A little over one month after Florida State and Auburn duked it out for the BCS National Championship, college football is once again hosting an epic battle between offense and defense.
Except this time around, the clash isn’t taking place on the gridiron.
Earlier in the week, the NCAA football rules committee proposed a couple of changes to be put in place for the 2014 season, per ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg. The first was to lessen the penalty of the controversial targeting rule while the second was to allow a defensive substitution within the first 10 seconds of the 40-second play clock.
The committee’s first proposal was met with applause—took them long enough—however, the same cannot be said about the latter:
So I hear the football rules committee wants to slow the game down and make you wait ten seconds to snap--and penalty is delay of game!#wow— Rich Rodriguez (@CoachRodAZ) February 12, 2014
When you snap the ball has always been a fundamental edge for the offense- what's next-- 3 downs like Canada?#LetsGetBoring— Rich Rodriguez (@CoachRodAZ) February 12, 2014
Hugh Freeze found out about proposal to slow down offenses from Gus Malzahn. "'I said 'Y'all are kidding me' That's not true?'"— Ralph D. Russo (@ralphDrussoAP) February 12, 2014
Update: February 14, 3:40 p.m. ET
You can add North Carolina head coach Larry Fedora to the list of those opposed to the proposal. He even took a subtle jab at Alabama's Nick Saban in the process, via College Football Talk's John Taylor:
“Now if you’re just going under the assumption that if you play more plays you have more chance for injury – I agree with that,” Fedora said in a phone interview with the Raleigh News & Observer. “But if you’re going to say this is under player safety, but we’re going to do it in the last two minutes of the game, well then are we saying we’re not concerned with player safety in the last two minutes of the game? I mean, come on. I just don’t get that.”
“I think you’ve got more chance of players getting hurt if the opposing team has too many five-star players on it,” Fedora said. “So let’s just say one team can only sign two five-star players on its team. How about that?”
-- END OF UPDATE --
But no one took more offense—no pun intended—to the proposed rule than Washington State head coach Mike Leach.
“It’s one of the most mind-numbingly dumb suggestions that I’ve ever heard,” the offensive-minded 52-year-old said during a radio interview with WJOX in Birmingham, Ala., via Bloguin’s Kevin McGuire. “It’s a reaction to the success of Auburn and Texas A&M, clearly, so rather than innovate defensively and respond defensively…it’s like we’re going to invent a rule.”
Player safety has been pegged as the motivation behind the proposal. With that in mind, Leach continued by sarcastically suggesting three more rules the committee should look into:
1. Don't allow defenses to blitz
2. A defense is never allowed to bring more players than an offense has to block
3. You are not allowed to hit the quarterback.
All jokes aside, it’s no surprise that Leach would have an issue to the change.
Since the turn of the 21st century, no other head coach has had as much success running a fast-paced offense as Leach. In 12 seasons with Texas Tech and Washington State, he has led his teams’ passing attacks to a ranking of No. 11 or better—including eight top-three finishes—every year.
Another proponent against the proposed rule is Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy.
Much like Leach, the 46-year-old has made a name for himself running successful offenses in Stillwater. In fact, the Cowboys have finished in the top 10 in total offense in five of the last seven seasons.
No stranger to rants, Gundy took to Twitter to let his feelings be known:
The no huddle, fast tempo style has changed the game of CFB. Our sport has exploded in popularity with high scoring games & packed stadiums.— Mike Gundy (@CoachGundy) February 13, 2014
College Football is constantly evolving. Coaches have to make adjustments based on their team, their talents and their opponents.— Mike Gundy (@CoachGundy) February 13, 2014
The 10-second rule is like asking basketball to take away the shot clock - Boring!. It’s like asking a blitzing linebacker to raise his hand— Mike Gundy (@CoachGundy) February 13, 2014
Why change our sport at the peak of its popularity— Mike Gundy (@CoachGundy) February 13, 2014
The only thing missing is an intimidating declaration of how old he is.
Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin seemed to agree with the outspoken Oklahoma State coach. He later retweeted one of Gundy's posts.
Sure, the majority of the college football landscape seems to be against the proposal. However, there are certain head coaches who are all for the change.
Count Alabama’s Nick Saban—who many call the catalyst of the rule—made his feelings known about the topic back in 2012:
“I think that the way people are going no-huddle right now, that at some point in time, we should look at how fast we allow the game to go in terms of player safety,” Saban said. “The team gets in the same formation group. You can’t substitute defensive players. You go on a 14-, 16- or 18-play drive and they’re snapping the ball as fast as you can go, and you look out there and all your players are walking around and can’t even get lined up. That’s when guys have a much greater chance of getting hurt … when they’re not ready to play. I think that’s something that can be looked at. It’s obviously created a tremendous advantage for the offense when teams are scoring 70 points and we’re averaging 49.5 points a game. More and more people are going to do it.”
Arkansas’ Bret Bielema also chimed in.
“There is a lot of truth that the way offensive philosophies are driven now, there’s times when you can’t get a defensive substation in for 8-,10-,12-play drives,” he said, via Al.com’s Joel A. Erickson. “That has an effect on safety of the student-athlete, especially the bigger defensive lineman.”
Maybe these two coaches have a valid point. Or maybe they’re just peeved at the recent rise of offense in the SEC.
Either way, making a drastic change such as this can only harm the sport. You would think the NCAA learned its lesson with last year’s targeting experiment.
Sometimes, the game is better off left untouched.
Sometimes, it’s just better to let the boys play.
Unless otherwise noted, all stats and rankings are courtesy of CFBstats.