NEW YORK — Round one of the pace-of-play debate goes to the proponents of fast football.
The NCAA football rules committee tabled a proposal Wednesday that would have penalized offenses for snapping the ball before 10 seconds had run off the 40-second play clock, The Associated Press has learned.
After a conference call, the panel agreed not to send the so-called 10-second rule to the playing rules oversight panel for approval Thursday, according to a person with knowledge of the decision who spoke on condition of anonymity because an official announcement had not been made. ESPN and USA Today first reported the proposal had been shelved.
The proposed change, touted as a move to protect players by slowing down the fast-break offenses so prevalent now in college football, infuriated many coaches.
Auburn’s Gus Malzahn, Arizona’s Rich Rodriguez and Texas Tech’s Kliff Kingsbury were among the critics who said there was no proof that up-tempo offenses increased the risk of injuries.
Rodriguez and Arizona went to so far as to make a video spoof of the movie “Speed” to get the point across.
“Let’s not distort the facts because of your personal agenda,” Rodriguez says in the YouTube clip.
Had the rule been approved it would have gone into effect next season. The penalty for snapping the ball too fast would have been 5 yards.
Arkansas coach Bret Bielema and Alabama’s Nick Saban were not on the rules committee but did push for changes to control the ever-quickening pace of play. Both run slower-paced, pro-style offenses. The proposal was passed by the rules committee on Feb. 12.
What followed was three weeks of heated debate among college football fans and coaches about the evolution of football. An ESPN survey of the 128 FBS coaches published last week found only 25 supported the proposal and 93 were opposed.
The proposal caught many coaches by surprise because this is non-change year for NCAA rules. But exceptions could be made for rules related to player safety. Supporters — such as Saban — said they were concerned about the higher number of plays in games and that fatigued defensive players could not be taken off the field when offenses were rushing to the line of scrimmage right after the ball was spotted by officials.
“I didn’t offer any solutions to the problems,” Saban said Wednesday before the proposal was tabled. “I just not only gave my opinion, but presented a lot statistical data that would support the fact that pace of play is creating a lot longer games and a lot more plays in games.”
“Now, I know a lot of you say there’s no statistical information that says if you play 88 plays in the game you have a better chance to get hurt if you play 65 plays in a game. Over 12 games that 250 (additional) plays, approximately. That’s four games more that you are playing.”
Bielema said he feared for players with the sickle cell trait, a genetic condition that can alter red blood cells during strenuous exercise and cause muscles to break down. The Razorbacks coach said they could be put in danger playing against by no-huddle offenses that make it impossible for defenses to substitute players.
“It’s hasn’t been a schematic (issue) or anything,” said Bielema, also before the proposal was withdrawn. “It’s all been about player safety, and I’m not wavering from that because that’s all it’s about.”
But even rules committee chair Troy Calhoun, the coach at Air Force, acknowledged after the proposal passed that the lack of data supporting safety concerns would make the change difficult to approve.
AP Sports Writers John Zenor in Tuscaloosa, Ala., and Kurt Voigt in Fayetteville, Ark., contributed.
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