NCAA RULE 3 Periods, Time Factors and Substitutions

SECTION 2. Playing Time and Intermissions


ARTICLE 1. Length of Periods and Intermissions


The total playing time in a collegiate game shall be 60 minutes, divided into four periods of 15 minutes each, with one-minute intermissions between the first and second periods (first half) and between the third and fourth periods (second half) (Exception: A one-minute intermission between the first and second and the third and fourth periods may be extended for radio and television timeouts).


  1. No period shall end until the ball is dead and the referee declares the period ended [S14].

  2. The intermission between halves of a regular-season game shall be 20 minutes, unless shortened before the game by mutual agreement of the administrations of both teams and the competition authority. Immediately after the second period ends, the referee should begin the intermission by signalling to start the game clock [S2].

ARTICLE 2. Timing Adjustments


Before the game starts, playing time and the intermission between halves may be shortened by the referee if he is of the opinion that darkness or other conditions may interfere with the game. The four periods must be of equal length if the game is shortened before its start.

  1. Any time during the game, the playing time of any remaining period or periods and the intermission between halves may be shortened by mutual agreement of the opposing head coaches and the referee. (A.R. 3-2-2:I)

  2. Timing errors on the game clock may be corrected but only in the period in which they occur.

  3. If the referee has positive knowledge of the elapsed time, he will reset and appropriately start the game clock.

  4. Timing errors on a play clock may be corrected by the referee. The play clock shall start again (Rule 2-29-2).

  5. When the play-clock count is interrupted by circumstances beyond the control of either team (without positive knowledge of game clock elapsed time), a new count shall be started and the game clock shall start per Rule 3-2-4-b.

  6. The 40/25-second clock is not started when the game clock is running with fewer than 40 or 25 seconds, respectively, in a period.

  7. The game clock should not be stopped if the play clock is started in conflict with paragraph f above.

  8. Timing adjustments for games using Instant Replay are governed by Rule 12-3-5.

Approved ruling 3-2-2

  1. At halftime the score is 56-0. The head coaches and the referee agree that the third and fourth quarters should be shortened to 10 minutes each. RULING: The remaining quarters may be shortened to 10 minutes each. [Cited by 3-2-2-a]

ARTICLE 3. Extension of Periods




  1. A period shall be extended for an untimed down if one or more of the following occurs during a down in which time expires (A.R. 3-2-3:I-VIII):

    1. A penalty is accepted for a live-ball foul(s). (Exception: Rule 10-2-5-a ). The period is not extended if the foul is by the team in possession and the statement of the penalty includes loss of down (A.R. 3-2-3:VIII).

    2. There are offsetting fouls.

    3. An official sounds his whistle inadvertently or otherwise incorrectly signals the ball dead.

  2. Additional untimed downs will be played until a down is free of the circumstances in statements 1, 2 and 3 of Rule 3-2-3-a (above).

  3. If a touchdown is scored during a down in which time in a period expires, the period is extended for the try (Exception: Rule 8-3-2-a).

Approved ruling 3-2-3


  1. During the extension of a period after the ball is ready for play and before the snap, Team A commits a foul. RULING: Dead-ball foul. Team A is penalised for the foul and is entitled to complete the down. [Cited by 3-2-3-a]
  2. Time expires during Team A’s free kick. A1 is offside on the kick. RULING: Penalty – Five yards from the previous spot, the end of Team B’s run, or the touchback spot, and the period is extended. Repeat the free kick or Team B is awarded an untimed down. [Cited by 3-2-3-a]
  3. Time expires during Team A’s attempted field goal. Team B was offside. RULING: Penalty – Five yards from the previous spot, the period is extended (Rule 10-2-2-d-4-a). [Cited by 3-2-3-a]
  4. A Team A player interferes with the opportunity to catch a kick (not a try) during a down in which time expires. RULING: Penalty – 15 yards from the spot of the foul. The period is extended. [Cited by 3-2-3-a]
  5. Team A scores a touchdown during a down in which time expires. After the touchdown, but before the try, either team fouls. RULING: The period is extended only for the try. The penalty may be enforced on the try or the succeeding kickoff, which is in the next period. [Cited by 10-2-5-c, 3-2-3-a]
  6. Team A scores a touchdown during a down in which time expires. During Team A’s successful try, Team B fouls. RULING: The period is not extended for the kickoff. Team A may accept the penalty and repeat the try, or decline the penalty and accept the score. Penalties for personal fouls and unsportsmanlike conduct are enforced on the subsequent kickoff or the succeeding spot in extra periods. [Cited by 10-2-5-e, 3-2-3-a, 8-3-3-b-1]
  7. Team A scores a touchdown during a down in which time expires. After the try ends, either team commits a dead-ball foul. RULING: The try may be repeated due to an accepted penalty for a live-ball foul that occurred during the try; the penalty for the dead-ball foul will then also be enforced on the repeated try. The period is not extended to enforce a penalty for a dead-ball foul. If accepted, this penalty must be enforced on the kickoff to start the next period or at the succeeding spot in extra periods [Cited by 10-2-5-e, 3-2-3-a, 8-3-3-d-2, 8-3-5]
  8. Time expires in the first half on a play in which A12 is beyond the neutral zone when he completes a pass to A88 in Team B’s end zone. RULING: Team B accepts the penalty to nullify the score, but the period is not extended because the penalty includes loss of down. The first half ends. [Cited by 3-2-3-a-1, 3-2-3-a]

ARTICLE 4. Timing Devices




  1. Game clock. Playing time shall be kept with a game clock that may be either a stop watch operated by the line judge, back judge, field judge or side judge, or a game clock operated by an assistant under the direction of the appropriate judge. The type of game clock shall be determined by the game management.

  2. 40-Second Clock.

    1. When an official signals that the ball is dead, the play clock shall begin a 40-second count.

    2. If the 40-second clock does not start or the count is interrupted for reasons beyond the control of the officials or the play-clock operator (e.g. clock malfunction), the referee shall stop the game clock and signal (both palms open in an over-the-head pumping motion) that the play clock should be reset at 40 seconds and started immediately.

    3. In the event that the 40-second clock is running and reads 25 before the ball is ready to be snapped, the referee shall signal that the play clock be set at 25 seconds. If there is a delay in doing this, the referee shall declare a timeout and signal that the play clock be set at 25 seconds. When play is to be resumed, the referee will give the ready-for-play signal [S1] and the play clock shall begin the 25-second count. The game clock will start on the snap unless it had been running when the referee declared a timeout; in that case, it will start on the referee’s signal (Rule 3-3-2-f). (A.R. 3-2-4:I and II)

  3. 25-Second Clock. If the officials signal the game clock to be stopped for any of the following reasons, the referee shall signal (one open palm in an over-the-head pumping motion) that the clock should be set at 25 seconds:

    1. Penalty administration.

    2. Charged team timeout.

    3. Media timeout.

    4. Injury timeout for a player of the offensive team only. The play clock is set to 40 seconds for an injury to a player of the defensive team.

    5. Measurement.

    6. Team B is awarded a first down.

    7. After a kick down other than a free kick.

    8. Score other than a touchdown (not the try).

    9. Start of each period.

    10. Start of a team’s possession series in an extra period.

    11. Instant replay review.

    12. Other administrative stoppage.

    13. An offensive team player’s helmet comes completely off through play. The play clock is set to 40 seconds if the helmet comes completely off a player of the defensive team. When play is to be resumed, the referee will give the ready-for-play signal [S1] and the play clock will begin its count.

  4. Device malfunction. If a visual 40/25-second timing device becomes inoperative, both coaches shall be notified by the referee immediately and both clocks shall be turned off.

Approved ruling 3-2-4


  1. When the ball is dead after a running play that ends out of bounds, the 40-second play clock is started. The umpire receives the ball from the line judge, and as he is placing it on the ground, he sees that it is not a legal game ball. He tosses the ball to the line judge who attempts to get a legal ball from the ball boy. RULING: If the play clock reads 25 or less before the correct ball is in from the sideline and ready for play, the Referee declares a timeout and signals to reset the play clock to 25 seconds. When the correct ball is ready for play he signals to start the play clock and the game clock. [Cited by 3-2-4-b-3]
  2. When the ball is dead after a running play that ends in the side zone, the officials have difficulty getting the ball in to the hash mark. As the play clock nears 20, the Umpire places the ball on the ground, and by the time the officials are ready, the play clock is somewhat below 20 when the Umpire steps away. RULING: Without stopping the game clock, the Referee gives the “pump” signal to indicate that the play clock is to be reset to 25. If the play clock is quickly reset to 25, the game clock does not stop. Only if the play clock operator does not quickly respond to the Referee’s “pump” signal will the Referee declare a timeout, signal for the play clock to be set at 25, and then signal to start both the play and game clocks. [Cited by 3-2-4-b-3]