Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott addressed the elephant in the room during Wednesday’s Pac-12 Football Media Day in Hollywood, Calif.
The “elephant” for Scott revolves around the elongated gridiron contests that have become rampant across the college football world.
In 2016, the average college football game time was 3 hours and 24 minutes, the longest in the sport’s history.
Scott told reporters that the conference was well aware that fans want shorter games, and also addressed the late game times that are common in the Pac-12.
“A final area in which we're showing collective leadership is around the issue of the length of football games,” Scott said. “We know fans are feeling the impact of longer games. We support the ongoing work of rules committees that are working nationally to examine this issue and look at possible rule changes that affect the pace of the game and the length of the game.”
Scott unveiled a plan for games on the Pac-12 Network during the non-conference schedule to cut back on game times, including fewer commercial breaks and a reduced halftime, from 20 to 15 minutes.
Scott says the conference found through research that an average of 30 percent of football viewers watching games on either ESPN or the Pac-12 Network stop watching by halftime, which he felt was due in part to the length of halftime ceremonies.
“We very much salute and support some of the halftime rituals and presentations and of course the break for the student-athletes, but when I talked to our coaches about this, I really started this by talking to our coaches about halftime, from a student-athlete health perspective and welfare perspective, and I was delighted to hear our coaches feel like 20 minutes is more than they need from a student-athlete health and rest and an Xs and Os perspective,” Scott said.
“Some even believed that 20 minutes may be too long in terms of keeping the muscles loose and all that. That led me to want to push our conference to pilot with this shortened format. It's a step.”
Scott said the conference has also heard a lot of complaints from fans about the growing number of 30-second television timeouts, which also contributed to the reforms.
He pointed to the Open Championship broadcast on NBC, which used split-screen commercial breaks that allowed commercials to air while still showing live footage, as a possible model going forward.
“We'll test it during the non-conference season. We'll get some good feedback,” Scott said. “...And let me underscore, this is a comprehensive look at the presentation of the game that we have to bring to it.”
Scott said the conference’s goal is to bring game times closer to three hours within the coming years. Plan your drinking games accordingly.