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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, March 25, 2010

NFL went overtime to slight NCAA


By Ferd Lewis

The NFL said concerns about fairness prompted a rewriting of its overtime rule.

And, the league maintains that a fear of injuries is what keeps it from a more extensive overtime format.

But, underneath it all, you have to wonder if part of the reason the NFL ended up with its half-a-loaf overtime solution is because it is also afraid of giving the colleges credit.

When you have the most popular sporting enterprise in the nation and charge accordingly, as the NFL does the last thing you want to do is acknowledge somebody else beat you to a better idea.

Which, when it comes to deciding games in overtime, the colleges did years ago.

Under the NCAA overtime format, each team gets at least one possession (plus a try if there is a touchdown). In the first overtime period and in all subsequent odd-numbered periods, the winner of the coin toss can choose whether to have the first or second possession. The coin-toss loser gets the choice in the even-numbered overtime periods. Play continues until, at the end of some overtime period, the tie is broken. Following two overtimes, a team that scores a touchdown must attempt a two-point conversion.

It is equitable, has proven drama and makes sense. And, of course, it was brought to you by the NCAA. Remarkably, one of its better ideas.

Now, contrast that with what the NFL has just pushed through.

Because the team that wins the coin toss has won 59.8 percent of overtime games since 1994, the NFL felt compelled to add a new wrinkle: Starting this season, if a team that wins the coin toss kicks a field goal, then, the other team gets the ball. If that series ends with another field goal, play will continue under the current sudden-death rules.

It beats the heretofore almighty coin flip, which was an absurd way to effectively decide a majority of games. But this solution is initially, exclusively for postseason. Which makes you immediately wonder if the new rule is so honest-to-Roger Goodell great, then why didn't they apply it to the regular season? After all, why take a chance that would could emerge as your best team gets bumped off by a quirk of the regular season?

Ostensibly or so, goes the NFL party line expanding the format to the regular season would subject players to a greater chance of injury. That, however, hasn't seemed to keep teams from playing four exhibition games each year.

You suspect some of what it really comes down to is that no way was the NFL going to give its overtime the old college try.