Rule Change Proposal Will Destroy College Football

Don Gilman FishWrap, FishWrap Archive

Disingenuous, adjective: “Not truly honest or sincere: giving the false appearance of being honest and sincere.”  (From the Merriam-Webster online dictionary.)

They should call it the Bret Bielema rule.  Or perhaps the Bielema-Saban rule, since it is, in part, due to these two coaches’ influence that this rule is now being considered. For those who are unfamiliar with this proposal, it will basically make it a penalty to snap the ball at any point before 29 seconds have elapsed on the 40-second play clock, thus ending the style of play that Oregon, Baylor and many other schools have implemented.  Ironically, the infraction would be considered “delay of game,” which actually makes more sense than the purported reasoning behind the proposed rule.

No more fast-paced, exciting style of play.  No more two-minute drills. No more miraculous come-from-behind endings.

It is claimed that implementing this rule will help cut down on injuries that are supposedly occurring.  Ahh, yes, the safety issue.  Well, it’s a good thing there have been a plethora of studies that show how the fast-tempo offense are causing this plague of injuries.  But, wait, there haven’t been a lot of studies that show how this style of play is destroying players left and right?

Some of Saban’s arguments are pathetically laughable.  He went so far as to point out the risk to defensive players trying to survive 16- and 18-play hurry-up drives.  It has apparently escaped Nick’s notice that these long drives are more typical of teams like, say, Alabama, who tend to grind it up the middle for three and four yards a whack. Maybe it would make more sense to limit offensive series to ten plays, if defenses aren’t up to the task.

Saban also apparently hasn’t noticed that approximately 97.46 % of injuries suffered by defensive players on teams like his going against hurry-up offenses result in miraculous recoveries after the decimated player has sat out one play.

Well, if injuries aren’t a viable reason, what could be behind this push?

Bielema runs a plodding style of offense.  So does Saban.  In fact, so does Air Force’s Troy Calhoun, who just so happens to chair the NCAA committee examining this rule. So does Louisiana-Lafayette’s Todd Berry, who is also on the committee.  Funny little tidbits, those.

In all seriousness, that is what is so disturbing about this process.  Saban and Bielema actually asked to speak to the committee about creating this rule change, and with their influence, there is a real possibility that they might actually get away with pushing it through.  I’m sure it had nothing to do with his team losing to up-tempo teams such as Auburn in the Iron Bowl and Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl.

Not all is lost, however.  Notable coaches have been quick to speak out against the rule change, such as Arizona’s Rich Rodriguez, Auburn’s Gus Malzahn, Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin, Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy and Wazzu’s own Mike Leach.

This rule change is nothing short of ludicrous.  The uptempo offenses have, if anything, made college football more exciting and has allowed smaller schools a more equitable footing against the bigger Goliaths in the NCAA.  To throw away a style of offense that has helped the NCAA rival the NFL in popularity shows a disturbing level of shortsightedness.  To show a willingness to cave in to the demands of Saban and Bielema speaks volumes about the way the NCAA does business.

This has nothing to do with player safety.  This is meant to appease a small group of powerful coaches who simply cannot, or will not, adjust to a new style of offense that threatens the way they run their football programs.  More players are choosing schools such as Oregon, Oklahoma State and Baylor over Alabama and Arkansas.  The thing is that the major schools who don’t run fast-paced offenses aren’t losing huge amounts of players to their quicker rivals, just a few, but their losses on the field are mounting.

Saban could survive the continued play of fast-tempo teams.  So could Bielema.  They may not like the style of play, but to shield themselves behind the injury claim is blatantly disingenuous.  If Saban cared so much about the safety of players, why would he have such a hard-hitting, aggressive defense?  Their claims ring hollow.

Hopefully the NCAA will come to its senses and completely reject the proposed rule change.  If it does’t, there is every likelihood that football will lose some of its new-found popularity.

Top Photo from Creative Commons

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