The chairman of the NCAA Football Rules Committee said Tuesday a proposal to prohibit snapping the ball until at least 10 seconds run off the 40-second play clock should not go forward if there is no hard evidence showing up-tempo offenses endanger defensive players.
Air Force coach Troy Calhoun, the committee chairman, said he has yet to see a medical study linking the rapid pace of an offense to potential health issues for defensive players.
"If there is nothing that arises that's firm, there's no way you want to enact a rule. That doesn't make any sense," Calhoun said during a call with reporters. "But if there is something that surfaces where there is legitimate concern here, now you're talking about some responsibility that's involved."
The Playing Rules Oversight Commission, which meets March 6, is the body that would approve the proposal for it to go into effect next season. Calhoun said evidence would need to be presented before the comment period ends March 3.
That oversight panel is made up of commissioners and administrators and deals with rule changes for all NCAA sports. Commissioners Larry Scott of the Pac-12 and Jon Steinbrecher of the Mid-American Conference — two leagues where up-tempo offenses are pervasive — are members.
This is a non-rules change year for the NCAA, but exceptions can be made for rules that affect player safety.
The rule would allow defenses time to make a substitution without the offense changing players — as is currently required — and with no fear the ball will be snapped before 29 seconds are left on the play clock. An exception would be made for the final two minutes of each half, when the offense could snap the ball as quickly as it wants. A violation of the rule would result in a 5-yard penalty.
The proposal has sparked an outcry among coaches who run up-tempo offenses.
After the football rules committee met this month, Calhoun said pace of play had been discussed in recent years and committee members felt it was "time to act in the interests of protecting our student-athletes." Alabama coach Nick Saban and Arkansas coach Bret Bielema, who run more traditional offenses, met with the committee and voiced their support for the proposal.
Asked about the perception that Saban, who has won three of the last five national championships, might have had undue influence, Calhoun said "that's a separate conversation" and moved on to another topic. Asked why coaches who might oppose the proposal didn't meet with the committee, Calhoun said he would encourage those coaches to come forward.
The committee voted for the proposal even though it did not have evidence showing defensive players' health was at risk when offenses play at a rapid pace, Calhoun said. He did not answer directly when asked if he voted for the proposal.
"I'm in favor of trying to get to whatever the true facts are," he said.
He said there would be concern if a defensive player couldn't be removed from the field if the offense snaps the ball too quickly, and that there could be serious consequences. Asked if that's what timeouts are for, Calhoun said: "That's something you'd find as a counter-argument."
The rules committee said "10 seconds provides sufficient time for defensive player substitutions without inhibiting the ability of an offense to play at a fast pace. Research indicated that teams with fast-paced, no-huddle offenses rarely snap the ball with 30 seconds or more on the play clock."
The committee also proposed a change to the targeting rule that would eliminate the 15-yard penalty when instant replay officials overturn an ejection. Last year, when a targeting penalty was called, the 15-yard penalty stood even if the replay official determined the player should be allowed to stay in the game.
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