Don't Expect Nick Saban, Bret Bielema to Give Up So Easy on Pace-of-Play Debate

Barrett SalleeSEC Football Lead WriterMarch 6, 2014

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Well, that was a fun few weeks to pass the time between national signing day and spring practice.

According to Brett McMurphy and Chris Low of, the so-called "10-second rule," which would have prevented offenses from snapping the ball until 10 seconds have ticked off the play clock except in the final two minutes of each half, was tabled by the NCAA on Wednesday, one day before it was to be voted on by the playing-rules oversight panel.

It wasn't exactly surprising.

As my Bleacher Report colleague Ben Kercheval pointed out, the way the rule was conceived, the lack of evidence that hurry-up, no-huddle (HUNH) offenses put players at more of an injury risk and the lack of a coherent message during the politics phase doomed the rule from the get-go.

Those factors may have doomed the "10-second rule" permanently. 

New-school coaches, including Rich Rodriguez, who starred as Keanu Reeves in the Speed parody produced by the University of Arizona above, were justifiably angered by the way this was handled by the old-school guys.

According to USA Today's George Schroeder, Alabama head coach Nick Saban asked to participate in the rules-committee discussion, which was also attended by Arkansas' Bret Bielema.

Considering the rule was never discussed among the entire delegation at the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) convention in January, it gives off the impression that the old-school guys were trying to pull a fast one on the "fastball" coaches.

Butch Dill/Associated Press/Associated Press

Saban urged detractors of the rule to "use some logic" in another article by Low that was published shortly before the rule was tabled. He was referencing the overly simplistic idea that more plays create more of an injury risk.

That's accurate, but that's not an argument against HUNH offenses; it's against football in general. In fact, conducted a fantastic study, looking into injuries and pace of play, and suggested that bigger players playing in tighter spaces created more risk for injuries.

TUSCALOOSA, AL - OCTOBER 19:  Head coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide looks on during pregame warmups prior to facing the Arkansas Razorbacks at Bryant-Denny Stadium on October 19, 2013 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Image
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

If player safety is that important, why is Saban the only coach in the conference in favor of the SEC—the nation's most physical football conference—adding a ninth conference game? Wouldn't that diminish the chances of scheduling a cupcake in favor of a game versus a conference foe with bigger, faster and stronger players?

Saban and Bielema lost this round, but there's more to come.

Next year isn't an "off year" for player safety rules, so the old-school guys now have 365 days to come up with creative ways to slow down HUNH offenses. That means more studies into the subject, more headline-grabbing quotes designed to keep the debate at the forefront of the offseason discussion and more alternatives to the "10-second rule."

There may be some studies that suggest that hurry-up offenses create more injury risk, but those will likely be cancelled out by others, such as's, that indicate otherwise. 

Expect more honesty from the old guard moving forward. They don't like HUNH teams and want to slow them down. 

Butch Dill/Associated Press/Associated Press

What alternatives can be implemented? 

College football could implement the NFL clock, which doesn't stop after first downs. Chains have to move on first down anyway, so the only real difference would be the clock moving while they set rather than stopping. The impact on fastball teams within each drive would be, at most, minimal, and the number of plays per game would drop, appeasing the old-school coaches.

The two-minute warning could also be implemented. That would give coaches another timeout late in each half, when players are typically worn out. A built-in break would allow substitutions and tired players a chance to get a breather. That would promote player safety and allow coaches to make schematic adjustments at critical times in each game.

Or just add one or two 30-second timeouts to the mix. One per half, two that can be used at any time during the game, whatever the compromise is; another short timeout would solve a lot of problems. If a player is gassed and can't get off the field, he would get a chance to. If a coach can't adjust to a team that's going warp speed at a critical time, he would be able to.

These are all options that will be discussed but don't expect the "10-second rule" to be in the mix. It was an ill-conceived rule from the get-go that would define segments of the game that would hurt all coaches, not just coaches who employ HUNH defense.

No, not many teams snap within 10 seconds anyway. But if coaches are down 14 with four minutes to play, they need to hurry—regardless of the scheme employed.

Saban and Bielema lost this round, and the "10-second rule" is hopefully gone for good, but the pace-of-play argument will be here for a while.


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