By William Qualkinbush.
By William Qualkinbush.
Any time the NCAA Rules Committee gets together, I cringe. I’m sure I’m not alone in my skepticism. After all, the committee seems to consistently change the rules to hamper the ability of players to play the game based on data that is either vague or flat-out inaccurate.
The committee often has some aspect of the game in its crosshairs—generally something many fans would consider “fun” or “entertaining”. Quite literally, the NCAA Rules Committee could be considered the fun-sucker of college football.
Many people would consider this particular meeting a mixed bag because of the dueling popular opinions on the two major proposals being discussed. I’m not sure there could be views that are more polar opposite than these.
I don’t know anyone who was happy with the targeting rule, particularly the presence of a 15-yard penalty that never went away—even when the ruling was overturned. This adaptation was a common-sense measure that was evident all season long, so the committee gets virtually no credit for making a move to correct a rule that was stupidly written in the beginning.
The real controversy involves a proposal aimed squarely at hurry-up no-huddle offenses. The proposal would allow defenses to substitute freely during the first ten seconds of the play clock and penalize offenses for snapping the ball during that time frame. Currently, the rules allow defenses the freedom to substitute without penalty only when opposing offenses do so first.
Frankly, the rule isn’t the thing that bothers me most about this. HUNH coordinators—like Clemson’s Chad Morris—hate this, but they will adapt.
In fact, I predict we will see offensive substitutions with 32 or 31 seconds on the play clock next season, just to spite this rule attempting to level the playing field for defenses. It is cyclical, but right now, some of the brightest minds in college football are innovating on the offensive side of the ball.
No, my real concern with this is how this proposal was formed in the first place. The coaching representatives on the rules committee—Todd Berry (UL-Lafayette) and Troy Calhoun (Air Force)—all run more traditional offenses. In fact, Air Force and Arkansas were among the slowest teams in the country last season.
In addition, Alabama’s Nick Saban and Arkansas’ Bret Bielema had some influence in the room as well, and we all know where they stand on the fast-slow meter.
Essentially, this feels like old-school football legislating new-school thought out of the game without any input from the other side. In government, we might call it “ramming a bill through” the committee.
Another detestable aspect of this proposal is that there appears to be absolutely no reason for it. In the data-driven age in which we live, people want proof of everything. Generally, such proof exists, which finds the lack of such evidence troubling in this case.
But the committee had absolutely nothing on which to base its decision, according to a piece written by Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports. In fact, coaches like Art Briles of Baylor and Hugh Freeze of Ole Miss—both HUNH pioneers—have repeatedly debunked several myths about what high-powered offenses can do to affect the game.
Berry says the rule was put into place for player safety, but no data exists to support his claim that a faster pace of play correlates with a higher rate of player injuries. Running more plays might mean a higher quantity of injuries, but that’s theoretical and doesn’t mean the rate of injury is any higher.
This is just another case of one group of people being threatened by another group of people and attempting to use unequal influence to take the threatening elements out of the game.
It’s just not cool.
Just because the Nick Sabans of the world don’t like the prevalence of HUNH offenses in the game doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be that way. Plus, let’s not pretend Saban doesn’t take advantage of whatever rules loopholes he desires (25-player recruiting class limit, anyone?).
It’s patently absurd for successful coaches to complain about others having an unfair advantage. It’s also absurd for coaches to make outrageous pie-in-the-sky claims about the game without any evidence those claims actually impact the game.
Such is the world of college football, where reality just doesn’t matter sometimes.