When the NCAA released the rule change proposals detailing the possible addition of a 10-second defensive substitution, the college football world reacted as expected: with anger and vitriol. After all, this rule, at least on the surface, would hurt the uptempo offenses that have become increasingly popular across the collegiate landscape.
As is the case with most things, if a rule or policy seems to benefit defense, it is bad for the collegiate game. So goes the way of the offensively focused world of college football. Here is Troy Calhoun, Air Force head coach and chairman of the committee, from the NCAA release:
This rules change is being made to enhance student-athlete safety by guaranteeing a small window for both teams to substitute. 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.
First and foremost, the idea that safety is the key factor here is largely a fallacy, something Sports Illustrated's Stewart Mandel addressed in the summer of 2013. Wrapping up this proposed change with safety as the buzzword is not the most genuine or fact-based move by the rules committee.
However, for folks who root for defense, the rule, despite the fractured safety argument, is no big deal.
The problem is most people don't root for defense. College football fans, like football fans at every level in general, are largely offense-focused. They are a group that craves point-a-minute football and needs high-scoring shootouts to get them interested. The masses want inflated yardage totals, gaudy stats and anything that would be deemed offensive fireworks.
And the folks running the sport are not much different, as CBS Sports' Jeremy Fowler reported. That anonymous Pac-12 coordinator is far from alone, as the Star Tribune highlighted Hugh Freeze, Gus Malzahn and Rich Rodriguez all voicing displeasure with the proposed rule. The head coaches at Ole Miss, Auburn and Arizona, respectively, echoed the sentiments of many media and fans.
Never mind that research indicates teams rarely snap the ball in the first 10 seconds of the play clock. Never mind, as Matt Hinton points out, that officials already stand over the ball to allow the defense to match the offensive substitutions. Never mind that this would be an across-the-board policy for all teams in college football.
That is right, every teams' defense will be afforded the time to substitute. Ellis Johnson's defense, at Auburn, would get a chance to get fresh defensive linemen into the game against Texas A&M or Missouri. Dave Wommack, at Ole Miss, would get the time to run Robert Nkemdiche back out on to the field for a critical 4th-and-short after Auburn tries to go hurry-up after getting close on third down.
Yet, to hear people discuss it, one would think this would only hurt teams that work tempo, not give Phil Bennett at Baylor, Mike Stoops at Oklahoma or Glenn Spencer at Oklahoma State a better chance to play good defense. But, this is the nature of the beast, where offense is king and even measures that would improve a coach's defensive chances do not matter nearly as much as a perceived blow to his offense.
Defenses already operate from a deficit. The best athletes are sold on offense in an effort for points-focused coaches to stock their coffers, taking potential high-quality defensive backs and turning them into play pieces for the offense. With the targeting rule, players are second-guessing flying to the football to make big plays for fear of ejection should an offensive player make a last-second movement.
Oh, and pass interference remains one of the most over-called penalties in the collegiate landscape.
This rule will likely be struck down, it could situationally hurt an offense and that just cannot be allowed in the game. Offense sells tickets, and in college football it is all about the money, honey.