NCAA Tables Defensive-Substitutions Proposal, Adjusts Targeting Rule

Alex SimsCorrespondent IIIFebruary 12, 2014

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College football coaches don't have to worry about the death of the hurry-up offense, as it turns out. Additionally, the upheaval over 15-yard penalties from overturned targeting calls will end as well.

ESPN's Brett McMurphy tweeted Wednesday afternoon that the NCAA rules oversight committee has deferred and will not vote on the proposed 10-second defensive-substitutions rule change.

McMurphy also reported Thursday that the NCAA has approved the rule change regarding targeting. A major cause of controversy in the 2013 season, targeting calls that are reviewed and overturned will no longer result in a 15-yard penalty.

Many coaches, specifically those who run hurry-up offenses, were in vehement opposition of the 10-second rule change, as detailed by USA Today's George Schroeder:

A survey of 128 FBS head coaches last week by ESPN found overwhelming opposition to the proposal. Ninety-three (73.5 percent) of coaches were opposed; 24 (19.5 percent) were in favor; nine (seven percent) were undecided.

After the initial uproar, Air Force coach Troy Calhoun, the committee chairman, backpedaled, saying without hard medical evidence, the proposal shouldn't go forward.

On a teleconference Wednesday afternoon, it was announced that proposal would not go forward to the voting process.

The proposed change would have allowed defenses to substitute within the first 10 seconds of each 40-second play clock, except in the final two minutes of the first or second half, per Greg Johnson of NCAA.org:

Under this rule proposal, the offense will not be allowed to snap the ball until the play clock reaches 29 seconds or less. If the offense snaps the ball before the play clock reaches 29 seconds, a 5-yard, delay-of-game penalty will be assessed. Under current rules, defensive players are not guaranteed an opportunity to substitute unless the offense substitutes first. This part of the rule will remain in place in scenarios where the play clock starts at 25 seconds.

Some coaches with more traditional philosophies have grumbled about the speed of uptempo no-huddle offenses, which often move too rapidly for defenses to properly adjust and substitute. As a result, some (notably Arkansas' Bret Bielema) argue that tired players are more injury-prone in these situations.

However, Johnson's report states that the committee's research revealed that teams seldom snap the ball with 30 or more seconds on the play clock. If that is the case, this rule could prove to be the common ground that might end the disputes between the two parties.  

On the other hand, it could have restricted teams from making fourth-quarter comebacks. Hugh Kellenberger, an Ole Miss beat writer for The Clarion-Ledger, raised this scenario:

"So if you’re down by, say, 14 points with six minutes to go," Kellenberger wrote, "going to your two-minute drill is out of the question now?"

With teams allowed to substitute, it would take the advantage away from the offense in that kind of situation, nullifying its chances at mounting a swift comeback.

While the football rules committee tabled the defensive-substitutions proposal, it offered a second suggestion, per Johnson, that would remove the 15-yard penalty resulting from a targeting call if the call is reviewed and overturned (h/t Paul Myerberg of USA Today).

The targeting rule, which results in an ejection, was in effect for the first time in 2013. Every targeting call is reviewed, but the previous rule upholds the 15-yard penalty, even if the replay proves otherwise.

Fans and analysts were quick to disapprove.

Apparently, the NCAA rules committee was listening. Johnson detailed the committee's proposed alteration:

The committee recommended that if the instant replay official rules that a disqualification should not have occurred, and if the targeting foul is not accompanied by another personal foul, the 15-yard penalty for targeting should not be enforced.

However, if the targeting foul is committed in conjunction with another personal foul, the 15-yard penalty for that personal foul remains.  For example, if a player is called for roughing the passer and targeting the head and neck area, but the instant replay official rules that targeting did not occur,  the player flagged would remain in the game, but the roughing the passer penalty would still be enforced.

According to McMurphy, that rule change has been approved by the NCAA's rules oversight committee. 


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