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NCAA Football: Baylor at West Virginia

WVU coach Neal Brown argues a call during the Mountaineers’ game against Baylor.

As a country and as a people, we’ve successfully put human beings on the moon and sent them to the bottom of our deepest oceans.

We’ve summitted Everest and reached both poles. We’ve traversed the Appalachian and Rocky mountains, crossed the Mississippi and Colorado rivers, tamed the West, mapped the Great Lakes, settled, farmed and developed land in extreme climates and built cities and societies to rival those of anywhere else on the globe.

So, someone has to explain to me why we can’t put someone in a booth at a football game to radio down to officials that a play doesn’t need to be reviewed.

I can’t be the only one who has noticed how long it takes to play/watch a college football game these days. It’s ridiculous.

It really stuck out to me in the press box at Milan Puskar Stadium when West Virginia and Kansas played a first quarter that lasted an hour. The entire duration of the game ended up being three hours and 33 minutes, three minutes longer than the run time for the movie “The Irishman.” But Martin Scorsese’s latest film is an epic, and if you watched the Mountaineers’ 38-17 win over the Jayhawks, you know that game was anything but.

There’s plenty of data to back this up.

According to a report by Ben Weinrib on Athlon Sports entitled “How Long Do College Football Games Last?”, the average game is now three hours and 24 minutes, longer than any other major sport including the NFL and Major League Baseball. That number has been steadily on the rise as well with Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) games averaging three hours and one minute in 1996 and three hours and 17 minutes in 2013, according to a story by Garry Smits in The Florida Times-Union in 2017.

And consider in that time that rule changes have been made to theoretically speed up the game. The game clock used to stop until the following snap when a player either ran out of bounds or picked up a first down. Now, save for the last two minutes of each half, after a player goes out of bounds, the clock starts again when the ball is set and an official gives the signal. That rule is the same for plays resulting in a first down for the entirety of the game.

Yet game times continue to rise. Why?

Obviously there is the commercialization of the game. But let’s face it, the TV networks are going to get their money, so I wouldn’t expect any kind of change on that front anytime soon.

There’s halftime, which is 20 minutes long in the college game compared to 12 minutes in the NFL. But a big factor for that is the inclusion of marching bands, which I would argue are a viable part of the college atmosphere and I don’t want to see them go anywhere. In fact, I think it’s one of the things that is most missing from the games this year in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But ask yourself: How many times have you watched a college football game this year that has been stopped for a review that upon one look at a replay, the correct call is completely obvious?

This is one area the NFL is leaps and bounds ahead of the college game. Don’t get me wrong, there are reviews that are unnecessary in the NFL too, although that was alleviated a bit by the decision to do away with the rule that allowed a review on pass-interference calls. What a disaster that was.

In the NFL, all scoring plays are automatically reviewed. But how often do you notice any kind of delay between a touchdown and the extra point? Rarely, unless it’s a play that warrants an in-depth look. That’s because there’s someone in the booth already looking at the play, and if everything looks good it’s relayed to the officials, and by the time the extra-point team has lined up, the decision has been made.

Why, oh why, can’t we do this with everything? Especially in college football, where every time a play looks close in real time, you go ahead and get up and make a sandwich or take a bathroom break knowing that a 5- to 7-minute pause in the action is inevitably coming?

Again, there are certainly plays that require a lengthy review. For instance, the final 2-point conversion run by Indiana’s Michael Penix Jr. in the team’s 36-35 win in overtime over Penn State on Saturday. I’ve looked at that play and the resulting gif 100 times and I still don’t know if he was in or out. Plus, that was the game-winning play. By all means, take your time. Get it right.

But every catch on the sideline? Every dropped pass/fumble situation? And … ugh, the worst one … every targeting call? The targeting rule is a whole other column for another week, and maybe we will get to that soon.

It’s 2020. And with as much uncertainty as we’ve experienced, perhaps the one thing we can all agree on is that our time is finite and we have no idea what could be lurking just around the corner.

So, to the NCAA, hurry it the hell up, would ya?

We’ve all got too much to prepare for in the future to be taking so many unnecessary, lengthy looks at the past.

Contact Ryan Pritt at 304-348-7948 or ryan.pritt@wvgazettemail.com. Follow him on Twitter @RPritt.