High School Sports

Stevens: It’s not too late to shorten high school football games

It seems illogical but less would be more in high school football.

The games are too long.

Three-hour games, which once were reserved for overtimes or high-scoring games, now are common.

It is too much, and the length of games is getting some attention at the national level.

Mark Drebelbis, an assistant commissioner of the N.C. High School Athletic Association, said he would not be surprised if legislation is considered at the national level that would shorten the time it takes to play a game.

“I’d vote for it,” Drebelbis said. “The games take too long to play now.”

High-scoring offenses with extensive passing games have added to the time it takes to play a game, but so has the rules.

About 1990, National Federation of State High School Associations added a simple rule that added dozens of minutes to games.

The previous rule had been for the clock to be stopped on every change of possession and to be started when the official put the ball in play.

The clock now stops after a change of possession and doesn’t start until the ball is snapped.

Instead of the ball being spotted and the offensive team huddling while the clock is ticking, the team huddles while the clock is stopped.

If each team has eight possessions in a game, the teams have an additional eight or more minutes on the game clock. In essence, teams now play in four quarters what would have taken 41/2 or five quarters during the 1980s and before.

“Changing the clock start rule came up before and didn’t pass, but it wouldn’t be surprising if it comes up again,” Drebelbis said. “I’m not privy to what proposals are going to be made at the next meeting, but there has been discussion about the clock.”

The current rule was adopted because officials across the nation said there was inconsistency in timekeeping at various stadiums and that the clock operator really shouldn’t be part of the home-field advantage. The same logic led the NCHSAA to use a member of the officiating crew to keep the clock during playoff games.

I like the idea of making the games shorter. The possible rule change would not impact the fundamentals of the game, and I think starting the clock sooner after the change of possession also might be a safety issue.

There is ongoing research about the risk to young, maturing brains from playing football, but it seems to me that it would be a great idea to cut the number of plays in each game by starting the clock sooner after the change of possession.

If I could, I’d join Drebelbis in voting to do that.