Colorado set to experiment with 40-second play clock in football

Chaparral Legend football official

(Kevin Keyser/KeyserImages.com)

Colorado will use a 40-second play clock in football this season as it takes part in a three-state experiment of a new rule.

It means that an offensive team will have exactly 40 seconds to snap the ball after the end of the previous play, except for a few select circumstances. No official will give a signal to mark the ball ready for play.

This marks a change from the use of a 25-second play clock. Previously, an official would have to signal to start the play clock after marking the ball ready for play. That won't happen with the 40-second clock, as it will run as soon as the previous play ends. Additionally, the ball will be ready for play as soon as it is placed, and no official will make a signal, nor blow a whistle.

A 25-second clock will still be used in a few instances, including, for example, after a penalty, a timeout, an injury, a measurement, change of possession, or a scoring play.

The aim is to provide a consistent interval between plays, said CHSAA associate commissioner Tom Robinson, who is in charge of officials.

"We try to work with referees in terms of when they mark and spot the ball," Robinson said. "Teams are often waiting for the ready to play. There are a number of inconsistencies, and this will hopefully give teams the opportunity to dictate the pace of the game. We want the teams to dictate the pace, not the officials."

Additionally, the play clock will not wait on a chain crew after a first down.

"They're not going to wait for the chain crew, period," Robinson said. "(The officials) might drop a bean bag to mark a first down" if the chain crew isn't in position at the snap following a first down.

In a brief explaining the new rule, the Colorado Football Officials Association (CFOA) wrote:

With a 40-second play clock, the ball is ready for play when an official spots the ball and steps away to his position. The 40-second play clock has significantly standardized the time the offense has to put the ball into play.

Colorado is one of three states using the experimental rule, along with Indiana and Michigan. Indiana piloted the the rule last season, and Texas has been using it since 2014. It is also used by the NCAA.

The experimental rule could be in place for up to three seasons, Robinson said, but it is possible that it goes before the NFHS football rules committee in that period.

"If it's a compelling presentation, then they could change the rule in a year," Robinson said. "If they don't, we'll do (the experimental rule) again for the next two or three years with the hope that we can convince enough states that we should change it."