Coach Rich Rodriguez of Arizona is none too pleased about the NCAA Football Rules Committee’s new recommended rule change – which still must be approved by the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel on March 6 — which would give defenses 10 seconds to substitute on every play. Offenses would not be able to snap the ball until 29 seconds remained on the play clock. The only exception would be the final two minutes of each half.
The proposal jeopardizes Rich Rod’s up-tempo style. And it’s been recommended by a Rules Committee which has Nick Saban of Alabama and Bret Bielma – both more old-style coaches known as not in favor of the fast-paced football played at Arizona, Oregon, Indiana and many other places.
Rich Rod needs to go on the offensive:
1) What safety data supports the move? The proposal should have empirical data which supports the alleged “safety” motive behind it. No safety justification has been explained.
2) Get the NCAA Medical Director to review the proposal: Rich Rod needs to ask the NCAA’s medical director to take a position on whether this proposal will make the game safer, and where it ranks in terms of other changes which might be considered.
3) Suggest a rules-safety Blue Ribbon Panel: Rich Rod should suggest a Blue Ribbon panel be appointed, consisting of numerous football meddical safety experts along with administrators, students, and fans – which should be tasked to submit a thorough Blue Ribbon report evaluating all options.
4) Point to relevant history:. When football injuries and deaths multiplied in the late 1800’s and the first years of the 20th century, all proposals to make the game safer were directed at opening up the game. Walter Camp and others charged with finding some solutions to increase safety wanted first to widen the field; Harvard resisted that notion, because it had just finished, in 1903, building its’ “huge” new 35,000 seat stadium, which did not have enough room to widen the field.
This forced Camp and the others to look at other options — all of which were meant to “open up” the game, to remove opportunities for the “pile-ups” of bodies which caused injury. The forward pass was adopted, the game allowed four downs to get a first down, and the first down distance was lengthened to ten yards.
5) Other history might be relevant: Suggest bringing back the pre-WWI non-platoon system. Before WWII, the player could enter or leave a game only once per quarter. That rule was changed because of the dearth of male students (players) during the war, and the frequency of substitutions increased with some other rules changes in the fifties.
5) Will jeopardize NCAA defenses in concussion lawsuit: Any proposal which purports to promote safety but which has zero empirical data to support the change creates a serious risk of NCAA ridicule, within the Arrington lawsuit which claims NCAA concussion liability (and other lawsuits which will arise), for continuing to show little or no factual foundation for safety policy-making.