Clock ticking on learning new rules
WESTERN Athletic Conference coaches know how they feel about college football's new "timing rules" package.
They hate it.
College football coaches are an easily-irritated bunch to begin with. Did we really have to add to their cumulative level of stress?
And yet, they're the lucky ones in all this.
At least they know how they feel.
With these new rules, it seems the coaches are the only ones who know what is going on.
Hate it? I can't even understand it.
OK, the clock stops when you go out of bounds, but then it starts again. No. It starts on the signal. You should jump offsides on purpose, which used to stop the clock, but now you could do it to run out the clock, because now the clock runs. What? Timeouts don't stop the clock. It's a running clock!
Have you tried to have a discussion among college football fans about these new rules? Nobody knows anything.
Local official Mike Goshima was kind enough to send out a primer to media members to help walk us through it. It was really helpful. He used small words and everything.
"Did you get it?" he asked.
Um, no. I didn't get it.
"You didn't get my e-mail?"
Oh! Oh, your e-mail. Oh, yeah I got the e-mail ...
I just don't get it.
You just can't expect sportswriters to understand this stuff.
And it's crisis mode now, with the season opening any day. Yesterday, the WAC put on a special new-rules session for the media at the end of the weekly WAC teleconference. Questions would be taken. Answers given. We would go over this, step by step. Again and again. We would get it.
The WAC knows who it is working with.
Jim Blackwood, the WAC supervisor of officials, a former instant-replay official for the NFL, would be our Jaime Escalante, our Miracle Worker, our "Dangerous Minds" lady, our "Dead Poets Society" guy.
"What we want to make sure is that the members of the media are fully aware of the new rules so that you can report them correctly," commissioner Karl Benson said.
So Blackwood did his best.
"For the first time in college football you're going to see the clock start after change of possessions," he said, "after pass interceptions, on kicks, it's been turned over, or almost any change of possession, a fumble recovery ..."
"You will see the clock start when the ball is kicked and there are no exceptions to that rule," he said.
Then he went over several sample scenarios -- if this then that. Team A kicks it off and B runs it back and there are 5 seconds left and two trains are headed for Cincinnati at 35 mph ...
The walls started to close in on me. It was like the SAT test all over again.
No, wait. That was just the noise in my head. Others were actually able to come up with a question that would sum all this confusion up with a single answer:
"Was there a time limit that the NCAA was trying to get these games down to?" someone said.
Blackwood didn't know, but it looks like the NCAA was aiming for 3 1/2 hours with these non-clock-killing moves.
"Would the pro rule of spotting it after a first down and winding (the clock), wouldn't that work?" someone said.
"We have tried for nine years to get them to adopt the 40/25-second clock," Blackwood said. And yes, that would do it (and be less complicated than this).
"Those of you who have been around like I have for 100 years remember that we used to wind the clock and we never stopped the clock on first downs," Blackwood said. "And that was no longer the coaches' wishes, as y'all know only coaches make the rule changes, or a committee of coaches."
But don't the coaches hate it? Didn't they say they had nothing to do with this new rule?
I'm Vinnie Barbarino confused now.
"Will you go over those two exceptions again? I couldn't understand what you meant on that second exception," someone said.
So Blackwood spoke some more, about the ends of quarters and the differences between TV and regular timeouts. And I think I've got it now, I really do, and I would explain it to you here, except for some reason my head hurts and I need to lie down.
Benson explained that all clock operators will be undergoing training via another conference call, and that members of the media were welcome to join in that one, too, if we wanted in order to go over all of this again.
The commish does know who he's dealing with. Give him that.