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Gary Pinkel's up-tempo experience dates to the summer of 2005, when Missouri, reeling after a disappointing season, opted to implement the unorthodox approach then gaining a foothold within the Big 12 Conference.

The result has been a near decade of historic success: Missouri found an offense, discovered an identity and rolled through the most productive era in program history, essentially parlaying its successes into a spot in the Southeastern Conference, where the Tigers won 12 games and the East Division title a season ago.

This experience has placed Pinkel in the SEC's pro-tempo camp, particularly when it comes to the debate's most contentious theory: That a quicker, no-huddle approach places offensive and defensive players alike at an increased risk of injury.

"I don't know where all this started with," he said. "It's another form of football. I think it's great that that's another component to football and being creative. But I don't buy the health issue in any way. I think it's fiction. Fiction based on that."

What's clear: Four months after a controversial proposal involving a 10-second runoff between plays was tabled by an NCAA rules committee, the debate over pace of play -- the speed with which offenses roll in and out of the huddle, if they huddle at all -- continues to rage among SEC coaches.

"I just know this, OK," Pinkel said. "Never once in all those years in the fastest league I think that plays football in the Big 12 did I have my team doctor, my trainer, any of my coordinators walk into my office and say, 'I'm concerned about the health of our football team.' It didn't happen ever. Didn't happen last year or the year before."

Pinkel's contrast can be found in Arkansas' Bret Bielema, the leading proponent of the 10-second proposal and, along with Alabama's Nick Saban, the leading figure in the conference's small yet vocal minority.

"I think I deal more in what I know, what I see, what I believe," Bielema said. "Have I softened in my view of fast-paced offenses? The only thing I'm going to say to that, if you ask me in that tense, you're asking me have I softened my view on player safety. The answer would be no.

"I'm probably more of a reality-based movie guy more than fiction, I guess. I have seen a couple good fiction movies, so I know good fiction when I see it."

A league united in the firm belief in its own dominance -- "The competitive balance and makeup of this league is second to none," Tennessee's Butch Jones said Tuesday -- has been fractured.

Take, for example, LSU, which exhibits the general philosophy -- heavy on the running game, defined by defensive excellence -- that would seem to paint the Tigers and Les Miles as traditionalists, advocates of the same mind-set espoused by Arkansas and Alabama.

Yet Miles, for all of his old-school leanings, sides more with the offense-first branch of the SEC -- Missouri, along with Auburn, Mississippi and Texas A&M, among others.

"I have to be very honest with you: I think there's no reason to change what we're doing," Miles said. "I think there's a reflection of the need and want to change pace and then there's a reflection of you go with the pace that you're able.

"The offense ought to have the opportunity to go up and snap it. If the offensive line is in better shape than their defensive line? Oh my goodness. That would be unusual, wouldn't it? So the idea that it has really anything to do with injuries is a joke."

The shift in style even has officials catching up with the trend, leading the conference to experiment with an eight-person officiating crew -- with the eighth official tasked with collecting and spotting the ball at the conclusion of every play.

"The rule today says when the ball is ready the offense can snap it," said Steve Shaw, the league's coordinator of officials. "What we're saying is when the play is dead the umpire or the person spotting the ball, you will not walk and you will not sprint. We're calling it a 'crisp jog.' We're trying to get all of our umpires on the same page on a crisp jog."

Unity on the topic, when and where it exists, can be found in a shared foundational belief: SEC coaches might stand on different ends of the pace-of-play spectrum, but all agree that this league, more than any other, can dictate the tempo.

"Not every play is breakneck speed," Miles said. "You know what? We played Oregon. There was no breakneck speed. ... Maybe it was us kind of did the break-necking."

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