The SEC is taking its swing at picking up the pace during baseball games.
The league's athletic directors approved changes for the 2010 SEC tournament including a 20-second clock between pitches when the bases are empty and a 90-second limit between half innings, spokesman Chuck Dunlap said.
It's a move designed to make tournament games both more fan- and TV-friendly.
If it gets good reviews during the tournament, where games routinely drag on for 3-plus hours, it could be implemented for the 2011 regular season as well.
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"I think it's going to be good for everyone involved," Dunlap said. "If it does pretty much guarantee games under 3 hours, I can promise you the TV networks will push very hard to keep it in place."
The league's new television contracts pretty much tripled the number of regular-season games to be aired, he said. The SEC is believed to be the first conference to put in the clock rules for this season, though conferences like the ACC have discussed it.
Major League Baseball in recent years has made several suggestions geared toward picking up the pace of games.
In addition to breaking up mound conferences quickly, umpires have been asked to urge batters to approach home plate from the on-deck circle and enter the batter's box faster, and to enforce rules such as issuing an automatic strike to batters who linger outside the box.
There's also been a push for enforcement of an existing rule that pitchers throw a pitch every 12 seconds.
In July, the NCAA's baseball rules committee voted to allow conferences to use the pitch clock. It's not the first time it has been tested.
The Missouri Valley Conference used both the 20-second pitch clock and the 90-second clock between innings in the 1990 and 1991 seasons.
If the pitcher doesn't deliver the pitch to the plate in 20 seconds, a ball is added to the count.
The nine-inning games were completed in an average of two hours, 37 minutes. That's 11 minutes shorter than the average game in the regionals of that season's Division I championships.
Last year's SEC tournament games in the first two days - both four-game marathons - lasted 3 hours, 17 minutes on average. Two games clocked in at less than 3 hours, one of them decided by the seven-inning mercy rule.
The final games ended after 1 a.m. on both days.
Dunlap expects other leagues to implement similar changes, at least for their conference tournaments.
The ACC has discussed the clock rules with the baseball committee but hasn't made a decision on whether to impose them for the tournament, said Davis Whitfield, the league's director of championships.
"I think anything that speeds up the game is good but at this point we are going to see how this issue progresses before we act," Whitfield said.
North Carolina coach Mike Fox isn't convinced there's a need for the changes.
"My initial take on it is, I hope the ACC doesn't do it," Fox said. "I don't see the point in it. Everybody seems to be caught up on the fact that the length of our games is an issue. I just don't see that. I don't know why that's such an issue.
"I just don't see that it's necessary. If you shorten the game by six minutes, so what?"
USC coach Ray Tanner had no such reservations, and said his colleagues supported the use of a clock, too.
"Our SEC baseball coaches were unanimous in supporting this legislation," Tanner said. "I personally think it will give us 15, 20 minutes minimum per game without affecting the integrity of the game."