Saturdays at Florida Field, Doak Campbell Stadium and other college football venues won't be as long as they used to be.
But the season will be longer.
At the top of the sport's largest field of bowl games (32 of them), an ever-changing, ever-controversial championship system steadies itself for another nuance - not to mention a new network.
In January, the Bowl Championship Series will trot out a fifth game, the key access component of a 10-team event known as "the double-hosting model."
It's not a playoff. Repeat, no teams advance to the BCS Championship Game. The country's two highest-ranked teams will be placed in the newly created title game during the BCS' customary December selection show, while the Orange, Sugar, Fiesta and Rose bowls will be staged as usual.
Also at the party is Fox, the new kid on the postseason block. Fox will carry four of the five BCS games, all but the tradition-embracing Rose Bowl (ABC).
All that, though, comes at the end. Long before we get there, we're all going to have to adapt to some more rudimentary changes. Like shorter games and longer seasons.
The once-experimental 12-game season is now the law of the land in Division I-A, and the additional BCS game will push bowl season a week beyond New Year's Day.
At least the Saturdays to get there should be quicker. The NCAA approved a new set of rules designed to keep games closer to three hours than four, a change association officials said was requested by school administrators.
"The longer you play, you increase the potential for injuries," said Dennis Poppe, NCAA managing director for football and baseball.
In 2005, the average game time was 3 hours, 21 minutes, and six bowls went longer than four hours.
"I think it's a good change," said University of Central Florida Coach George O'Leary, whose Golden Knights concluded last season with an overtime loss at the Hawaii Bowl in a game that lasted 4:05. "Even our normal games were getting to be 3:24, 3:25. You get overtime and you're out there for four hours. That's too long for everybody.
"Even the fans want to go home by then."
Starting Thursday, when the I-A season officially begins, game clocks will start ticking as soon as the ball is kicked off and not when it is caught or first put into play.
A more dramatic change is that game clocks now will start when the football is marked ready for play. Tick-tock after a first down. Tick-tock after a change of possession.
John Adams, secretary-rules editor for the NCAA's football rules committee, expects games to shorten between five and 12 minutes. Translated, 10 to 24 plays will disappear.
"If you're the underdog, obviously you would like fewer plays in the game," South Carolina Coach Steve Spurrier said. "When I was at Florida, we wanted as fast as we could have it, hopefully have about 90 plays a game. We'd have a chance to score a lot of points.
"But now we're in a little different situation. It can shorten the game and have fewer plays. There could be some real fast games if there's not a lot of incomplete passes and so forth."
There's another time cut as well, and pageantry is the loser: Halftimes were sliced from 20 minutes to 15.
The NCAA also
Deemed eye shields must be clear. Previously, shaded shields were permitted.
Lowered the tee used on kickoffs from 2 inches to 1 inch. Kickers haven't been allowed to use tees on field-goal and extra-point attempts for several years. Rules officials hope the shorter tees cut down on the number of touchbacks, encourage more runbacks and - keeping with the theme - keep the clock running.
Voted in an instant-replay system. The Big Ten had one for two years, and eight other leagues tried their versions last season. Now replay is in the rulebook. The NCAA's Board of Directors voted in a modified Big Ten system, which permits a review official to overturn calls but also allows for coaches' challenges. The new system is the first uniform one in the game, and it affords coaches one challenge a game. A rejected challenge will cost a team a timeout.
Finally, the NCAA has made a vocabulary change. After this season, Division I-A - encompassing the Floridas and Florida States of the world - will become known as the "Bowl Division." Division I-AA, which includes schools such as Florida A&M, Bethune-Cookman, Georgia Southern and Furman, will become the "Championship Division." NCAA officials said the designations "I-A" and "I-AA" often are misunderstood by the public and the media.
At least the association is giving everyone time to absorb the new names. The clock starts ticking Thursday - literally - on the other changes.
Orlando Sentinel staff writer Dave Curtis contributed to this report.
(c) 2006, The Orlando Sentinel (Fla.).
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