Before the 2009 season, SEC Commissioner Mike Slive called his coaches into a room at SEC spring meetings in Destin, Fla., and gave them one simple message.
"Knock it off."
According to the Palm Beach Post, an offseason filled with coaches taking public shots at each other—most notably former Tennessee head coach Lane Kiffin and former Florida head coach Urban Meyer—had reached a boiling point, and Slive was fed up.
We're headed down a similar road this offseason.
The NCAA announced a proposed rule change on Wednesday that would prevent offenses from snapping the ball until 10 seconds have ticked off the 40-second play clock, which resets at the end of the previous play. The move would allow defenses time to substitute and stay fresh, limiting the impact of hurry-up, no-huddle offenses.
We mentioned on Thursday just how absurd this new rule would be if it is adopted by the playing rules oversight panel on March 6 based on its attempt to define a two-minute drill and fix something that really isn't a problem.
Who's behind the move?
According to George Schroeder of USA Today, Alabama head coach Nick Saban spoke to the rules committee that made the recommendation on the topic, and Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema participated in the discussions but doesn't have a vote.
Fair or not, that has placed them on the wrong side of a battle line that is rapidly being formed between old-school and new-school SEC head coaches.
Hurry-up coaches like Auburn's Gus Malzahn, Ole Miss' Hugh Freeze and Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin have all raised concerns about the rule.
"This is an attempt to limit the creativity of the game," Sumlin told Schroeder.
This was pushed through a committee under the auspices of player safety despite no medical evidence to support that assertion. According to Cincinnati head coach Tommy Tuberville, via ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg, the rule wasn't discussed at the American Football Coaches Association convention last month.
The feeling that his rule is being pushed through without going through the proper channels under false premise is going to lead to even more bad blood among SEC coaches.
Bielema and Malzahn got into it about this very subject during SEC Media Days last July, and their feud continued into the season when Bielema complained to the SEC office about missing plays from Auburn's game tape. It escalated even further when it appeared that Auburn linebacker Anthony Swain exaggerated an injury in the end zone after Arkansas converted a fake field goal in the third quarter in the game between the two SEC West schools.
The controversy surrounding the 10-second rule, and Bielema's role in it being proposed, will only add fuel to the fire.
Saban's prolonged success has put a target on the back of his program anyway, and now Bielema's team will have a target on its back when it goes up against hurry-up programs.
If Malzahn, Freeze, Sumlin or any other coaches who make a living off pushing offensive tempo get the chance to make a statement and run the score up, you can bet your bottom, top and middle dollars that they will.
I know, Alabama fans, "nobody is going to get that chance against the Tide."
But that tempo will be just a bit quicker, and then the foot of the coaches employing the hurry-up will be on the gas a bit longer in games—just to make a statement.
When the coaches get to Hoover for Media Days in July, expect this to be a big topic of conversation. Malzahn will make the rounds on Day 1, and Sumlin will follow him on Day 2, before Bielema and Saban make the rounds on the final two days of the event.
Get your popcorn ready.
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