Washington State’s Mike Leach and Arizona’s Rich Rodriguez, as one could imagine, are up in arms about the NCAA’s new proposed slow-down rule on no-huddle/hurry-up offenses. The proposed rule aims to make it illegal to snap the ball with 30 seconds or more on the play clock, effectively allowing the defense to substitute at will and taking away the advantage that any offense has when they hurry to the line-of-scrimmage (more on this in a minute).
First, here’s how the rule is intended, according to ESPN via that link above:
The NCAA committee recommended a rules change that will allow defensive units to substitute within the first 10 seconds of the 40-second play clock, excluding the final two minutes of each half. So in effect, offenses won’t be allowed to snap the ball until the play clock reaches 29 seconds or less. If the offense snaps the ball before then, it would be penalized five yards for delay of game. Under current rules, defenses aren’t guaranteed an opportunity to substitute unless the offense subs first.
Leach rarely minces words when talking about things that he has a strong opinion on and he came right out and crushed the idea on this proposal in an ESPN interview yesterday:
First off, [I] doubt it will pass. Second, it’s ridiculous. All this tinkering is ridiculous. I think it deteriorates the game. It’s always been a game of creativity and strategy. So anytime someone doesn’t want to go back to the drawing board or re-work their solutions to problems, then what they do is to beg for a rule. I think it’s disgusting.”
Apparently Rich Rod is on the same page because he also chimed in with the ‘ridiculous’ label:
It’s a joke. It’s ridiculous. And what’s most ridiculous is did you see what the penalty is going to be called? Delay of game! How is that a delay of game? That’s the ultimate rules committee decision. Make the game slower and call it delay of game.”
To be honest, I personally don’t know if the NCAA committee is just trying to appease its top coaches (namely SEC powerhouse coaches Nick Saban and Brett Bielema) or if it actually, somehow imagines that this will lessen on-field injuries. I think that’s the kicker, there’s no data that suggests it would actually lessen them. In fact, the NCAA released a statement that reads like this:
Research indicated that teams with fast-paced, no-huddle offenses rarely snap the ball with 30 seconds or more on the play clock.”
OK… then why all the hubub? If it rarely happens anyway, why make it mandatory that it doesn’t happen? As it is, if the offense substitutes, the defense is given the same opportunities with the referees stepping over the ball. So this is about giving the defense an opportunity to get out of a bad match-up package without having to use a timeout or wait for the offense to substitute. Also, it gives the defense plenty of time to set itself, make audibles, etc.
Can you imagine if this idea carried to NCAA basketball in the interest of player safety because fast-break dunks were deemed to be a player safety issue? No, really, a guy chasing down the dunking dude and trying to block the shot… how many times have you seen the attempting dunker end up introducing himself to a cheerleader or photographer on the baseline, or crashing into the basket stanchion? Remove that play and increase player safety, no? So the NCAA says you can’t shoot within the first 10 seconds of the shot clock and must run an offense, even though teams “rarely shoot within the first 10 seconds” of the shot clock. No easy baskets in the interest of player safety and increased defensive ability sounds ridiculous, right?
And that’s not all. Think about this, what happens when a team gets down late in a football game and needs two or three scores to win the game? This is something that almost surely would have held back Texas A&M from its comeback in their bowl game against Duke. Can you imagine how much different Oregon would be if this rule passes? Stanford would rejoice, beating the Ducks just got a little bit easier!
Yeah, Saban is a defensive genius and he’s genius for suggesting this and hiding behind player safety honestly. This would cater directly to him and every other “traditional” coach that is searching for an answer on how to stop the hurry-up. For example, teams that have competed with Alabama lately have been hurry up teams like Ole Miss, Texas A&M, Auburn…
To me this is akin to some of the competitive online leagues for the EA Sports NCAA Football Series, which make rules on not being able to recruit more than X-amount of 5-star athletes per season because of the unfair advantage created by the game in recruiting with certain teams. Can you possibly imagine the backlash of Saban, Les Miles and others if that rule were proposed to the NCAA in real life!? “No Mr. Saban, you can’t recruit but five 5-star athletes to your team in the interest of team parity.” I chuckle just thinking about it. Heck, what about telling teams their not allowed to snap the ball with less than 10 seconds on the play clock? Isn’t that the only way of keeping teams from running down the clock early?
Leach and Rich Rod had more to say on the subject. First Leach crushes Saban (somewhat indirectly):
That’s really insulting that they are hiding behind player safety just because somebody wants an advantage. That’s crazy… My suggestion is rather than spending a bunch of time coming up with a bunch of really stupid rules, spend that time coaching harder. Worry about your own team and try to make your product better rather than trying to change the game so you don’t have to do anything.”
WHOA, COACH HARDER SIR SABAN! That is why we love Mike Leach folks! But wait, there’s also more from Rodriguez:
Where’s all the data that proves this is a player safety issue? I don’t buy it! What about making it so you can’t blitz seven guys? That’s a dangerous thing for a quarterback.”
But I think the most intriguing complaint from coaches so far is a quote from Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze, talking about the advantages a defense has vs. that of the offense:
Since the start of football, defenses can line up wherever they want to. They can move around as much as they want to before the snap. … They can do whatever they want to do, that’s fine. I coach defense, too, that’s great. The one thing that has always been offenses’ deal is snapping the ball. That’s the only thing we have.”
Good eye coach Freeze. The NCAA could think about a rule to put only 5 players in the defensive box and not allow blitzing for the sake of “player safety”, since most injuries happen on the line-of-scrimmage with all those big bodies rolling up on each other. At any rate, like Leach pointed out before rightfully going nuts, this rule probably will not pass and it’s because it opens too many cans of worms.
Again, I believe this may just be an attempt by the NCAA to put their “interest in player safety” at the top of the list without actually doing anything. Maybe they know there’s no way it will pass, and yet this makes them look like they care. There are so many other things that make defense not as good these days.
For example, all of the best athletes are now placed on the offensive side in the interest of being more explosive and mobile. Coaches like Saban and Miles don’t necessary live by that rule of course, which is why their defenses generally succeed, even against high-octane competition. Do they really need another rule to help them fulfill their yearly run at a national championship?
Maybe we should start telling him and the rest of the SEC that you’re no longer allowed to play an FCS or non-FBS team in the interest of player safety, because they’re kids are just so much smaller and less competitive than the kids that come to an Alabama. As it is Bama and other SEC teams play four of the worst teams on any given schedule claiming that their conference is so difficult that it warrants an easy out of conference schedule. The rest of the country doesn’t live like this. Quite frankly, it’s the reason the Pac-12 isn’t ranked higher, they play a tougher schedule on a yearly basis.
I guess when your team is so good that you are criticized for not ending up in your fourth championship game in five years, you get creative with ways to keep the fanbase interested.