2023 College Football Rules Changes - No Clock Stoppage After First Down*

July 20, 2023 by Staff

As the 2023 college football season approaches, the National Football Foundation (NFF) & College Hall of Fame has again partnered with the College Football Officiating (CFO) to highlight the key rule changes that will take effect this fall.

The college football season kicks off with Notre Dame as a 20.5-point favorite over Navy in the Emerald Isle Classic in Dublin, Ireland. Opening week lines at FanDuel are posted for all 7 games that will take place on August 26, as well as the offical 'Week 1" games over the following Labor Day weekend.

Notre Dame quarterback Sam Hartman, who transferred after a record-breaking run at Wake Forest, is among the Heisman Trophy betting favorites in 2023.

The biggest rules change to take place has to do with clock stoppage when a player achieves a first down for his team. The clock will no longer stop in that instance, except for the last 2 minutes of each half.

Since 2011, the NFF has partnered with the College Football Officiating (CFO), led by Steve Shaw and chaired by Mid-American Conference Commissioner Jon Steinbrecher, to help generate awareness for the rule changes in college football. The CFO functions as the national professional organization for all football officials who work games at the collegiate level, and the organization has held its annual winter meeting of conference coordinators for football officials each January at the NFF headquarters in Irving, Texas since 2013.

Shaw, who became the CFO National Coordinator of Football Officials in March 2020, previously served the Southeastern Conference and Sun Belt Conference as coordinator of officials. He also serves as the Secretary-Rules Editor of the NCAA Football Rules Committee, a position critical to the development of competition rules and policies. Shaw excelled as a head referee for 15 years in the SEC, earning 14 postseason assignments, including two national championship games. He has been a leader in revamping the sport's officiating mechanics and advancing the use of technology to assist officials.

"The mission of the Rules Committee is to develop and evaluate rules changes that will enhance the sport, protect the image of the game, and enhance the student athlete's health and safety," said Shaw. "Player safety has been the highest priority of the committee for many years now resulting in significant changes that have improved the game in terms of mitigating injuries.

2023 Rules Changes

Enforcing all players' health and safety rules continues to be the top point of emphasis from the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel. The Targeting rule will remain the same in 2023 as the committee feels the rule continues to drive positive player behavior in terms of the use of the helmet. The committee also noted last year's change to the blocking below the waist rule resulted in data showing fewer player injuries.

The most significant 2023 football rules changes involve adjustments to the timing and clock rules. The rules committee made these changes to drive three strategic initiatives:

  • Keep the game moving in terms of pace of play.
  • Moderately reduce the number of plays per game.
  • Ensure consistency in officiating mechanics managing the game clock.

Stopping and Starting the Clock – First Downs (Rule 3-3-2-e-1)
When Team A (the offense) gains a first down, the clock will no longer be stopped to award a first down except with less than two minutes remaining in the 2nd and 4th quarters.  This change is effective immediately for DI and DII, and will be implemented in 2024 for DIII.

Consecutive Charged Team Timeouts (Rule 3-3-4-a)
Consecutive charged team timeouts will no longer be allowed by the same team in any individual dead ball period.  Each team is entitled to three charged team timeouts during each half, with no more than one charged team timeout available per team, per individual dead ball period.

Extension of Periods (Rule 3-2-3-a)
A period shall be extended for an untimed down in the 2nd or 4th quarter only if a penalty is accepted for a live-ball foul, if there are offsetting fouls, or an inadvertent whistle.  The 1st and 3rd quarters will not be extended, and any penalty enforcement will be carried over to the following quarter.

Drone Policy (Rule 1-4-11-d)
Drones are not allowed over the field or the team area when squad members are present within the playing enclosure.  Outside the limit lines, game management (or conference policy) will govern drone activity.  This governance includes all FAA, state, and local laws including campus policy where appropriate.

Halftime Intermission (Rule 3-2-1-c & 11-1-3)
The field will be available to squad members for halftime warmup no later than three minutes prior to the second half kickoff.  When any Squad Member enters the playing enclosure during the halftime intermission, a staff member from that team must be present on the field.

If kickers or other squad members come onto the playing enclosure before the field is available, their activities must be confined to the team area.  All team personnel will be respectful of scheduled halftime activities, and all kicks must be into the practice kicking nets until the field is available.

When the field is available to players, the field will be divided into an "L-shaped" configuration with the thirty yard-lines forming the "L" in order to keep the teams separated.

Instant Replay without an Instant Replay Booth Official (New Rule 12-2-1-c)
The optional use of instant replay in games that do not have an instant replay booth official is now permissible and must be in full compliance with Rule 12 (the replay rule) with the following exceptions:

  • The Referee will be the sole decision maker on any review and may include one additional crew member to consult on the review.
  • The equipment used in the review must be located outside the limit lines on the sideline or end zone and must be completely outside the team area.  The referee and additional crew member must be provided a separate, secure location away from fans and sideline personnel, with a tent or similar type shelter structure.
  • The Referee will stop the game to review all Targeting Fouls that are called on the field. The only other method to stop a game for a replay review is through a head coach challenge. When the head coach requests a timeout for replay review, the replay challenge flag must be dropped onto the field of play.
  • Other than for a Targeting review, the crew on the field may not initiate an instant replay review.
  • The head coach may initiate a Targeting review if the team has a timeout available and a coach's challenge remaining.

College Football Officiating (CFO) was formed in 2008 by the NCAA and the Collegiate Commissioners' Association for the purpose of ensuring consistent application of NCAA football playing rules and officiating mechanics; establishing a central leader for officiating; enhancing the existing Division I conference officiating programs to ensure officials and conferences adhere to NCAA and CCA rules and policies; and positioning the officiating community for the future in an attempt to present players, coaches and fans with the best experience possible. For more on the CFO, go to cfo.arbitersports.com.