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College Football

Bielema, Saban supported slow-down rule proposal

(AP Photo/Butch Dill)


AP College Football Writer

NEW YORK (AP) Arkansas coach Bret Bielema and Alabama coach Nick Saban voiced their concerns about the effects of up-tempo, no-huddle offenses on player safety to the NCAA committee that passed a proposal to slow down those attacks.

Neither Bielema nor Saban were on the committee and they did not vote on the proposal passed Wednesday to allow defenses time to substitute between plays by prohibiting offenses from snapping the ball until 29 seconds are left on the 40-second play clock.

NCAA coordinator of officials Rogers Redding said Thursday that Bielema was at the meeting in Indianapolis as a representative of the American Football Coaches Association.

"Coach Saban asked for the opportunity to meet with the committee and talk about this," Redding said. "It's not routine, but it's not unique, either."

Bielema and Saban run methodical offenses and have publicly questioned if the quickening pace of offenses is good for the game.

FBS coaches on the panel are Air Force's Troy Calhoun, who is the chairman, and Louisiana-Lafayette's Todd Berry. Their teams ranked 104th and 93rd, respectively, last season in plays per game in FBS.

The proposal must be approved by the playing rules oversight panel, which meets March 6. Redding said it's not a rubber stamp panel, but more often than not it approves proposals. The panel does not consider competitive issues, Redding said.

"Their role is to examine rules on the basis of player safety, economic impact and image of the game," he said.

Right now the proposal is in what is known as a comment period. Coaches can electronically submit their opinions to the NCAA on the proposal, supporting it or opposing it.

Redding said it is "rare though not unheard of for the committee to revisit" a proposal. He added the comments are taken seriously by the oversight panel.

Redding said rules changes that would affect the pace of the game were discussed by the committee last year and during the AFCA convention in January at meeting he attended of about 35 coaches, including Bielema. The proposal passed by the NCAA committee was an idea that came out of the AFCA meeting, Redding said.

Plenty of coaches have made it known they are not happy with the proposal, especially those such as Auburn's Gus Malzahn, Texas Tech's Kliff Kingsbury, Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin and Arizona's Rich Rodriguez who run fast-paced offenses.

"The 10-second rule is like asking basketball to take away the shot clock - Boring!" Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy tweeted Thursday. "It's like asking a blitzing linebacker to raise his hand."

The committee said the proposed change addresses concerns that defensive players are at increased risk for injury because defenses cannot substitute if the offense goes straight to the line scrimmage when the ball is spotted and the 40-second clock has starts.

An exception will be made in the final two minutes of each half to allow the offense to snap the ball as quickly as it wants.

Many coaches aren't convinced this is a player safety issue.

"I don't see the injury piece," said Boston College coach Steve Addazio, whose team runs an offense that is rarely in a rush. "I think we need more data."

Redding said the proposal was not made based on a study of data.

"I can't say there is hard physical evidence," he said. "It's more common sense."

Redding added he studied film of two games involving up-tempo offenses and only once in each game did a team snap the ball within 10 seconds of the 40-second clock starting.

"The majority of time was somewhere in the 20s," he said. "The average time was 17 seconds.

"You really don't impact what people are already doing."

Updated February 13, 2014

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