Today, a pet peeve: College football games last entirely too long.

Something has got to give. Too many games are like opening War and Peace or tuning in to Gone with the Wind, commercials and all.

The Alabama-Ole Miss game last Saturday lasted four hours and two minutes. There were no weather delays. There was no overtime. Don’t think for a minute that Alabama-Ole Miss was an anomaly. Troy-Southern Miss lasted 10 minutes longer – and that was after a lengthy weather delay.

That’s a long time sit on a bench seat. Heck, that’s a long time to sit in a luxury suite – or even in your favorite recliner with remote in hand.

I remember when football games lasted two hours and change. That was before the invention of TV timeouts, before dreadful, expanded two-and-a-half-minute TV timeouts, before replay reviews and before so many teams threw it on nearly every down.

Rick Cleveland
Rick Cleveland Credit: Melanie Thortis

I haven’t talked to anyone who believes that the longer games are in the best interest of the sport. The stoppages cut into the flow of the game. It’s like watching the last 30 minutes of a movie on pay-TV when there’s a one-minute commercial seemingly every two minutes. In newspaper terms, the games need an editor. He or she needs to cut out the fluff.

If the NFL can fit the majority of the games into a three-hour window, in stands to reason so can college football.

The first thing I’d do is cut the number and length of TV timeouts, which are called media timeouts but which working media hate worse than even the fans. Yeah, I know, I’m not the one who has to pay the bills. So cutting money-making commercial time is not going to happen.

So, probably the first thing you really can do is you is keep the clock running after first downs except for the last two minutes of a game or a half. That would cut some time out. You might consider doing the same thing with incomplete passes. That would cut several minutes off the average game.

College halftimes last 20 minutes as opposed to 12 in the pros. That’s because, traditionally, two bands perform at halftime. But that is getting to be less and less the case. So compromise and make halftime 15 minutes and cut five minutes there.

As for the replay reviews, the pros have limits. College football can do that, too. There is absolutely no need to review as many plays as they did in the Bama-Ole Miss game, especially when we’re not sure they got it right even after the long delays.

These are just some ideas. You may have some, too. Certainly the experts should.

All I know is that football wasn’t meant to last four hours.

Rick Cleveland is Mississippi Today’s sports columnist. Read his previous columns and his Sports Daily blog.

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Rick Cleveland, a native of Hattiesburg and resident of Jackson, has been Mississippi Today’s sports columnist since 2016. A graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi with a bachelor’s in journalism, Rick has worked for the Monroe (La.) News Star World, Jackson Daily News and Clarion Ledger. He was sports editor of Hattiesburg American, executive director of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame. His work as a syndicated columnist and celebrated sports writer has appeared in numerous magazines, periodicals and newspapers.
Rick has been recognized 13 times as Mississippi Sports Writer of the Year, and is recipient of multiple awards and honors for his reporting and writing.