Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - College football has seen an influx of
hurry-up offenses incorporated in recent seasons, but if the NCAA has its way,
the pace of the game could be coming to a halt.
The NCAA Football Rules Committee announced last week a proposed rule change
that would allow defensive substitutions within the first 10 seconds of the
40-second play clock, meaning the offense would not be allowed to snap the
ball until 29-second mark of the play clock. The exception to this rule would
come in the final two minutes of each half. Under the proposed rule, a five-
yard delay of game penalty would be assessed to the offense if it fails to
The rule will be brought to hearing at the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel
on March 6. Although 2014 is not a designated year to allow a rule change, it
could still be implemented for the upcoming season if it is deemed the rule
will improve player safety.
"This rules change is being made to enhance student-athlete safety by
guaranteeing a small window for both teams to substitute," said Air Force head
coach Troy Calhoun, chairman of the rules committee. "As the average number of
plays per game has increased, this issue has been discussed with greater
frequency by the committee in recent years, and we felt like it was time to
act in the interests of protecting our student-athletes."
One of the coaches concerned the up-tempo, no-huddle offenses are more likely
to cause injuries to defensive players is Alabama's Nick Saban, who in 2012
expressed his concerns with no-huddle offenses and its physical effects on the
"I think that the way people are going no-huddle right now, that at some point
in time we should look at how fast we allow the game to go in terms of player
safety," Saban said during an SEC teleconference. "(Teams) go on a 14-, 16-,
18-play drive and they're snapping the ball as fast as you go, and you look
out there and all your players are walking around and can't even get lined up.
That's when guys have a greater chance of getting hurt. It's obviously created
a tremendous advantage for the offense... (and) more and more people are going
to do it. I just think there's got to be some sense of fairness in terms of
asking: is this what we want football to be?"
Others have been outwardly critical of the recent FBS trends swaying toward the
offensive side of the ball, including Arkansas' Brett Bielema. It should be
noted both Saban and Bielema run more traditional, old school offenses. Berry
also runs a methodical attack at Air Force, which ranked 104th in the FBS in
plays per game last season.
It today's football landscape, however, Saban, Bielema and Calhoun are clearly
in the minority, and the response from more offensive-minded coaches has not
"It's ridiculous," Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said. "For me, it goes back to
the fundamental rules of football. The offense knows where they are going and
when they are going to snap the ball. That's their advantage. The defense is
allowed to move all 11 guys before the ball is snapped. That's their advantage.
What's next? You can only have three downs? If you play that extra down, you
have more chance of injury."
Joining Rodriguez in outwardly discussing their displeasure of the proposed
change include Ole Miss's Hugh Freeze, Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy and
Washington State's Mike Leach, all of whose success has, not coincidentally,
come largely on the back of an up-tempo offense.
On such a clearly divided issue, which side of the argument holds more merit?
Players are bigger, stronger and faster today than ever before, and that
combined with the fact more scientific data is released each year regarding the
high risk football players have at developing long-term neurological health
issues leads the NCAA to put player safety at a premium. The NCAA has made
positive strides in this matter recently by more strictly enforcing personal
foul penalties for players targeting the helmet.
Would allowing defenses an opportunity for substitutions drastically change
the way the game is played? It would be hard to tell prior to an implementation
of the proposed rule. After all, the NCAA isn't banning the no-huddle offense,
which can still be used, if implemented correctly, as a way to confuse and
trick the opposing defense even without being in a particular hurry.
Take, for example, Baylor, the nation's top-scoring team last season, which
oftentimes hurries to the line but rarely even gets a play off in the first 10
seconds of the play clock. Allowing the opportunity for a defense to keep its
players' legs fresh could prevent sloppy execution and, in turn, the potential
This proposed rule change, however, appears to be more wishful thinking than
anything else, as Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin suggests.
"There is no evidence out there to suggest that this is a player safety
issue," Sumlin said. "Everything is done within the rules of the game, and
coaching and creativity matter, and to be able to limit the amount of
creativity that goes into the game, I think that's bad for the sport."
Football, by its very nature, is a horrifically violent game, the effects of
which are starting to rear its ugly head. The NCAA is trying a lot to lower
some of the risk with its recent rule changes, but there's only so much
that can be done.
Rodriguez may have been using hyperbole during his statements, but his
exaggerated point should still be seriously considered: at some point, the rule
changes will begin to pile up so much that we'll be left with a game that's
simply a shell of its former self.
The Sports Network