We’re about to see if Nick Saban really does run college football. (You know, the way Mike Krzyzewski, who like Saban has four national championships, runs college basketball.) Ralph D. Russo of the Associated Press reports that King Crimson — along with Arkansas coach Bret Bielema — “voiced their concerns about the effects of up-tempo, no-huddle offenses on player safety to the NCAA committee that passed a proposal to slow down those attacks.”
The AP also quoted NCAA coordinator of officials Rogers Redding — who used to be the SEC’s coordinator of officials; the SEC office is based in, er, Alabama — as saying: “Coach Saban asked for the opportunity to meet with the committee and talk about this. It’s not routine, but it’s not unique, either.”
The NCAA rules committee passed a proposal Wednesday that a rule be implemented that would allow defenses to substitute over the first 10 seconds of the 40-second play clock and would penalize any offense that snaps the ball before the play clock reaches 29 seconds for delay of game. (Quicker snaps would be allowed in the final two minutes of the first half and the final five of the second.)
As has been voluminously noted, Saban’s Alabama suffered its first loss in more than a calendar year when it was beaten by Auburn, one of those hurry-up crews, on Nov. 30, 2013. (Then again, if Bama hadn’t itself been in a hurry to try a 57-yard field goal on the game’s final play, it might have won in overtime.) But this rage against the hurriers has been boiling up in Saban, a defensive man by trade, for a while.
According to Andrew Solomon of Al.com, Saban spoke out against the hurryin’ in October 2012, after Alabama played go-faster Ole Miss, which would lead the SEC in plays per game in 2013. He mentioned his concern for player safety. He also said: “I just think there has to be some sense of fairness in terms of asking, ‘Is this what we want the game to be?’ ”
And now he has made his pitch to the rules committee, which has passed its goofy proposal — again we note the incongruity of a team trying its hardest not to dally being called for delay — along to the playing rules oversight panel, which convenes March 6, for final approval. (Noted the AP: “Redding said it’s not a rubber-stamp panel, but more often than not it approves proposals.”)
Reaction from the hurry-up coaches, of which there are many, has been incredulous. This from Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy, to whom incredulity comes easy:
Yes, there’s raging self-interest all around. The hurriers want nothing to halt their hurryin’. The older-school guys want their players to have the chance to compose themselves and align themselves properly. But that part about safety is a fairly thin limb. Here’s AP again: “Redding said the proposal was not made based on a study of data. ‘I can’t say there is hard physical evidence,’ he said. ‘It’s more common sense.’ ”
Actually, it’s a case of the game’s most powerful coach seeking to exercise his imperial power to regain a competitive advantage. Given a chance to read and react, Alabama’s defense is apt to win on most plays. Pare the read/react time and it’s a closer call. Put simply, the coach who almost always gets his way wants to get it again.
This is not, it must be noted, anything new. Duke’s Krzyzewski has essentially ruled the ACC for years, and before him North Carolina’s Dean Smith did. (When Krzyzewski was still relatively new at Duke, he famously raged against the “double standard” — meaning ragingly pro-Carolina officiating– that existed in that league. How times change, huh?)
In his autobiography, the late Jim Valvano reported that lesser ACC coaches would seek to tweak El Deano wherever they could. When assessing officiating at their summer meeting, Valvano wrote, the other coaches would take note if Smith praised a given referee — and then they’d vote to blackball him. Heh, heh.