Nick Saban Uses Cigarette Analogy to Defend 10-Second Rule

Brian Leigh@@BLeighDATFeatured ColumnistMarch 5, 2014

Alabama head coach Nick Saban seems frustrated near the end of a loss to Auburn during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Auburn in Auburn, Ala., Saturday, Nov. 30, 2013. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)
Dave Martin/Associated Press

Alabama head coach Nick Saban continues to lobby for the passage of a new rule that would slow down NCAA offenses—facetiously dubbed the "Saban Rule" by South Carolina's Steve Spurrier—in the days leading up to Thursday's meeting of the NCAA Football Rules Committee.

The new rule would disallow teams from snapping the ball during the first 10 seconds of the play clock, affording a five-yard delay of game penalty on those who did. Theoretically, the rule would be done to make college football safer, but opponents of the proposal, like Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn, have pointed out that "there's absolutely zero documented evidence that is hazardous on the pace of play, only opinions," according to David Ching of

To that, Saban responded on Tuesday with a plea for common sense. Even if there's no hard data, he implied, invoking a metaphor about cigarettes, logic dictates that up-tempo offenses are more dangerous than methodical ones.

His exact words, per Chris Low of

The fastball guys (up-tempo coaches) say there's no data out there, and I guess you have to use some logic. What's the logic? If you smoke one cigarette, do you have the same chances of getting cancer if you smoke 20? I guess there's no study that specifically says that. But logically, we would say, 'Yeah, there probably is.'

When Saban puts it like that, his argument is hard to find fault with.

The more plays per game, the more chances a player has of getting hurt—especially if he's exhausted, gasping for air, slouching his head and using improper technique. He's at risk.

The problem is Saban's motive. It's difficult to suss out where he is being sincere from where he is employing rhetoric. As Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury pointed out, per Luke Zimmerman of SB Nation, it might not be a coincidence that Saban's last three losses have come against teams playing at a higher tempo:

Most of the college football populace is against Saban's proposal. According to an anonymous survey conducted by Brett McMurphy of, only 25 of 128 FBS head coaches are in favor of its passage and only 11 of those 25 come from "power conferences."

The rule is tentatively expected not to pass at Thursday's meeting, but stranger things have happened. As a lobbyist, Saban has always wielded a certain amount of power over his peers. The meeting is worth keeping a close eye on.

No matter how the voting goes, however, this story will not disappear.


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