Oct 5, 2013; Berkeley, CA, USA; Washington State Cougars coach Mike Leach (left) and California Golden Bears coach Sonny Dykes before the game at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Washington State head coach Mike Leach was among a slew of coaches who vehemently opposed an NCAA rule change proposal that would slow down the game of football. Of course the proposal would prohibit offenses from snapping the ball before the 29 second mark of a 40 second play clock, allowing the defense to substitute without worry of being caught out of position, even if the offense does not.
Of course Leach, Arizona’s Rich Rodriguez, Auburn’s Gus Malzahn and others spoke up immediately (can’t imagine Oregon’s Mark Helfrich or Cal’s Sonny Dykes are crazy about the rule either). Leach went to the extreme of saying “it’s a stupid idea” and (sarcastically) “how about we prohibit the defense from blitzing because that’s more of an injury risk to the quarterback”, along with plenty of other comments.
And it looks like such comments, along with several coaches saying that data simply doesn’t exist that a faster pace means increased injury to either side of the football, have made an immediate and major impact. The rules chairman seems to be taking a position of ‘wait and see’ now, which means this probably won’t be discussed again until next season when more facts can be brought to the table. For example they could actually study the amounts and types of injuries between balanced, slow paced and hurry-up teams this season.
Personally, there are just rules that aren’t good for the game and this is one of them. At the very least it would change the way we as fans appreciate the game. By the way, there’s a reason college football is the most popular sport in America and part of it is seeing the players move at a break-neck (I mean that in a non-injury sorta way) pace.
Leach has pointed out that it generally would not affect Washington State’s pace because they do not generally snap it in the first 10 seconds anyway. However it’s important to note that the change would still uproot the way defenses substitute when the Cougars are on offense. The way it is set up now, a defense is simply not going to sub before the Cougs make their changes for fear of being out of position or having too many men on the field with an early snap. With the change, they could do it literally every play, eliminating all offensive advantage on personnel, should they decide to get to the line and be ready immediately.
This was not a rule change year for the NCAA anyway, except where it refers to a safety issue, but I think we all know there’s little to no evidence that the pace has anything to do with injury. Of course more plays in a game give more chance for injury, and it seems like injuries happen quite a bit late in a fast-paced game, but there’s nothing to say how many of those injuries are legit. All things they’ll have to take into consideration when it is brought up again and they’ve had a chance to track such information. Apparently that could be next year, but I don’t think it’s getting passed in 2014.