Coaches Upset Over Rule to Speed Up Game

Times Staff Writer

NCAA Rule 3-2-5-e, just one sentence long, ignited a litany of complaints Thursday from coaches attending Pacific 10 Conference football media day at the Sheraton Gateway hotel near LAX.

The new rule states that after changes of possession such as interceptions and kickoffs, the game clock begins as soon as officials mark the ball ready for play. In the past, the clock did not start until the ensuing snap, giving offensive and defensive squads more time to run onto the field.

This seemingly minor wrinkle was enacted to shorten games by a few minutes. Coaches foresee massive headaches.

“It’s the most dramatic, drastic change I’ve ever seen,” Oregon Coach Mike Bellotti said. “Nobody likes it.”


In simple terms, those lost few minutes might have cut short UCLA’s comeback victories against Stanford and California last season.

“Yeah,” UCLA Coach Karl Dorrell said. “We’re not for it.”

At a morning rules meeting, coaches considered several doomsday scenarios.

If a team is trailing and takes possession in the final seconds, mayhem could ensue as players sprint onto the field while officials mark the ball and scramble out of the way.

If only one or two seconds remain, coaches asked, will offensive squads have time to line up and snap the ball for a Hail Mary or field-goal attempt?

On a lesser note, if the leading team takes possession with less than 25 seconds remaining -- the time allotted to snap the ball before a delay-of-game penalty -- it could simply wait on the sideline as officials mark the ball and start the clock.

The game could tick down with an empty field.

“I wouldn’t send my offense out there,” Oregon State Coach Mike Riley said. “No sense in taking a chance.”


Asked about this potential scene, Pac-10 Commissioner Tom Hansen said: “Not aesthetically pleasing.”

But Hansen does wonder if coaches are overreacting a bit. In more than two decades as commissioner, he has seen them bemoan other changes that proved insignificant.

Yet his reservations about Rule 3-2-5-e prompted him to send a letter asking the NCAA to reconsider. He was told to reapply next season.

Verle Sorgen, the Pac-10 coordinator for football officiating, shrugged and said: “We’ll do the best we can.”



USC was picked to win the conference in the annual media poll. The Trojans received 18 first-place votes, California seven, Oregon three and Arizona State one. UCLA was picked to finish fifth. “Been there before,” Bruins Coach Karl Dorrell said. UCLA also was picked fifth last year before finishing third and ending the season 10-2 after a victory in the Sun Bowl. Times writers do not participate in voting....

Coach Pete Carroll said freshman receiver Jamere Holland sprained his shoulder during a seven-on-seven workout and would not be able to participate when the Trojans open fall practice on Aug. 3. Carroll said running back Kenny Ashley did not qualify academically....

Carroll reiterated that he thought All-American receiver Dwayne Jarrett would not miss any games if his eligibility is reinstated, as expected, by the NCAA. But Carroll said Jarrett would probably have to pay back some money to Bob Leinart, the father of former quarterback Matt Leinart. Jarrett was declared ineligible last month after the NCAA determined he received an “extra benefit,” by paying less than half the rent for a $3,866-a-month apartment he shared with Matt Leinart last season. Bob Leinart has said that his son and Jarrett each paid $650 a month, and that he picked up the difference.


UCLA opens practice Aug. 7 and will use an intramural field for the first two weeks while renovations are completed at Spaulding Field, which is getting a section of synthetic grass and a new drainage system.... The Bruins will wear new-look road uniforms. The old navy blue numbers have been replaced by a lighter shade of blue and will be outlined in gold and navy blue. The shoulder stripes will also be the lighter shade.


Times staff writers Gary Klein and Lonnie White contributed to this report.