Is there a middle ground on pace?

As I mentioned the other day, Mark Richt seems to think so.

“I understand the need for speed, so to speak,” Richt said. “I think everybody needs to be in place, in a good football position, ready to go, within reason. If teams are not substituting fast enough because they’re not organized, that’s their fault. But if you’re highly organized, you’re running your guys on the field and they’re not even set when the ball is snapped, I think that’s the thing that might need to slow down just a tad.”

He fleshed that out a little more when he was on the ESPN set earlier this week, as you can hear in this clip.  His concern was with inconsistent officiating.  Interestingly, both Miles and Sumlin agreed with Richt on the matter.

And now you can add Ellis Johnson to the mix.

“If both teams are not lined up, then you’ll find out who got there fastest, I guess,” Auburn’s defensive coordinator said Tuesday. “In some cases, it’s not football. But I think that when the referees are consistent, then the defenses have no disadvantage. I think in the early years with the speed-up offenses, the officials — especially in the SEC, because they didn’t see it very much — they weren’t as good with the consistency of the mechanics. And I think that they’ve gotten better, and probably we’ve gotten a little bit more accustomed to it on defense.”

Johnson sees no problem with an offense trying to run as many plays as it can — in fact, he said he likes it. What he could do without, however, is offenses snapping the ball before the defense has had time to set up.

“I’ve seen it snapped so fast the offense isn’t lined up,” he said. “So I don’t know what you’re trying to prove there. But the pace to me is part of the game, and I think it is good when you challenge somebody else from a conditioning and toughness standpoint. That’s part of the game.”

Johnson’s solution is to regulate the time between snaps:

“I’d want a minimum of five seconds, three seconds, whatever,” he said. “When that ball is put on the ground, you will not snap it for five seconds. If you can’t get lined up by then, then tough.”

Another possibility, suggested by the Big 12’s Bill Snyder, would be to add another official who would be tasked with monitoring substitutions.

“With the fast-pace offenses, one thing that’s been happening is offenses are running wide receivers 200 miles an hour 85 yards down the field,” Snyder said. “Then four new guys come on and are ready to go right now, and your defensive backs are 85 yards away from the line of scrimmage trying to get back — and they’re snapping the football.”

According to the rules, defenses are given time to substitute when offenses substitute first. But as officials scrambled to get in position before the next snap, Anderson said they often would miss those offensive subs and fail to give the defense the opportunity to sub, too.

“That was my recommendation, that the eighth official would be somebody who could pay attention to that,” Snyder said.

The conference has adopted Snyder’s recommendation for the extra official, but not for the same purpose exactly.

Instead, the eighth official will be charged with spotting the ball as quickly as possible after each play.

“Relative to the pace, I hope the presence of the eighth official will allow us to allow the game pace to be dictated by the teams on the field, to where we’ve removed officiating from it,” Big 12 officials coordinator Walt Anderson said. “We don’t want to artificially speed the game up or slow the game down. Within what the rules are, we just want to be sure they’re fairly being administered.”

Should make for an interesting experiment, one that I’m sure other conferences will be watching closely.  I bet Steve Shaw and Mike Slive are going to be subjected to further intense lobbying from the coaches after this season on this issue.


Filed under Big 12 Football, SEC Football

11 responses to “Is there a middle ground on pace?

  1. AusDawg85

    The extra official makes sense (full employment act). A mandatory time (e.g. 5 seconds) doesn’t make sense to me when you think about the 2-minute drill, end of periods, etc. Would the clock just run out even though the offense is ready to snap the ball?


  2. mdcgtp

    Aus….i had thought to myself that the 5 second rule was great but had not thought of the implications for 2 minute drill….that is a really tricky situation.

    Ultimately, it goes back to Saban’s question, “is this what we want the game to be and what are the implications of such?”

    Further, what is “fair” and what is not? As much as I agree with the sentiment of Richt’s point, how do we define highly organized?


    • AusDawg85

      I think CMR provides the answer in letting the officials get in position first, then signal the ball ready for play. That can work fast during a hurry-up game situation and a little more leisurely mid-game at the crew’s reasonable discretion. If the offense is substituting then the ref sits over the ball until the defense has had a chance to respond. All of which is my understanding of how it is already being handled, so other than defenses wanting unlimited substitutions regardless of what the offense is doing I don’t see the problem. It seems Saban and a few others just want to create an advantage for the D that currently does not exist.


  3. Sanford222View

    Is it just me or was that whole video clip just awkward anytime Finebaum spoke. He is not cut out for that roll. His desire to always stir the pot or use snark is not made for that format. It will be interesting to see how ESPN uses him as time goes on this season. I understand his popularity with certain SEC fans but that is not the environment for which his shtick is designed. If ESPN/SEC Network is simply going to have him working in the capacity we witnessed there it seems a very strange hire. PAAWWWLLLL seemed like he was really trying to change he who is on air and it did not look natural at all for him.


    • Mayor of Dawgtown

      Title that video “3 SEC Head Coaches and a Penis-head.” Finebaum did not appear telegenic, articulate or comfortable in that environment.


    • mdcgtp

      I thought finebaum actually did a really nice job of asking questions and then letting the coaches answer them. He did not “lead them” with softballs at all.

      Having not been exposed to him much in the past and seeing a lot of him the last week, I would offer the following observation, when he is not trying to further an “agenda” , he is actually an interesting and thoughtful guy. Of course, we know Mark Richt on the hotseat was his agenda from 2008-2011, and it now seems that Johnny Manziel is the object of his attention. More broadly, the point about Jerry Springer-line behavior is valid. the guy presumably profited from creating a three ring circus, which is distatsteful, but again, when he is not in either of those modes, I like him a lot, particularly relative to the other cliche spouting broadcasters on espn.

      I actually think the proliferation of college football programming has decimated the quality of the on air personalities To be clear, it is not because inevitably every one of them is going to say something we disagree with. Rather, it just seems to me that the level of discussion is so superficial, uninformative, and useless. Finebaum strikes me as capable being a bit more thoughtful. Feel free to disagree but that was my take


  4. Go Dawgs!

    Sounds like they want to go… At A Medium Pace.



    Anything with Finebomb, I do not watch/listen to, period


  6. IveyLeaguer

    I thought Richt got it right at Media Days, and I’m glad to see Ellis Johnson on board with him, since Gus Malzahn has made no bones about his goal to be “the fastest offense in the country”.

    The big issue, to me, is the basic fairness that was built into the game from the beginning, i.e., that the structure of the game would provide no advantage for either side of the ball.

    So, given all the rule changes that have favored the offense over the last 30+ years, it’s critical that enough time be allowed to give the defense “a reasonable amount of time to get set in a good football position”. That is Richt’s main point. Johnson mentioned “five seconds”.

    At the SEC level, the officials can control the pace of the game without new rules. All that is necessary is the will of the SEC office. But if there has to be a NCAA rule, and I hope not, Johnson’s 5 seconds sounds about right.

    The one thing I do worry about the most, is I don’t want to lose the ability to fly down the field at the end of a game. If they get it right, we won’t lose that. But there’s no question that ability is threatened by the mere prospect of regulation.