Signing Day is over, spring practice is almost a month away. This is sort of the winter solstice of college pigskin. The lack of football makes it dark and depressing enough, but things usually only get worse when the NCAA starts monkeying around with rules of college football. It's that time of year, the time of year when the NCAA's rules committee begins its various Rube Goldberg machinations.
This year brings good news and bad news. On the bright side there's a proposal to allow the replay official to lift a targeting flag if video evidence shows that it shouldn't have been called, and it wasn't called in conjunction with another unsportsmanlike conduct penalty (roughing the passer, for example). I hate when the NCAA comes up with stupid rules. And they do so on the regular. But this falls under the rubric of putting a stop to something stupid sooner rather than later. It doesn't excuse the utter idiocy which resulted from the rule that cast a pall on parts of the 2013 season. But it's the right thing to do right now.
Now for the bad news: the rules committee is once again trying to disingenuously engineer an outcome. Take a look at this beauty from the NCAA website:
The committee also recommended a rules change that will allow defensive units to substitute within the first 10 seconds of the 40-second play clock, with the exception of the final two minutes of each half, starting with the 2014 season.
It's euphemistically being called "the ten second rule." And it gets better! What happens if you snap the ball during those precious 10 seconds in which Nick Saban is trying to get his 3rd and 5 specialist backer on the field?
Under this rule proposal, the offense will not be allowed to snap the ball until the play clock reaches 29 seconds or less. If the offense snaps the ball before the play clock reaches 29 seconds, a 5-yard, delay-of-game penalty will be assessed. Under current rules, defensive players are not guaranteed an opportunity to substitute unless the offense substitutes first. This part of the rule will remain in place in scenarios where the play clock starts at 25 seconds.
That's right. If you snap the ball too fast you will now be called for delay of game, Speed Racer. The tortured semantics at work here are only the first aspect that invites ridicule.
The second? The fact that the rule doesn't apply during the last 2 minutes of each half. There's a very good reason for that. Because the coaches on the committee which proposed this gem might actually want to run some of that crazy-nasty hurry up offense themselves if they're trailing late. Little hypocritical, but let's go with it. Certainly the minds behind this proposal know what they're doing, right? And who are these sage arbiters of the game?
Well, the committee is chaired by triple option-running Air Force coach Troy Calhoun. It also includes Louisiana-Monroe's Todd Berry, and noted hurry up critic Bret Bielema of Arkansas. So, the guys who don't run fast-paced offenses, who want to ground and pound, would like to slow things down. That's not surprising.
What is surprising is that they don't have the stones to admit why they want to slow it down. Instead, they're hiding behind a laudable, even unassailable, goal: player safety:
“This rules change is being made to enhance student-athlete safety by guaranteeing a small window for both teams to substitute,” said Calhoun. “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.”
Never mind that none of them can actually cite any studies showing that faster play leads to more injuries. Nor that there actually is reason to believe that faster overall pace of play would lead to better conditioning, which actually decreases injury. Nor even that a reasonable argument could be made that faster play would make behemoth, out of shape offensive linemen less useful and therefore less plentiful (no longer injuring themselves or others).
I enjoy defensive football. I like 14-10 football games. I don't necessarily mind seeing more defensive struggles. This "ten second rule" may help with that. Frankly I have my doubts, because in the chaos of a stadium sideline there's just as much risk of mis-substituting. We'd almost certainly see defenses being called for all sorts of substitution infractions and a lot of defenses taking the field with mixed up personnel. Because you can guaran-damn-tee Art Briles's QB will be snapping it at the 29 second mark every play. But whatever. Knock yourselves out, guys.
But if what you want is defensive parity just call it that. Don't hide behind a straw man you have no data to support.
Until later . . .