The Way It Was Proposed, College Football's 10-Second Rule Never Stood a Chance

Ben KerchevalCollege Football Lead WriterMarch 5, 2014

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In the end, the NCAA's attempt to slow down hurry-up, no-huddle offenses died an ironic death.

Namely because it never got the support it needed fast enough.  

The NCAA Football Rules Committee announced on a Wednesday teleconference (reported via George Schroeder of USA Today) that the proposal, which would have allowed defenses to substitute players for the first 10 seconds of the 40-second game clock, had been withdrawn. 

The decision came one day before the Playing Rules Oversight Panel was to vote on the legislation, and just three weeks after it was introduced. 

Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin told Schroeder the ruling was "a victory for common sense and protecting the game of football." 

(In related news, the rules committee forwarded an adjustment to the existing targeting rule affecting the 15-yard add-on penalty.) 

From the moment of its inception on Feb. 12, the so-called "10-second rule" was met with overwhelming opposition. In an ESPN poll last month73 percent of Football Bowl Subdivision coaches said they were opposed to it. 

Danny Johnston/Associated Press

The proposal was developed under the umbrella of player safety, a topical concern for anyone who either plays or watches the game. Since 2014 is an "off-year" for NCAA rule changes, the proposal could only be implemented via this route.

However, that's where the 10-second rule hit its first, and ultimately deciding, snag. 

There's been little-to-no evidence supporting the claim that faster offenses equal more injuries. In fact, released a non-scientific study by David Bartoo that could be interpreted to suggest the contrary: injuries are rooted in slower, more powerful offenses.

Data, or a lack thereof, wasn't the only issue for advocates for a slower football game. Arkansas coach Bret Bielema and Alabama coach Nick Saban, forever linked to the hip of the 10-second rule, had a platform.

What they didn't have was a coherent message. 

As Stewart Mandel of Sports Illustrated tweets, the Alabama head coach was all over the place in his stance, citing injury risk and officiating

Bielema didn't do himself, or the cause, any favors either when he cited "death certificates" as evidence that uptempo offenses increase injury. Then, he pointed to the passing of Cal football player Ted Agu, who died during a training run in February. (Bielema implied Agu had the sickle cell trait, although no cause of death has been released.) 

"If one of those players is on the field for me, and I have no timeouts, I have no way to stop the game," Bielema said via Kurt Voigt of The Associated Press. "And he raises his hand to stop the game, and I can't do it. What am I supposed to do?"

The timing and insensitivity of Bielema's comments only fueled what was a growing resentment against the proposal. Now, according to Jeremy Fowler of, it's being tabled for next year: 

For those who like fast, high-scoring offenses, this feels like a victory. But it could also be viewed from another perspective.

As unpopular as the proposal was, it got this far. The conversation about slowing down the game isn't going away, either. Tabled doesn't mean eliminated, or locked in a vault never to see the light of day. It simply means "not now." 

In fact, this could be viewed as only the beginning.

According to George Schroeder of USA Today, Bielema and Saban participated in the committee discussion of the 10-second rule last month, but did not vote. Saban later distanced himself from the 10-second rule by telling Joel Erickson of that he "had nothing to do with the idea."

Despite what he says, there's no denying Saban had an opinion about pace-of-play, just as there's no denying that he's the most visible coach in college football. 

As long as Saban has that opinion, pace-of-play is going to be a front-burner topic. Not even Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez and his Speed parody can do anything about that. 

Jokes aside, the 10-second proposal came with questionable logic and never had a fighting chance. Adjustments can be made, however. 

If coaches are truly concerned about the number of snaps players take per game, there's always the option to commence a running clock. If coaches want more research about pace-of-play and player safety, the NCAA should fund it. Improvements in that aspect of the game should never be inhibited. 

Though motives for the 10-second rule were considered to be more insidious, the same could be said about every piece of legislation, no matter whom it benefits. 

Rest assured, the idea will be back again. It may not look the same as the 10-second rule, but it will nevertheless have been inspired by it.


Ben Kercheval is the lead writer for college football. All quotes obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.