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A controversial proposal to slow hurry-up offenses will be reconsidered by the NCAA Football Rules Committee next week, before it would go to a final vote.
Members of the committee plan to discuss the proposal, which would require a 10-second delay before offenses could snap the ball, before it goes to the Playing Rules Oversight Panel on Thursday. Rogers Redding, the NCAA's coordinator of officiating and secretary-rules editor of the rules committee, said members would communicate via conference call or e-mail by midweek.
Although the process is routine, according to Redding, he said, "It's going to look out of the ordinary" because of the attention focused on the proposal since it was announced Feb.12. The blowback has been loud and sustained by coaches who run fast-paced offenses.
The rules committee will consider feedback from coaches that has been received by the NCAA during an official comment period that runs through Monday. The committee could choose to modify or withdraw the proposal.
It's likely the rules committee also will consider unofficial feedback, including the results of an anonymous survey of Football Bowl Subdivision head coaches conducted by ESPN.com. The survey of 128 coaches showed overwhelming opposition to the proposal. Ninety-three coaches (72.7%) were opposed, 25 (19.5%) were in favor and nine (7%) were undecided.
"It's a piece of information that people are going to be interested in," Redding said. "Whether it would sway anyone, it's another data point. I wouldn't be surprised if it (had an impact)."
The stated reasoning behind the proposal was safety. This year, which is considered an off-year for rule changes in NCAA sports, it's the only way such a change could be considered. If approved by the Playing Rules Oversight Panel, which has a teleconference scheduled for March 6, it would take effect this fall.
Many coaches, while sounding their opposition to the proposal, have denied there is increased injury risk from playing fast-paced football. Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said there was "absolutely zero evidence." Air Force coach Troy Calhoun, chairman of the rules committee, backpedaled last week, saying the proposal should not become a rule unless data show increased injury risk. There's no hard data.
Some coaches who oppose the proposal have noted the participation of Alabama's Nick Saban and Arkansas' Bret Bielema, two vocal critics of the trend toward ever-faster offensive tempo. Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin told USA TODAY Sports the proposal is "an attempt to limit the creativity of the game." In an interview last week with USA TODAY Sports, South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier referred to the proposal as "the Saban Rule."
Saban has not commented publicly. Last week, Bielema's first public comments on the proposal sparked a spinoff controversy when he referred to the recent death of California player Ted Agu during a workout as a reason for the rule. When asked about data linking increased injury risk to up-tempo offenses in games, Bielema responded, "Death certificates. There's no more anything I need than that."
That led to a rebuke, issued on Twitter, by Cal athletics director Sandy Barbour, who called the comments "beyond insensitive." Bielema issued a statement of clarification moments later.