Clock to run more, UH may shoot less
BOISE, Idaho » The hot-button "news" topic here at the WAC Media Day was supposed to be instant replay.
But after further review, a mini-furor ensued over two seemingly innocuous rule changes -- Hawaii coach June Jones certainly doesn't view them as harmless, predicting they will cost him 14 points a game.
Meet Rule 3, Section 2, Article 5: "When the ball is free kicked, the game clock will start."
And Rule 3, Section 2, Article 5-e: "When Team B (in most cases, the team that was on defense the previous play) is awarded a first down, the game clock will start on the ready-for-play signal."
The rules are designed to shave time off college games that have gotten significantly longer in recent years. WAC supervisor of officials Jim Blackwood said running the clock in those situations will knock 12 to 15 minutes off the length of a game -- it also means about 20 fewer plays, he said. That translates, in Jones' estimation, to two fewer touchdowns.
"I kind of like an idea that means June's going to lose 14 points," Louisana Tech's Jack Bicknell cracked. But that's all he -- or any of the WAC coaches -- likes about it.
"It's going to be an issue and we have to re-adjust everything we do," Bicknell said. "I have a nice 5-hour flight to think through some scenarios. I thought it was fine and they didn't need to mess with it."
The real problem comes late in games when one team is trying to mount a comeback and the other is trying to run out the clock. With the clock running on first down after change of possession, and when toe meets ball on kickoffs, strange things can happen.
Let's say Boise State leads Hawaii 33-17 with about 2 minutes left, and the Broncos have just gotten the ball. They can run the clock down on first down and take a penalty, killing 25 seconds. Hawaii's choice is to use its timeouts (assuming it has all three). With the new rule, though, if it uses all three, it will still be just third down for Boise State instead of fourth.
The league coaches sat around yesterday morning discussing all kinds of ways these new rules can be abused.
But as Boise State coach Chris Petersen said, that defeats the purpose of what they're trying to teach their players.
"It's going to be tough on officials, tough on coaches," San Jose State's Dick Tomey said. "There will be fewer comebacks."
All those charts the coaches have for figuring out when a game is safely tucked away, or when they should go for it or punt late in a game, are headed for the trash can.
"We're going to have to hire clock-management people to tell me when to take a timeout," New Mexico State's Hal Mumme said. "The rules committee went below and beyond in coming up with that one."
As for instant replay, don't look for coaches to risk a timeout in making a "challenge" (especially since the replay crew is supposed to be monitoring every play, anyway). Saving timeouts for the endgame is even more important than before.
is a Star-Bulletin sportswriter who covers University of Hawaii football and other topics. His column appears periodically.
Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org