Is the 10-second rule a solution or a cop-out in college football?
The NCAA Football Rules Committee has suggested that, to keep offenses from snapping the ball too early in the play clock, if they do, they should be penalized … with delay of game.
That should tell you all you need to know about the lazy, Luddite idea that somehow crawled out of that meeting room.
In order to throw the brakes on the hot-rod offenses that have been growing in number and popularity over the past few seasons, this committee has decided to punish them by claiming the exact opposite of what they’re designed to do – delaying the college football game. That way, the chorus of loud, yet powerful coaches bemoaning hurry-up offenses will get what they want without having to do a lick of work themselves.
If you can’t stop ‘em, legislate ‘em.
High-tempo offenses are among the equalizers available for teams without the massive bankrolls of the Alabamas and the Arkansas of the world. Teams that, unlike the Crimson Tide, can’t afford to hire three directors of player personnel, two directors of player development and eight “football analysts” … whatever those are.
I guess all those folks help them reel in the five-star 300-pound defensive linemen. Well, the tempo offenses dare those behemoths to keep up their pace. They also keep coaches from switching their defenses to best stop the offensive formation they see before them.
Here’s cfbstats.com’s list of the 11 teams who ran the most plays last season, in descending order: Texas Tech, BYU, Arizona State, Marshall, Fresno State, Baylor, Northern Illinois, Utah State, Colorado State, California and Rice. Not a lot of historical juggernauts in that group. Yet, among those 11, only Cal had a losing record.
So who are among those stumping for a rule that prohibits teams from snapping the ball no earlier than 11 seconds into a 40-second play clock? The two Football Subdivision Coaches on the committee are Troy Calhoun of Air Force and Todd Berry of Louisiana-Monroe. Arkansas coach Bret Bielema was at the meeting as a non-voting representative of the American Football Coaches Association. Alabama coach Nick Saban was there because … well … he’s Nick Saban and he’s going to be there.
Here is where those coaches’ teams rank in plays run in 2013, according to cfbstats: Louisiana-Monroe, 84th; Alabama, tied for 99th; Air Force, 106th; Arkansas, 118th.
Can you see how those guys might have an issue with hurry-up offenses?
Now, most of those guys have claimed high-tempo offenses are a danger to player safety, that defenders are more prone to injury when there isn’t the opportunity to easily substitute. Calhoun said just that in his comments following the announcement of the committee’s proposal.
All those boys are college coaches, which mean they have at least a tangential relationship to higher education. So here’s my challenge to them, one that they’ve heard since third-grade math class.
Show your work.
You claim the difficulty in substituting players leads to more injuries? Plop the study down on the table that proves that. Do more than just say it leads to an increase in injury. Offer concrete proof. Otherwise, it just sounds like a bunch of guys whining that they can no longer stay on top of college football’s mountain based solely on the depth of their pockets.
The committee also claims that the ball was snapped on the vast majority of plays last year long past that 10-second substitution window, so the proposed rule would have minimal effect on offenses. Well, if it isn’t really a problem, why are they creating a rule to change it? That’s like banishing shampoo from a bald man’s shower.
If football coaches want to combat hurry-up offenses, why not do it in their own meeting rooms and not in a rules committee meeting room? Can’t Saban assign one of his army of football analysts to come up with a solution?
The game evolves and coaches evolve their game plans to keep up. That’s what Marshall offensive coordinator Bill Legg did when he started running a tempo offense. It’s what Marshall defensive coordinator Chuck Heater did when he went to the nickel as his base package. He saw the growth in spread offenses, realized there were more athletes on the offensive side of the field and decided to match it on the defensive side.
Yet it seems that coaches like Saban and Bielema simply are content to turn back the clock on college football, both literally and figuratively. Are they also waiting for recruits to call them on their last-century brick-sized mobile phones while listening to Duran Duran’s greatest hits on their Sony Discmans?
And here’s an idea: If college coaches want to inhibit the evolution of football, how about they go throwback themselves, to the time when football programs were run out of an office in the physical education department?
Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.