Marathon overtime games in college football, such as the one LSU and Texas A&M played last season, are already rare. The NCAA would like them to become extinct.
Concerned about increased injury risk to players, the football rules committee later this month will consider tweaks to the overtime format. The goal is to make it less likely for games to go beyond two extra possessions for each team.
Among the more radical ideas set to be discussed is going to a 2-point-conversion shootout after teams have played two full OT possessions.
“The overtime process is really not broken,” said Steve Shaw, the national coordinator of football officials. “It’s just when you go beyond two (overtime possessions), it’s too much.”
The committee meets the last week of February in Indianapolis and will also – again – discuss targeting. The American Football Coaches Association wants to make targeting a two-tiered foul, with a 15-yard penalty for some helmet hits and 15 yards plus ejection for more malicious hits. Currently, all targeting fouls result in ejection. A similar change was considered last year, but shot down and the same seems likely this year. However, other changes will be discussed that could lead to fewer ejections.
The current overtime format, implemented in 1996, gives each team possession at the opponent’s 25-yard line, and repeats the process until one team has outscored the other. After two possessions by each team, the offense must try a 2-point conversion instead of kicking an extra point after a touchdown.
On average, 37 Bowl Subdivision games have gone to overtime over the past four seasons. Most end after one round of possessions. Only six games per season have gone past two overtimes. LSU and Texas A&M tied a record by playing seven overtime periods in November. The Aggies won 74-72 and the teams ran 207 offensive plays; an average regulation game features 140.
“Obviously that’s a lot of exertion on the student-athletes,” said West Virginia athletic director Shane Lyons, who is in his first year as the chairman of the NCAA’s football oversight committee.
There is no support to allow games to end in ties, which were part of college football for decades.
Shaw said he has received dozens of ideas about how to tweak overtime. The most common have to do with placement of the ball. With offenses operating more efficiently than ever, moving the starting line back 10 or 15 yards could make scoring more difficult. The rules committee will also consider eliminating extra point tries, forcing teams to go for 2 from the very first possession.
These seem to be the most likely next steps, but other more creative measures will also be considered, Shaw said.
Since the 2-point play often decides the longer overtime games – Texas A&M-LSU finally ended on the Aggies’ made conversion after LSU tried one and failed – why not go straight to 2-point plays from the 2-yard line after each team has had the ball twice? The first team to get a score and a stop wins.
Shaw said eliminating all place kicking in overtime will also be discussed. This could help address a less important issue: the team that wins the coin toss for overtime usually wins the game. Typically, the team that wins the toss chooses to play defense first so it knows what it will take to win when it has the ball.
“I don’t know if that’s going to be very popular, but we’ll talk about it,” Shaw said.
As they will with targeting.
While coaches support the two-tiered penalty, the commissioners who manage the NCAA’s College Football Officiating LLC see it as backing away from a rule meant to address player safety.
“It’s either targeting or it’s not, and right now the targeting penalty carries with it an ejection,” Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said.
Shaw said the rules committee will consider changing the way replay review is used in targeting as a way to improve the accuracy of the calls – and maybe have less marginal calls result in ejections.
Currently, replay review can confirm a ruling on the field, overturn it or decide the call stands if there is not enough video evidence to overturn. The committee will consider eliminating the call stands ruling, allowing replay officials to overturn calls that cannot be confirmed.
“We look forward to having a really good dialogue with the AFCA on this,” Mid-American Conference Commissioner Jon Steinbrecher said. “I think we all have the same goal in mind and that’s let get it right.”
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