Gus Malzahn and up-tempo coaches may have won for now, but Saban's war is just beginning. Photo: USA Today Sports
Ding! Dong! The rule is dead! At least, that is what supporters of the up-tempo offense would like to have you believe. Miracle Max, the troll living in a tree in The Princess Bride, would classify the 10-second rule as mostly dead, meaning it is still very much alive.
On Wednesday, roughly 24 hours before being put to a formal vote, the NCAA's Football Rules Oversight committee tabled the 10-second rule proposal for another time. If passed the rule would penalize any offense five yards for a delay of game penalty if they snapped the football within the first 10 seconds of the play clock. This, in theory, would help defenses send in substitutions without feeling pressured to keep up with the pace of the game, thus giving defenses a chance to catch their breaths and catch up with the quick-tempo offenses that are becoming a trend around the sport of college football. The problem was this proposed rule was presented behind the curtain of concern for player safety, a disguise that was about as transparent as Doc Brown's mask in the year 2015. Nobody was fooled. We all saw right through the disguise, and coaches currently thriving on the up-tempo philosophy on the field, as well as many respected members of the college football media, athletic directors and fans joined in the onslaught against the proposal.
Perhaps it was the widespread negative criticism of the proposal that helped put the proposal on the shelf for the time being, meaning it will not be incorporated in to the rules for the 2014 season. Or perhaps it was the lack of information to properly evaluate the rule and why it is even on the agenda. One of the common criticisms of the rule proposal was the lack of data to support any ideas that players were more at risk with up-tempo offenses. Common sense would suggest that the more plays we see in a football game, the more likely it is a player could be injured, but there is no concrete data to support that argument at this time. Even coaches who have come out in support of the rule proposal, as few and far between as they may be, have admitted there is not enough data to support the proposal. Never mind Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema, who suggested death certificates supported the need to approve the proposal. Credit for sticking to the player safety mantra for Bielema, but the execution of his defense went about as well as his debut season with the Razorbacks.
Alabama head coach Nick Saban has been linked to the proposal like no other coach. This is because Saban had a chance to address his concerns about up-tempo offenses to the rules committee in person. We have known for some time Saban is no fan of the growing popularity of the quick offenses. Saban has become the face of the 10-second rule for this reason, and he has been ridiculed by many because of it. Is Saban scared he cannot keep up with the likes of Auburn and Texas A&M? Is Saban scared the game is evolving to a point that even he will not be able to contend? For the record, I think there is a competitive factor in Saban's mindset even if he does not want to admit it, but I do believe that if he had to then he would find more ways to adapt to stay on top. He has proven he can adapt before, except in the NFL, and I suspect he would be capable of doing it again. In fact, I would not be stunned if we see some changes in 2014 from Alabama on both sides of the football, but I am not expecting Alabama to all of a sudden become the Oregon of the SEC.