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LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Pac-12 will shorten halftime and reduce the number of commercial breaks during its non-conference schedule this season as part of a trial program to reduce the length of its football games.
Halftime will be 15 minutes long, cut down from the usual 20-minute break. The number of commercial breaks will be reduced and they will be shorter in length, Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said Wednesday.
Scott announced the initiative as the Pac-12 kicked off its media days in Hollywood. The experiment is intended to shorten ballooning game times in an era of up-tempo offenses running more plays and the increased scoring that comes with it.
"Just because metrics show robust ratings and attendance doesn't mean we shouldn't be experimenting and piloting with formats that will keep the sport attractive," Scott said. "It's incumbent on us to look at the presentation of the sport and make sure the pace of play is moving as much as possible and without changing the fundamentals of the game."
Scott did not completely dismiss potential rule changes in the future to address the length of games, saying that the upcoming experiment was part of a larger, more comprehensive review.
Scott noted that Pac-12 games have averaged nearly 3 hours and 30 minutes, more than 30 minutes longer than NFL games. Some of that discrepancy can be attributed to stopping the clock after first downs in college football, a rule not used in the NFL.
The halftime reduction could be a significant incentive to keep television viewers tuned in. Scott said up to 30 percent of the audience is lost during that break.
The changes could also have a positive effect on stadium attendance since Pac-12 fans have complained about the increase in late starts under the conference's most recent television deal. Fans might be more likely to watch a game in-person on a Thursday or Saturday night if they have a chance to get home before midnight.
For Arizona and Arizona State, which hold their early-season home games after dark to avoid the desert heat, it could mean their fans spend less time in triple-digit temperatures.
Pac-12 coaches consulted about the change did not believe it would hinder their ability to make adjustments at halftime, Scott said.
"I was delighted to hear our coaches feel like 20 minutes is more than they need from a student-athlete health and rest and X's and O's perspective," Scott said.
Scott also announced the league's plans to operate a centralized replay center, joining other conferences in consolidating its video review facilities.
The Pac-12 title game will stay at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California, through 2019, Scott said. The league also has the option to hold the 2020 game in Santa Clara.
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