College football rules committee to discuss 2-minute warning: What it could mean for the sport


College football officials are expected to discuss the idea of adding a two-minute warning to games in a rules committee meeting at the end of this month.

The possibility comes one year after the committee adjusted clock rules to be closer to the NFL, continuing to run the clock after first downs outside of the last two minutes. The two-minute warning idea, which might be formally referred to as a stoppage or break, could provide help for clock, rule change and commercial break purposes.

“With our change in the clock rules, we have a number of things that hinge on a certain period in the game, like the first down situation,” NCAA national coordinator of officials Steve Shaw told The Athletic. “If you had a definitive two-minute break, then you could flip all of your clock rules.

“Like today, the 10-second runoff doesn’t kick in until one minute (left). So we think there might be some value in having a two-minute stop and then now we go to post-timing rules and make all of it contingent on the two-minute.”

The NFL has had a two-minute warning since 1942, implemented simply because officials kept the official time, not the stadium. So the stoppage let everyone know the clock situation. As the sport grew, stadium clocks became official and TV took over, the two-minute warning stayed in place for commercials and drama.

It’s unknown how much support there could be for a change at the college level. Shaw added it’s possible the committee simply leaves the current rules in place for another year and gathers more feedback before making any changes.

“I’m anxious to get to the meeting and talk about it and see the thinking behind it,” said Northern Illinois head coach Thomas Hammock, another member of the rules committee. “What are we trying to change? From a strategy standpoint, that would greatly change the strategy of how you end a game. But length of game and those things, I’m interested to see the thoughts behind it.”

The NCAA’s clock changes last year included banning consecutive timeouts by the same team and moving untimed downs from the first and third quarter into the following quarter. They were meant to speed up game times and cut down on the number of “exposures” for players. (The committee tabled an idea to run the clock after incompletions.)

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Shaw said those changes resulted in around 4.5 fewer total plays per game and shortened game times by around four real-time minutes on average. Some coaches and fans were unhappy about it early in the season, but everyone settled in, and the resulting difference was largely negligible. It accomplished what it was supposed to.

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A two-minute warning as a free timeout could lengthen the game, but Shaw said it could simply fill the place of a TV timeout. With the clock rule changes last year, Shaw said some broadcasters were concerned about fitting in their contractually obligated TV timeouts. Providing a guaranteed break at the two-minute mark could reduce the chances of the back-to-backs (touchdown, commercial, kickoff, commercial).

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“We’d really like to avoid the back-to-backs. Nobody likes that,” Shaw said. “If we did it, the media partner would have to hold their last timeout to that, so they couldn’t get their timeouts in and then get a freebie. It would be the last media timeout and give them assurance they’ll get them all in. I think TV would be supportive of it.”

Hammock, a former Baltimore Ravens assistant, noted the two-minute stoppage makes sense in the NFL where so many games come down to the final possession, like Sunday’s Super Bowl. It affects how a team runs out the clock or maximizes possessions. It would be an impactful change.

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It’s too early to know how much momentum there could be behind a two-minute change. Other rules committee topics like helmet communication and sideline tablets are on the docket. A move to coach challenges has been discussed in the past and likely will be again this year, but coaches have been mixed in their support. The idea of a two-minute warning is expected to get more attention this time around.

“It will be talked about,” Shaw said. “Whether we make a change, I (don’t know).”

(Photo: Ken Murray / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)





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