The substitution rule change story approaches farce.

Gus Malzahn wants everyone to hold their horses for a darn minute and have the NCAA table the now infamous 10-second proposal until 2015, which would give folks on both sides of the debate time to prepare arguments and gather data before voting.

It’s a non-rule change year in the NCAA, which means the only proposals that can be made for the 2014 season must relate to safety concerns.

“Once again, I don’t think we need to lose sight of the fact that the only way you can change a rule is the health and safety of our players,” Malzahn said Tuesday. “And it’s got to be documented, and there’s got to be proof. And there’s not.”

Malzahn has reached out to the chairman of the committee, Air Force coach Troy Calhoun, “numerous times” since Thursday to share his side of the argument.

Numerous makes sense here, because Calhoun’s done a complete 180 since the proposal was passed by his committee.

“This rules change is being made to enhance student-athlete safety by guaranteeing a small window for both teams to substitute,” Air Force coach and NCAA Football Rules Committee chair Troy Calhoun said in the announcement of the 10-second defensive substitution rule proposed by the committee. “As the average number of plays per game has increased, this issue has been discussed with greater frequency by the committee in recent years and we felt like it was time to act in the interests of protecting our student-athletes.”

That was February 12. Six days later, Calhoun spoke to the media about the firestorm of controversy surrounding the proposal — and sounded much less sure that it was “time to act,” saying more “empirical” data was needed before the Playing Rules Oversight Commission approved his committee’s recommendation.

“I think the only way it can or it should become a rule is if indeed it is a safety concern,” Calhoun said, per Yahoo Sports. “And that can’t be something that is a speculation or a possibility. I think there’s got to be something empirical there, where you realize, yes, this truly is a health matter in the terms of not being able to get a defensive player off the field.”

Yea, verily, and all that. Wasn’t there data about injuries the committee reviewed when it made the initial call?

National coordinator of officiating Rogers Redding told last week that there was not yet any “hard data” to support the 10-second proposal, and Calhoun acknowledged that neither he nor the committee had yet seen any kind of medical study supporting the slow-down before recommending the rule be put into place.

“But if there is something that surfaces where there is legitimate concern here,” Calhoun said, according to the Associated Press, “now you’re talking about some responsibility that’s involved.”

Nevermind, I guess.  But what about the findings of Dr. Nick Saban?  Are they to be so easily dismissed?

Asked whether Nick Saban — a public proponent of legislation allowing defenses to substitute who was reportedly present at the comittee’s meeting — had undue influence over its decision, Calhoun said “that’s a separate conversation and “moved on to another topic,” in the AP’s words.

The next time he’s asked, Calhoun will probably deny that he’s even heard of Nick Saban.

The NCAA ought to agree to Malzahn’s suggestion strictly in the hope that some passage of time will make people forget how much of a turd Calhoun’s committee laid with this vote.  Hey, given its track record, it’s not like in time something new won’t turn up to distract us.


Filed under The NCAA

48 responses to “The substitution rule change story approaches farce.

  1. Gaskilldawg

    Who are these clowns? Answer : the member universities and the folks the members hire to be the administrative staff.
    The universities aren’t serfs burdened by rules over which they have no control. They make the rules themselves.

    I understand the frustrations causing a lot of folk to advocate abolishing the NCAA. If that happened the same folks would start a new organization with the same clowns in charge. If you want to shut down a clown car take out the clowns, don’t move them from a Chevy to a Ford and expect it not to be a clown car.

  2. Will (the other one)

    “Troy Calhoun, do you reject Saban, and all his pomps?”

  3. FarmerDawg

    In my opinion an easy fix would be a tweak to the illegal participation rule. If when a defense is making a substitution the players are making a concerted effort to get off the field and in no way disrupt the play of the offense don’t throw a flag. This allows the defense to substitute with out hindering the offense.

    • Rp

      Good call. After watching some Olympic hockey I go to thinking that defensive substitutions might start to look a lot like those hockey line changes and the ability to do them quickly will become an important part of the game.

    • Macallanlover

      I agree with your suggestion, a player running away from the action to get off the field should not be counted. You could even have him indicate someway that he is not an active defender (hand over head, white hanky, etc.) There may need to be a minimum time for him to have started leaving the field…..say 3-4 seconds before the snap. And let them go off either side. I think having a 10 second clock before a play can be run is a huge issue with limiting teams from stopping the clock or going into a hurry-up mode to overcome a deficit.

      I also would like to see players have to sit out the remainder of a drive whenever a clock is stopped for an injury time-out. This could be viewed as a safety concern and would stop the complaining about faking injuries.

  4. ASEF

    Interesting that no one’s really defending snap-before-they-can-get-ready on the merits. It’s all about Nick and “lack of hard data.” The tobacco industry rode that last one for two decades. Not holding my breath that we will see any real change on this until its gets so ridiculous that people stop watching. Baseball and basketball had to recalibrate offense/defense after they made the mistake of going all offense. I guess CFB is going to have to learn the same leessons

    • The folks that want this to pass don’t have any choice but to focus on injuries, because the only way Calhoun’s committee could consider the proposal this year is for the purpose of player safety.

      As for Saban…

      • Rp

        The HUNH causing more injuries is easy to prove. More plays per game equals more injuries. The NCAA has already sought to reduce the number of kickoff returns to reduce injuries on those plays. Saban only needs to apply the same logic to scrimmage plays. If there are X number of injuries per scrimmage play, then the increase in number of scrimmage plays per game because of the HUNH will result in a proportional increase in injuries.

        • That’s not proof, just an inference.

          More games equals more injuries, too, right? I doubt you’ll see anybody advocating to reduce the schedule.

          You might find this data interesting.

          • Scorpio Jones, III

            Interesting piece I have read before…in Georgia’s case it appears many of our offensive injuries were just amazing bad luck.

            That the SEC leads in slow play does not surprise me or that the SEC has a lot of injuries…size and speed are a deadly combination.

            By the end of an SEC season, none of the teams in contention are at full strength. Maybe the only good thing about the BCS system was the 30-day layoff before the championship…players get well.

            With the 15-game schedule for the best four teams, whoever has the best training room should win the national championship. Speed of play obviously has little or nothing to do with it.

            I guess that extra 10 seconds would allow Nick’s special teams coach to wake up…maybe.

          • Rp

            That is very surprising. It would seem to be a logical conclusion that more plays equals more opportunities for injury and thus more injuries. Those results could be due to a sample size that is too small. Not trying to deny anything, I am just curious as to how in the world less plays could mean more injuries with all other variables being equal. Would love to hear someone offer a plausible theory on that.

        • Sorry Nick, Gus, Bret, et al … this AIN’T about more injuries. If it sounds like a duck … it’s bullsh*t! They know it, we know it … everybody knows it. This crap was rammed down the committee’s throats so that they would consider the proposal for the purpose of player safety. Let’s be honest … when has Nicky had time for “player safety?” If it doesn’t give him an advantage on the field, I doubt he has time for it.

      • Always Someone Else's Fault

        I am one of the few who thinks medicals should be required (a) after an injury and (b) in lieu of simply dismissing a player. Beamer cuts a kid who isn’t rehabbing from an Orange Bowl injury quickly enough: crickets. Saban puts a guy on medical: uproar.

        I am seriously sick of people confusing Saban Hate with meaningful discussion. His presence warps all debate in unfortunate ways.

    • GaskillDawg

      IN the past 27 years the folks concerned about player safety have increased the maximum number of games an 18 year old can play from 12 to 15 next year. Fifteen is just one game short of an NFL season. That was in creased of 24% without one second’s discussion about the physical impact of that 15th game, played after 5 months of contact, played under the most stressful and high pressure conditions, to an 18 year old. When Saban says that he is opposed to a playoff because of the effect of the extended schedule on his players’ long term health, then I will give him any credibility on the issue.

      • GaskillDawg

        Should be, “past 22 years”. Sorry.

      • FarmerDawg

        You do realize that to win a state title in GA H.S. the team must play 15 games. Are you saying that division 1 football players are not better prepared for this than a 16 year old.

        • GaskillDawg

          Nope. I am saying that the collisions between 15 to 18 year old HS kids are with much less force than collisions between 18-23 year old ollege kids. A kid from my HS played on my HS football team. He walked on at UGA. This was the 1970s. I asked him, “What’s the big difference between playing football in HS and in college?” His answer, “Rememebr the hardest hit you ever got in HS? That is every hit in practice here in college.”

          I am also saying that HS kids play 48 minute games. College kids play 60 minute games. A 15 game college schedule is the same action time as almost 19 HS games. Nope, not saying that that a 16 year old is as prepared to play 19 games as an 18 year old is to play 15 games.

          You really think that a 15 games HS season is as taxing on the body as a a15 game FBS season or as taxing on the body as the first 15 games of an NFL season? Really?

  5. Senator, you’re on point. No matter which side of the debate you fall on (and I think we’ve all pretty well documented our views), the way it’s been handled pretty much necessitates just putting it off until 2015. I hate that, because I think it’s a debate worth having, but right now the debate is so focused on how the proposal came to pass that there’s no way to get the focus on the actual merits of the idea from a competition standpoint. (I understand that they couldn’t propose it based on competition this year, safety was the only way to push it through, but Saban/Bert and company should have just waited until 2015).

    Push it to 2015, drop the “player safety” farce, and let both sides get ready to argue their points based on what is best for the good of the game.

    • Reverend, great point – table the proposal until 2015 and let’s have the debate about whether football becomes two-platoon rugby with the forward pass allowed. In the meantime, have the conferences make a commitment to enforcing existing rules (holding, pass interference, allowing ample time for defensive substitutions when the offense substitutes) to try to balance the playing field.

    • Push it to 2015, drop the “player safety” farce, and let both sides get ready to argue their points based on what is best for the good of the game.

      I hate it too, but have to agree. Not so much for safety, but having to watch another season of giving one side of the ball an unfair advantage by not allowing the defense time to get ready to play.

      More pain. Oh well.

  6. 69Dawg

    Somewhere a broken down college football player from the 50’s is laughing his butt off at the pussies that play the current game. Try playing both ways and if you are taken out of the game you can’t come back in. How unfair was that and how unsafe was it?

    If the Offense doesn’t sub then the Defense doesn’t get to, deal with it. If the Offense does sub then the defense gets x seconds to sub. Make it a time limit and not at the whim of the Umpire spotting the ball. If the Defense can’t stop the Offense that tough. Like Steven Orr Superior once said after putting 50 on us, “it’s not my job to stop my offense from scoring”. I hate him more than any coach in football but he is right.

    • Who is responsible for watching the clock to make the ball ready for play after a substitution? The only way that can happen is to have the lead referee and the umpire handle it. It’s a judgment call as to when the ball can be whistled ready for play. The proposed rule change is about establishing a benchmark for when the ball can be snapped.

  7. Mark

    NCAA never seems to learn… politics are important. This rule won’t pass without data to pass it up. They messed up big time and they realize it now.

  8. James Stephenson

    Personally I am for anything that slows the game a little. I hate watching the offense hurry to line. Fake a snap, then all of the stand up and look to the sideline to get the call. For God’s sake. Even in the days of the Bills or Bengals Hurry up, which was fast but a good fast. Maybe some people like this new football, but to me the crap Auburn runs is just boring triple option. It is no different than watching GA Tech. Except I can actually enjoy Techs option since it actually looks fluid. The crap auburn runs just looks so freaking chaotic and not fluid. Which explains how they could tackle each other in the back field.

    Is this really what we want football to become? Basketball on the field. No thanks.

    • James Stephenson

      Oh and it will help injuries too. Since it does cut down on the number of times big guys hit each other. 80 plays of offense is 80 car wrecks for the offense and defense for that team. You can not tell me it is not better for their to only be 60 of those car wrecks a game.

      • Hackerdog

        Your logic makes sense. It just doesn’t play out in the data. The teams that play the fastest tend to have fewer injuries than the teams that play slower.

    • Macallanlover

      I also dislike the hurry to the line and freeze the defense while waiting for a call from the coach. Perhaps making the offense snap the ball within X number of seconds of getting to the line would balance things a little since the offense that no huddles is seldom ready to initiate the play…except when running a 2 minute offense. That is what we really want, the offense to be able to go fast when they need to, but don’t waste time at the line when your only purpose is to block substitutions. If you are at the line, make a play, or stay in the huddle and figure it out what you want to do.

      • Hackerdog

        One of the benefits of checking off at the line is seeing how the defense lines up against the offensive formation. Dictating that the play must be called in the huddle eliminates that advantage for the offense.

        That’s certainly one way to help defenses. But, it would be a big change.

        • No, that’s not Macallan’s point. His point is that is that most HUNH teams come to the line only to prevent defensive substitution. I don’t mean to speak for him, but I would assume he’s not saying that checking at the line shouldn’t be part of the game. His point is about the meerkating that everyone (including UGA) seems to do now. Watching Matthew Stafford, David Greene, and Aaron Murray control the line of scrimmage and call check-offs on protection, routes, and changing the plays was a thing of beauty.

    • GaskillDawg

      James, what we like is a matter of taste. I respect that you prefer a slower game, and I would not try to suggest that you should change your tastes. My point is that I like a faster game because I would rather sit in the hot sun of the north stands in September and see 10 plays every two minutes with the players hurring up between them, than I would watch 3 plays every two minutes and spend the rest of the time watchinjg everyone huddle up.

      I understand, some folks like the “chess match” stuff with time between plays to allow substitutions but give me more action to watch. Different strokes for different folks.

      • Rather than wanting faster play, how about fewer TV timeouts? That’s what takes so long.

        • Gaskilldawg

          Television timeouts are killers, but you miss my point. The faster the offense rund plays with the clock running the more plays I will see. The clock runs 1,800 seconds per half. If the offense is the slowest possible and runs 1 play every 40 seconds I will 45 plays per half. If the offense snaps the ball every 10 seconds I will see 180 plays. Whether there are 6 hours of television timeouts or 0 seconds of television timeouts, those numbers do not change .
          I would rather see more plays in a half than fewer.

          • That’s not the way the game is played. There’s isn’t a running clock like soccer or rugby. Plays get run with the clock stopped. Under your premise, a game takes 80 minutes (60 minutes of play plus 20 minutes of halftime). The reality is that you see about 140-150 plays per game. The Georgia-Clemson game with a total of 1,010 yards and 73 total points was 146 plays from scrimmage + special teams plays, and that’s with both teams playing a form of HUNH offense. Your math doesn’t work for the reality of how the game is played.

            • Gaskilldawg

              eethomas, I never said a half takes 1800 seconds to play. I said the game clock runs 1800 seconds per half.
              I don’t get your point. The game clock never runs more than 1800 seconds per half. (Isn’t 30 minutes times 60 seconds 1800 seconds?)
              Whether the two teams snap the ball on each play as the game clock is just before 00 or as the play clock hits 30 the game clock always runs 1800 seconds.

              I cannot fathom how you conclude that two teams each snapping the ball within 10 seconds do not run more plays per half than two teams each snapping the ball after 39 seconds runs off the clock.

              I understand that the play clock can run while the game clock does not. I suppose that if every play in a half is an incomplete pass then I am wrong, so let me correct my conclusion. As long as either team runs at least one play that isn’t an incomplete pass then I will see more plays in a half with teams snapping the ball earlier on the play clock than I would if both teams used 39 seconds of the play clock. Who cares? A game where every play is an incomplete pass would be excruciating to watch, anyway.

              I get it. You prefer slowing down the Oregons and Baylors of the football world. As I said to James, I respect that. Some folks like blue better than green. You like the Saban style I like the Oregon style and I explained why (I get to see more plays)

              • I like watching both styles of play. It’s the beauty of the college game rather than 32 teams who look exactly the same in the NFL. Oregon and Baylor are both very good at what they do with the finesse of their game. I don’t think Marcus Mariota is that good of a QB, but he fits their system extremely well. I also like Stanford and Alabama’s style of play where they are physical along both lines of scrimmage and play a power game that hurts you with play action. AJ McCarron could not play in Oregon’s system, but he’s a perfect fit for what Saban wants. I love Georgia’s style of offensive play when at its best, it’s the best of both camps. We can go HUNH and run or throw and light up the scoreboard quickly. We can also take the 40-second clock all the way down and control the game with power running and play action. Anyone who didn’t appreciate the drives to end the USCe and UF games this season doesn’t understand football. I think having every team run some form of Oregon or Baylor’s offense would be boring. Every team running Alabama or Stanford’s offense would be boring.

                I think both sides can agree that we want the game to be fair for the offense and the defense. Oregon wants to score 70 points per game if they can. Alabama wants to hold a team to single digits if they can. What’s wrong with establishing a level playing field where either could happen?

                • Nice post, EE.

                  I think both sides can agree that we want the game to be fair for the offense and the defense.

                  Well, they certainly should. But there are those on the offensive pace-finesse side who don’t want the game to be fair for the defense. It’s one of the prime reasons they run what they do. And I’m talking about well known coaches.

                  Safety aside, most of the concern from the ‘leave it alone’ crowd has been about substitution. They fear substitution will render them impotent, take away their advantage. And maybe it would.

                  But the thing they should fear as much, if not most, IMO, is the officials allowing sufficient time for the defense to get ready and set in good football position. In other words, the way CF was until the last 5 years or so.

                  To me, that is even more of a threat to those offenses that use the gimmick of pace to attack a defense that is not ready to play.

                  So if the proposed rule goes by the wayside, the push should be made to get the officials to take back control of the game, to the extent that the defense has a reasonable amount of time to react to the offensive formation and get ready.

                  Then address substitution after the 2014 season.

                  • +1 – well said as usual, Ivey. The HUNH shouldn’t be held back for a defense that can’t get its stuff straight (see Grantham, Todd – 2013), but the defense should be allowed sufficient time by the officials to get into position and receive the defensive call from the sideline. One of the strategic advantages about the HUNH is that it really keeps defensive coordinators from doing what they really want to do: disguise packages.

                • GaskillDawg

                  I am cool with your view. Personally, I prefer to watch Georgia score 70 and give up 0. With other teams I would rather watch a 70-60 game than a 3-2 game, or even a 17-14 game, but you have the right to prefer that either could happen, no argument with that.

                  I do not see the rules favoring the offense. I see the rules as requiring the defense to tackle in the open field and to employ players who can run, tackle and defend the pass, but that is not a set of rules penalizing defenses. It just requires defenses to do what they are supposed to do.

                  Anyway, the real issue to me is the rule making prcess, not the actual rules themselves. That was a poor process.

    • Great points, fellows.

  9. Tony

    I’m one who believes the rule is a good one. Because team’s rarely snap the ball before the first ten seconds, it doesn’t slow the game or the HUNH, that parts a farce. It stops defense substitutions, and tires players. That’s the intent. From that standpoint, common sense says you can link player safety but that’s not what this all about. Offenses have clearly been given a huge advantage with recent rule changes, most of them linked to safety. Points scored obviously supports that. Giving the defense the same opportunity as the offense, to sub at will, brings a little more balance back to the game and makes defense relevant again. Damn if I ain’t tired of having to score 50 points to win a game in the SEC.

    • Hackerdog

      One of the reasons that HUNH teams don’t snap the ball in the first 10 seconds is because they want to see how the defense lines up, then check into the play they want to run against that defense. That takes more than 10 seconds. The reason the defense lines up quickly against the offense is because the offense has the option to snap the ball if the defense isn’t lined up.

      A rule change prohibiting the offense from snapping the ball quickly would certainly slow down the game. If the offense lined up after 5 seconds, the defense would be foolish to immediately line up and give the offense 5 extra seconds to decide what to do. Instead, the defense would line up in a base look, wait for the clock to hit 10 seconds, and then shift into the actual formation they plan to use. At this point, the offense looks at the defense and checks into the play they want to call. And that takes time.

      That’s why it’s not really appropriate to simply look at how many times offenses snapped the ball quickly last year and make decisions based on that. The threat of snapping the ball quickly may be more valuable to the offense than the ability to actually snap it that quickly.

      • That is absolutely a fair point, and I think that’s why this proposed rule won’t do what it’s supposed to do. This rule really at its core does nothing to control the pace of play. IveyLeaguer has it right. The officials need to control the pace of play to make it fair for both offense and defense. The 10-second benchmark is arbitrary, but everyone forgets this rule would only apply when the 40-second play clock is in use. For any play where the play clock starts at 25, you can snap the ball at any time the offense is ready.

        If the offense is lined up and ready for play, the defense should be onsides and ready for play. If the offense substitutes, the officials need to give the defense sufficient time to adjust its package to react to the offensive personnel grouping. I actually like someone’s idea to get rid of the “meerkating” (practice of lining up ready for play and then everyone stands up and looks to the sideline for the call). Instead, any movement on the line after the QB calls the first signal is a false start.

  10. Wacky

    Let’s just make every game 2 quarters and we will cut player injuries in half!!! How’s that for player safety? Or instead of those hard weapons for helmets and shoulder pads, we just cover everybody in pillows and bubble wrap?