickoff when the ball is kicked rather than when it is received. That makes some sense. Also, the game clock no longer stops during a change of possession. That is akin to baseball speeding up their game by deciding that two strikes would constitute a strikeout. Already, teams have had to burn timeouts at the end of games on first down in an attempt to get the ball back. Teams have taken timeouts before first down. Casual fans in Rocky Top haven’t caught on to the subtle change thus far. Wait until UT is down three and needing to get the ball back at the end of a game. You’ll see why I’m making a fuss about this.

Early returns are that the lords of the sport have failed in their intentions to speed things up. What they’ve done in actuality is cut things down. Through three weeks, the number of plays on nationally televised games are off by anywhere from 10-15 per offensive side. That’s 20-25 plays over the course of a game. Consider that most college games consist of 140 plays. So, if it’s not speeding games up, where is all that time that was spent on 25 plays going? To the bottom line, of course.

On the same night UT and Air Force played a 31-30 thriller in just over three hours, Ohio State outclassed Texas 24-7 in a game that took about 40 minutes longer. The difference? While the UT-Air Force game featured 61 points to 31 for OSU-Texas, the latter had ABC. Short for Another Boring Commercial. It should be noted that the UT-Air Force game was slowed some 12 minutes while medical personnel tended to injured Vol Inky Johnson. The Saturday crawl only continued a trend from week one. In ABC’s first prime time offering, Notre Dame bested Georgia Tech 14-10 in a defensive struggle that lasted 3 hours and 45 minutes. They’ve succeeded in giving us less for more. Who do these people think they’re fooling?

New York Post television sports critic Phil Mushnick reports that “Division I-AA, II and III games—played unattached to major commercial networks—still typically run 2:30-2:45.” Quantified, that’s 33 percent less time to play 10 percent more football. Oh, and I’m not fooling with the format of my show. Unlike the NCAA I don’t care who criticizes me or what they say. Just get the name right. That’s all I ask.

Tune in and talk sports with Tony Basilio weekdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on ESPN Radio WVLZ 1180 AM. Visit www.tonybasilio.com for more information.