Sorry, Nick Saban.
According to a survey conducted by ESPN and published by Brett McMurphy, only 25 of 128 FBS head coaches came out in favor of the proposed rule that would forbid offenses from snapping the ball until 10 seconds have run off the play clock.
Digging even deeper, McMurphy found that of the 25 in favor of the rule, fewer than half (11) are from one of the five power conferences:
Of the 25 in favor, only 11 are coaches at a "Power 5 Conference" school in either the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC, plus Notre Dame. Of the 128 coaches overall, 73 percent (93 coaches) are opposed to the proposal while only 19.5 percent (25 coaches) are in favor. Seven percent (nine coaches) are undecided.
The proposed rule change has been a hot topic in the month of February—in part because there is little else to talk about.
However, after Saban and Arkansas coach Bret Bielema showed up to support the proposal at an NCAA committee meeting, which helped lead to the proposal's passage, there are actual reasons to discuss the change's merit.
Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn, whose uptempo offense almost led the Tigers to a national title last season, said that, "There's absolutely zero documented evidence that is hazardous on the pace of play, only opinions," according to David Ching of ESPN.
Fellow head coaches Kliff Kingsbury (Texas Tech) and Steve Spurrier (South Carolina) have instead taken direct jabs at Saban for wanting to get the rule changed with such fervor. In an interview with George Schroeder of USA Today, Spurrier even playfully dubbed it "The Saban Rule."
Having now seen ESPN's poll, it becomes clear that Malzahn, Spurrier and Kingsbury are in the overwhelming majority, while Bielema and Saban are fighting a steep uphill battle for support. This, of course, was suspected beforehand, but now it has been confirmed.
McMurphy's list of coaches who have publicly come out against the rule—not disclosing anything from the survey—includes 13 names:
- Steve Spurrier, South Carolina
- Gus Malzahn, Auburn
- Rich Rodriguez, Arizona
- Mike Leach, Washington State
- Mark Richt, Georgia
- Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State
- Chris Peterson, Washington
- Will Muschamp, Florida
- Bobby Petrino, Louisville
- Tim Beckman, Illinois
- Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss
- Doc Holliday, Marshall
- Dino Babers, Bowling Green
Even NCAA Football Rules Committee chairman Troy Calhoun, the active head coach at Air Force, backtracked from his original support for the proposal, vowing that it would not pass until an "empirical" link was provided between rate of play and injuries.
If the rule somehow passed—which, given the sentiment around it, looks less and less likely by the day—it wouldn't make a huge impact on the flow of games. Only a particle-small percentage of plays, after all, are snapped before 10 seconds have run off the play clock, and the rule would not be enforced in the last two minutes of each half.
However, passage of the rule would certainly lead to increased tension and resentment from coaches, who don't like being micromanaged and told what they can and can't do. With so much public (and now anonymous) outcry against the proposal, it would become a major talking point—read: distraction—before and during the 2014 season, not unlike the targeting rule in 2013.
The proposed rule will be discussed and voted on at the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel on March 6.
Follow Brian Leigh @BLeighDAT