When the margins get larger in college football, sometimes the games get shorter.
Clemson’s 59-0 victory over Football Championship Subdivision program South Carolina State on Saturday marked the latest college football game to be shortened due to a lack of competitiveness.
NCAA rules state that at “any time during the game, the playing time of any remaining period or periods and the intermission between halves may be shortened by mutual agreement of the opposing head coaches and the referee.”
The NCAA rules only allow for shortening the length of time in each quarter and don’t permit the use of a running clock, though there is evidence of games having used running clocks in the past.
“The refs came to me right before the half and just said, ‘Would I be OK with some type of shortening up the game if South Carolina State wanted to do it?’ ” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “I said it would be fine with me. When I got back on the field for the third quarter, they came to me and said, ‘Are you OK with 12-minute quarters these two (quarters)?’ I said it’d be great. I didn’t have a problem with that.”
The third and fourth quarters of the Clemson-South Carolina State game were shortened to 12 minutes each. Clemson led 45-0 at halftime.
The move allowed Clemson to end the game as soon as possible and begin preparing for Thursday’s Atlantic Coast Conference opener with Georgia Tech. And it enabled both teams to reduce the risk of injuries in a game that already had been decided.
“Anything we can do to make our teams better for the next week, we probably needed to do,” South Carolina State coach Buddy Pough said.
The shortening of this game was hardly unprecedented. Here’s a sampling of games over the last five years in which a lopsided score caused some changes in the timekeeping.
2012: Florida State 55, Savannah State 0: After a 56-minute weather delay in the second quarter with Florida State ahead 48-0, officials agreed to use a running clock. The game was called for good in the third quarter due to lightning.
2013: Louisville 72, Florida International 0: A running clock inadvertently was used for portions of the second half of the Cardinals’ shutout . Gerald Austin, the coordinator of officials for Conference USA, said after the game that FIU coach Ron Turner had commented to officials that he wanted to run the ball in the second half because injuries had limited the number of players he had available. An official misinterpreted the comment. Austin said there were five times that the clock should have been stopped when it kept running. Neither coach requested a running clock.
2013: Miami 77, Savannah State 7: The fourth quarter of this game was shortened to 12 minutes. Miami also ran the play clock almost to expiration before each of its snaps in the final period. Miami already was leading 77-7 through the end of three quarters.
2013: North Carolina 80, Old Dominion 20: The fourth quarter of this game was shortened to 10 minutes. No points were scored during that final period.
2015: Boston College 76, Howard 0: The third and fourth quarters of the Eagles’ shutout were shortened to 10 minutes each. Boston College led 62-0 at halftime.