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Phillip Marshall: Proposed rule not about safety

Feb. 12, 2014

If you believe the NCAA Football Rules Committee's proposal that defenses be allowed 10 seconds to substitute on every play is about player safety, maybe you also believe that the earth is flat and babies are delivered by a stork.

If you missed it, the proposal is that the ball would not be allowed to be snapped until the 40-second clock reaches 29 seconds. Snapping it too soon would result in a 5-yard penalty. It is aimed directly at schools like Auburn, Clemson, Arizona and dozens of others that run some form of hurryup offense.

Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn and Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema disagreed strongly about the issue at SEC Media Days last summer. Alabama head coach Nick Saban has also been a vocal proponent of changing the rules.

Here's what Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun, the committee chairman said:

"This rules change is being made to enhance student-athlete safety by guaranteeing a small window for both teams to substitute," Calhoun said. "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."

Surely, he didn't have a straight face when he said that. If protecting student-athletes is the issue, don't stop there.

* Outlaw blitzing. A quarterback is in definite danger of getting hurt when a 250-pound defensive end with the speed of a sprinter comes unblocked.

* Play fewer games. I know that would cost schools a lot of money, but after all, shouldn't student-athlete safety come first?

* Shorten the quarters. Twelve-minute quarters would certainly result in fewer plays. A nice byproduct would also be fewer TV timeouts.



* Allow no more kickoffs or punts.

* No more 20-play drives. If you can't score in 10 plays, the ball goes over.

* Heck, just play flag football.

There is not one credible study showing that hurryup offenses result in more injuries, but the truth is this has nothing to do with protecting players. It has to do with coaches who don't like that style of football. They can't figure out how to stop it, so they want to outlaw it.

It's not about being able to substitute on defense, either. Coaches can substitute now. If a coach wants to switch out his defensive line, all he has to do is have the substitutes ready to go as soon as the ballcarrier hits the ground. That's not what they want. They want to see what the offense is doing and substitute accordingly.

The hue and cry from coaches who run hurryup offenses has already begun on Twitter, and it will spread and grow louder.

From Washington State coach Mike Leach:

"So anytime someone doesn't want to go back to drawing board or re-work their solutions to problems, they beg for a rule."

From Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze:

"I just don't really understand what we gain from this other this rule other than a chance to create more chaos."

From Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez:

"Fundamental advantage for defense- pre snap movement- maybe that should be reviewed? #WhoMakesTheseRules."

All rules proposals must be approved by the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel, which will discuss the football rules changes March 6.  My prediction is that it will be rejected, but who knows?

Whatever happens, don't be deceived. This is about coaches who either can't or won't find a way to deal with it looking for an easy way out.


Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for Follow Marshall on Twitter:


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