Extra official could speed up Big 12 game

DALLAS -- Kansas State coach Bill Snyder made a recommendation during the offseason he hoped would temper the tempo of Big 12 offenses. Instead, Snyder’s proposal could ultimately spur the league’s offenses to go even faster.

This season, in conference games only, the Big 12 will experiment with using an eighth official.

The Big 12's coaches unanimously supported adding an extra official. But Snyder said this week from Big 12 media days he wanted that official’s primary duty to be monitoring substitutions.

Instead, the eighth official will be charged with spotting the ball as quickly as possible after each play.

“Relative to the pace, I hope the presence of the eighth official will allow us to allow the game pace to be dictated by the teams on the field, to where we’ve removed officiating from it,” Big 12 officials coordinator Walt Anderson said. “We don’t want to artificially speed the game up or slow the game down. Within what the rules are, we just want to be sure they’re fairly being administered.”

With the extra official, up-tempo teams such as Baylor, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State are gearing up to speed the game up even more -- much to Snyder’s dismay.

“We’ll see what happens with it,” Cowboys coach Mike Gundy said. “But I would think if it’s one guy’s responsibility to put the ball down and get out of the way … it should move faster.”

College football has been using seven officials since 1983. But the game has changed drastically, nowhere more than in the Big 12.

Baylor, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Texas Tech and West Virginia were all among the 25 teams nationally last season to get off more than 990 plays.

Ex-Big 12 member Texas A&M, meanwhile, was the only school to achieve the same feat in the SEC. And among Big 12 teams, only Snyder’s Wildcats averaged fewer than 70 plays per game.

“If you’re getting the ball off in under six seconds, you’re going pretty fast already,” TCU coach Gary Patterson said. “I don’t think it can get any quicker, to be honest with you.”

But other Big 12 coaches disagree.

“It sounds like it should help expedite [the pace],” Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “So I’m excited about it.”

The eighth official will have other responsibilities, notably watching the offensive tackle on his side of the backfield and potential hits on the quarterback. And with the eighth official focused on spotting the ball, Anderson said that the head referee will be able to monitor substituting more effectively.

“With the fast-pace offenses, one thing that’s been happening is offenses are running wide receivers 200 miles an hour 85 yards down the field,” Snyder said. “Then four new guys come on and are ready to go right now, and your defensive backs are 85 yards away from the line of scrimmage trying to get back -- and they’re snapping the football.”

According to the rules, defenses are given time to substitute when offenses substitute first. But as officials scrambled to get in position before the next snap, Anderson said they often would miss those offensive subs and fail to give the defense the opportunity to sub, too.

“That was my recommendation, that the eighth official would be somebody who could pay attention to that,” Snyder said. “But now that they’ve got the eighth official involved in initiating the snap quicker -- that’s not what I had recommended.

“That scares me.”

Snyder could have reason to be scared.

“We’ve had to wait on the officials [to snap the ball] in the past,” Baylor coach Art Briles said. “We’ve had to wait a bunch.”

Those days of waiting appear to be over. And as a result, the Big 12’s offenses could get even faster.