Spurrier Dubs Proposed Rule Change "The Saban Rule"
The proposal requiring offenses to wait 10 seconds to snap the ball, set for a March 6 vote, has generated a wellspring of politics and coaches posturing through the media.
Many coaches and media have questioned whether the rule indeed would address a safety concern. Many others have framed it as an attempt by defensive-minded coaches to curb the advantage of high-octane offenses like Oregon and Baylor.
South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier, never shy, is one of the only coaches to name specific names.
"So, you want to talk about the 'Saban Rule'?" Spurrier said Thursday, according to USA Today. "That's what I call it. (It) looks like it's dead now, hopefully."
Saban and Arkansas coach Brett Bielema have been the two most outspoken coaches in criticizing the trend toward faster and faster offensive tempo. Both participated in a discussion on the proposed change during a meeting last week with the NCAA Football Rules Committee, but committee member and coordinator of officiating Rogers Redding told USA Today that Saban's influence has been overstated.
Still, that hasn't prevented widespread speculation that the proposal only is being considered because of Saban's pull.
Bielema participated in the discussion due to his role as rules committee chairman of the American Football Coaches Association. Saban asked to address the committee, a move that Redding characterized as unusual in his interview with USA Today, which he then explained:
"To a large extent, what he wanted to have the committee consider, the committee had been talking about for a half day already," Redding said, adding the rules committee had discussed the idea of whether offenses needed to be slowed down for safety reasons a year ago, as well.
"So it's not as if this was brand new, sailing in out of left field on the wings of Nick Saban," Redding said.
Quoting New York Times columnist David Brooks, Redding added: "Partisanship shapes the reality you choose to see. I think that's what's going on here to a large extent."
Bielema, meanwhile, told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that "death certificates" were evidence of the player safety issue, referencing the death of a Cal football player during a conditioning practice in February. (The player, Ted Agu, had tested positive for the sickle cell trait, CBS Sports reported.)
It seems bizarre, anecdotal and perhaps irreverent to reference the death, which hardly seems related to the proposed rule change. It's unclear whether the rules committee has any certifiable data that backs either case.
Auburn coach Gus Malzahn, who is firmly against the rule, suggested it should be tabled in favor of a "healthy debate." Sorry, Malzahn, but clearly that debate is taking place as we speak.
"(Saban) took it upon himself to go before the rules committee and get it done," Spurrier said, according to USA Today. "They tried to change the rules. But I don't think they're gonna get away with it.
"To me, that's part of football. The 'no-huddle' has always been available. I don't see why we'd take it away right now."
Teams like Stanford (against Oregon) and South Carolina (against Clemson) have had success against warp speed offenses by running the ball, the clock and keeping the other team's skill players on the sideline.
The Playing Rules Oversight Pannel will consider the proposal March 6, and the NCAA would institute it this fall if passed.
That seems unlikely at this point, given the widespread blowback by coaches. Either way, don't expect the game to change much in 2014. The potential effect of the rule largely has been overstated, as even "hurry-up" offenses rarely snap the ball in the first 10 seconds of the play clock. The main thing the rule would do is take away the threat of a quick snap and perhaps allow the defense a chance to substitute players much more liberally during lung-busting drives.