The new clock rule, ACC officials

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

ACC coordinator of officials Doug Rhoads was among the speakers at Tuesday morning's breakfast with the commissioner, and he went over the new rule changes for this season. The bottom line is this: There will still be about 70-76 offensive plays, but the game will be 10-12 minutes shorter.

The coaches spent much of their meeting on Monday talking about the new 40-second clock, and Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe said "it's new, so it's got everybody on edge a little bit."

In time he expects everyone to like it.

"I think most of the coaches like it because it will standardize the game," he said. "In the old days, depending on what crew you got or what referee you got, the game might go really fast or really slow. Now we'll pretty much have a standard, where as soon as that ball goes out of bounds, as soon as they signal it out, that 40 seconds is going to go."

Grobe said the new rule will be tougher for offenses to get used to because the coaches and players will have to get back into position quickly. It's something the coaches started working into their practices this spring and will definitely incorporate into their fall scrimmages.

"If you're kind of hanging out on the sidelines, saying, 'Oh, what do we want to call here,' before you know it, it will start going 8, 7, 6, 5 ..." Grobe said. "You're going to have to be really careful how you manage the clock."

I spoke with Rhoads last week and went over a lot of what he addressed Tuesday, in addition to a few other topics. Every year there is turnover, which means new faces making the calls throughout the ACC.

Where does he get these guys?

It takes five years of high school officiating experience, plus five years of college football officiating experience at any level. Then in January and February of each year, he'll take your application. Rhoads has a designated senior official for each school. During the spring, prospective candidates are mixed in with veteran officials who rank their top three candidates at each of the 21 sites (Rhoads oversees the 12 ACC schools, plus Army, Navy and the Big South).

"In the spring a lot of what you're looking at are those prospective candidates," Rhoads said.
(This might explain why I've heard Ralph Friedgen complain, 'What are we paying these guys for?' during his spring scrimmages).

It's not an easy job.

"Each weekend when I'm at a game or in the command center, wherever I'm at, I walk out of there thinking, I hope we get it right," Rhoads said. "That isn't going to happen. There are always going to be mistakes. When you really evaluate the stuff, even the ones coaches submit, our observers submit or that we detect in the command center. Regardless of which, all plays are going to fall into three categories -- the coach is correct, we missed it; the coach is wrong, we got it right. And then there's that middle group, the judgment that you can argue about forever. Is it holding? Is it pass interference? Is that the right spot where the ball goes? ... The judgment that goes into it and the tough part is trying to put together each year a staff and then each week during the season consistency by the officials. What you hear most from coaches is just that -- they know that officials will make mistakes. The goal is to make very few of them."

So what gripes do coaches come to Rhoads with the most?

The two areas that prompt the most discussions are holding and pass interference calls.

"When it comes to judgment, that's where the gray area exists," he said.

And that's one thing technology will never be able to correct.