College football coaches spoke loudly, and the NCAA listened (for a change).
One day before the NCAA’s 11-member playing rules oversight committee was set to vote on whether to slow down the pace of play in college football, the NCAA Football Rules Committee on Wednesday tabled the controversial rule change it proposed last month.
The rule proposal would have prohibited offenses from snapping the ball until at least 10 seconds had run off the 40-second play clock, which would have afforded defenses more time to substitute. Under current rules, defenses can substitute only if offenses do it first. The only exceptions for the proposed rule would have been in the final two minutes of each half and if the play clock began at 25 seconds. If an offense snapped the ball before the play clock was at less than 30 seconds, it would have been penalized 5 yards for delay of game.
Coaches of teams that employ hurry-up, spread offenses vehemently opposed the rule change, especially after the committee proposed it for what it called player safety issues. The committee argued that it was logical to assume that players were at more risk of injury because of the increased number of plays in games because of the faster pace.
Coaches such as Arizona’s Rich Rodriguez, Auburn’s Gus Malzahn and Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin were vocal in their opposition to the proposed rule change, while Alabama’s Nick Saban and Arkansas’ Bret Bielema were in favor of it.
“There was a lot of comment on it -- and a lot of negative comments,” said Rogers Redding, the NCAA’s coordinator of football officiating. “The committee believed there is not enough medical data. The committee decided to wait and get the medical data and see if the two are tied together.”
The proposed slowdown rule isn’t dead yet. The NCAA plans to study the issue in the coming months, and the rule change could be brought up again for comment at a later date. Redding said Brian Hainline, the NCAA’s chief medical officer, participated in the Football Rules Committee’s conference call Wednesday and said more medical research was needed to determine if the faster pace of play in college football correlates with more injuries.
“One thing I would like to point out is that the process worked,” Redding said. “The injury timeout rule is still in place. If a player is hurt, he should be taken out of the game. If a player is fatigued and can’t go anymore, it’s a legitimate reason to get him out of the game.”
Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter, whose Bulldogs ran a whopping 1,088 plays in 13 games (83.7 per contest) last season, said coaches who backed the rule change just wanted to prevent up-tempo offenses from playing so fast.
“If there was any kind of documented evidence that showed there were more injuries, it would make sense,” DeRuyter said. “But I think there are certain coaches that don’t like the style of football up-tempo teams play. They want to change the rules instead of adjusting to up-tempo football.”
The NCAA’s playing rules oversight committee will vote Thursday whether to adjust college football’s controversial targeting rule, which was introduced last season. If the rule change is approved, teams will no longer be penalized 15 yards if a targeting call is overturned by replay review. Under current rules, only a player’s automatic ejection is overturned; his team is still penalized even if replay leads to an overturn of the call. A rule change would also allow officials to review targeting calls at halftime of nontelevised games and potentially overturn them.
The NCAA Football Rules Committee proposed another rule change that would penalize players for hitting a quarterback below the knees. Redding said the rule, which won’t be voted on until after it goes through the official comment period, would mimic the NFL’s “Tom Brady rule.”
Both of the aforementioned rule changes would go in effect for the 2014 season if they are passed by the rules oversight committee.