published Thursday, March 6th, 2014

Greeson: 'Saban' rule logically tabled — for now

Alabama head coach Nick Saban, center, calls drills as his team warms up before facing Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl against Oklahoma in this January file photo.
Alabama head coach Nick Saban, center, calls drills as his team warms up before facing Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl against Oklahoma in this January file photo.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

The 10-second rule has come and gone for now.

The debate the last few months about the pace of play in college football and potentially changing the rules has been derailed -- or at least delayed -- with the news that the NCAA rules committee has tabled a rule-change proposal before today's vote.

For those that need it there's a 10-second briefing on the 10-second rule, which has been called the Saban Rule by none other than Steve Spurrier because of Alabama coach Nick Saban's support of the proposal:

A small collection of coaches that despise the hurry-up approach that is the offensive plan du jour hatched a proposed rule change that teams can't snap the ball until at least 10 seconds have elapsed or face a delay of game penalty. The coaches who hate the hurry-up offensive approach made this pitch in what they pledged to be good faith because they believed the game of football is safer if it's played slower.

The tug of war that ensued ranged from Arkansas coach Bret Bielema callously and wrongly saying a Cal player's death last month was his evidence of the dangers of the pace of play to Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez parodying the movie "Speed" in an effort to make a point. Bielema quickly apologized for his insensitive remark; Rich Rod has yet to apologize for using Keanu Reeves to make a point.

Amid the hubbub that also included several coaches complaining about the back-door and secretive nature in which this rule progressed through channels -- even the idea being attached to welcomed changes to the targeting rule -- and the request from several coaches to see this "evidence" that pace makes the game more dangerous had been relative silence from Saban.

That ended this week when Saban talked to reporters this week.

"I don't care about getting blamed for this. That's part of it," Saban told ESPN.com. "But I do think that somebody needs to look at this very closely.

"The fastball guys [up-tempo coaches] say there's no data out there, and I guess you have to use some logic. What's the logic? If you smoke one cigarette, do you have the same chances of getting cancer if you smoke 20? I guess there's no study that specifically says that. But logically, we would say, 'Yeah, there probably is.'"

Hmmmmm. Let's set a baseline here. Saban is the best coach in college football and has earned great respect from fans and foes. I have called him "Perfection's Guardian" because he assembles the most talent and demands the most from them, making sure every five-star knows that if he does not produce he will be replaced. That's why seeing Alabama come up short in its final two games last season was so shocking. We have become accustomed to Alabama's perfection under Saban, and anything short of that is surprising.

That's an amazing accomplishment in the wide-spread realm that is modern-day college football and the utmost cutthroatery that is the current SEC. And Saban rules it.

But.... his 'logic' on this one is one-sided and narrow. It's crafted like a hard-core political speech focusing on a detail that makes for a fun sound bite, but is unsound upon further review. (And side note: This is a proposed rule change in a college game; can we please stop using life-and-death references in regard to the 10-second rule.)

This proposal has been tabled, but it has not been killed. It will most likely be discussed extensively in the next year and could be voted on next year when the rules committee reconvenes.

And expect more evidence and data beyond one-sided and shaped logic.

If Saban believes fewer plays are logically safer, then maybe we should have 10-minute quarters. Or what about the fact that college football teams are now going to have to play 15 games to win a national championship? More games means more chances to get hurt, that seems logical right, but no one seems to be complaining about the extra games.

Or, if we're using logic, then maybe we should cap the size of specific players? Or their speed, because we can logically assume that bigger players moving at faster rates are inherently more dangerous, correct?

But that would limit Saban's edge, since he has more big and fast guys than everyone else, wouldn't it.

Everyone has an agenda in this matter, and it's either protecting one team's approach or trying to limit another's.

Saban said continually that his motivation is safety, and who's to question him since there are few teams, regardless how quickly they snap the ball that have had continued success against his team.

He even suggested that the college game more mirror the NFL game because "they spend millions and millions" to try to make the game safer. (You could argue the NFL spends millions and millions on the game to make billions and billions, but we might be a touch cynical.)

Sure, the NFL snaps way fewer plays than the average college game, but that's mainly because the clock-stoppage rules are radically different.

And if there is hard evidence that pace of play is directly responsible for a more dangerous game, then the discourse on this proposed rule change is a must.

But to use logic as your basis, then it's shaky from the snap of the ball.

Is it logical to have the defense dictate the flow of the offense? Is it logical to have a delay of game penalty for moving too fast? Is it logical to come up with a football environment that is safe?

Nope, none of that is logical, no matter how fast or slow you prefer to go.

Contact Jay Greeson at jgreeson@timesfreepress.com and follow him on Twitter at @jgreesontfp. Listen to Jay and David Paschall on Press Row from 3-6 p.m. Mondays-Fridays on ESPN 105.1 FM and at timesfreepress.com.

about Jay Greeson...

Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...

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