Jan 2, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban yells in the second half against the Oklahoma Sooners at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Oklahoma defeated Alabama 45-31. Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports

In Defense of The Saban Rule


Even with your most well-polished Crimson glasses, it seems at first blush a bit tough to defend the so-called “Saban Rule,” the proposed NCAA rule change that would require teams to wait 10 seconds to snap the ball. The rule change was given the moniker by the always delightful pot stirrer Steve Spurrier.

It kind of looks like Saint Nick is tired of teams running and gunning against the Tide, in particular in light of the way the season ended against Auburn and Oklahoma.

So, I guess the issue is closed. We tried to game the system. Let’s move on. Or, wait, hang on. Is it possible – just remotely possibly – that maybe there is more to this? Let’s examine a few other things to consider.

  • The critics. All the hurry-up fans have been quick to dismiss, saying player safety is not an issue. Most notably, Auburn’s Gus Malzahn said that there is “absolutely zero evidence” of players facing more injuries because of hurry-up offenses. I appreciate that Malzahn has read every medical study produced over the last few years to come up with his definitive statement. But if someone, say, in the medical field could back that up, I’d feel a little more assured. Maybe the study’s been done, maybe it hasn’t. But forgive me for not giving my immediate endorsement to Malzahn for Surgeon General.
  • Timing. This didn’t just blossom after the Sugar Bowl. Rogers Redding, the NCAA’s coordinator of officiating, said the discussion on payer safety and hurry-up offenses has been in discussion for more than a year. As he told USA Today, “So it’s not as if this was brand new, sailing in out of left field on the wings of Nick Saban.” And also, not sure if you remember what was going on a year ago, but the nation was chasing Bama, not the other way around.
  • Officiating. We SEC fans love to knock our refs more than anyone. Having them sprint and scramble almost into position when the ball is snapped and trying to play catch-up to the play is no way to improve that. And I’m not sure how many times the ref setting the ball under center and the scrambling out of the line of scrimmage has been used as a quick pick on a slant pass by these offenses. I’m sure Malzahn will tell you there is absolutely zero evidence of it. But personally, I’m a fan of 11 on 11, not 11 on 12.
  • Creativity shmeativity. Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin told USA Today the proposed change “is an attempt to limit the creativity of the game.” Hogwash. Get creative. But quit getting stupid. Arkansas State having some running back squat down behind the right tackle isn’t creative. Lining up your extra point team 10 yards off the ball and then sprinting over to line up isn’t creative. That’s backyard ball. This is big-boy football. Line your biggest, baddest 11 up and have ‘em go against our biggest, baddest 11. Get super creative. Just don’t get stupid. And Coach Sumlin, you had one of the most creative quarterbacks in college football history on your team and had a nice two-year run. If you’ve got to resort to gimmicks like that bush league stuff, you better recruit better or you won’t be in College Station long.
  • It doesn’t matter. So don’t pass the rule. Defense always catches up to offenses. Wishbone. Pistol. Run and shoot. Wildcat. Defenses always catch up, and offenses will have to change again.

And, yes, my perspective comes as one of a lifelong Bama guy. Of course, for the most part, your football allegiance will dictate where you stand on this issue and many others. And that’s fine. As ESPN Radio host Colin Cowherd often points out, sports fandom is tribalism at its best. And this tribe says, line up your best with ours, and let’s play football the way it was meant to be played.

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Tags: Alabama Crimson Tide Football

  • paul

    Another sore losing Bama fan.

    • Bradley

      Yu Gotta be a Auburn fan cause thats wat the Auburns do run their Mouths if u are then enjoy it cause it’l be another Decade till your in the Championship game again The gus Bus is good but not that Good”

    • William Boot

      Funny that Auburn fans want to blame Saban first when he didn’t propose the rule in the first place. Facts have never stopped the delusional, oppressed fan base from whining though.

      If the defense really needs more time, the DB could just fall down and fake an injury like they do down on the plains.

    • Dons62

      (To Paul…You SOB nobody and I mean nobody can make us cry about anything.)…..To everyone else : The question I want ANYBODY to answer is this : Most all people and coaches say there’s no concrete evidence…..whats “concrete evidence” a paralyzed kid ?…when that happens & coaches say, oh, that’s the evidence you were talking about. Too late then. I don’t expect this rule to pass because of ignorance…. but when a coach has to look a parent in their watery eyes and say I’m sorry, I hope they burn in hell or the same happens to them. TO ALL COACHES ; No matter how sorry you feel, imagine this being YOUR child or you. Is it worth the chance ? NOT ONE PARALYZED kid is worth the entire game of football, much less a rule. A rule YOU could have backed in implementing. It’s free money, let’s gamble, until we get our “concrete evidence ” !!!

      • S Cleckley

        If you are that worried about your kids, don’t let them play football. The SEC has the fewest snaps, but the highest injury rate. Should we ban SEC football?

        • tideman89

          Actually Cleckley, the SEC had the lowest AVERAGE snaps per game, but had the highest TOTAL snaps over the period in the study. I must conclude from those stats that the SEC must have played more games over that period. The SEC also skunked the other conferences over that same period for National Championships, so a resounding “NO” to banning SEC Football. The study cited is interesting, but is not conclusive, the author states that outright. The SEC generally has bigger, stronger, faster athletes than the other conferences. Like it or not, the laws of physics work, every time. Rule changes will always be considered based upon player safety and enhancing competition. We will see if this one passes muster or not. I like what the author of this article said about lining up your 11 best players against our 11 best players and playing the game the way it was meant to be played. To me, that’s SEC style, big-boy football.

          • S Cleckley

            Isn’t the point of the rule to lessen the amounts of snaps per game? By the logic that the SEC played more games therefore more injuries, why not revert to the shorter regular season if player concern was the true motive behind this rule? This rule does not effect the amount of games played during the season. Does the money brought in by these extra games precede the importance of player safety?

            The SEC had the most injuries to their players, but that’s okay because they win championships?

            Of course you like what the author said about lining up the players because it suits your team. Then why does defense disguise blitzes and coverage packages? Why doesn’t your offense announce the play they are going to run? Does your team ever run out of a shotgun formation or throw out of the short yardage packages?

            If it falls within the rules, it’s a fair game. These teams didn’t create the rules, they just created a scheme that uses the rules to their advantage. The defense has always naturally adapted to new wrinkles in offensive schemes, this rule is just cowardly and has very little to do with player safety and very much to do with the fact that rule changes this year can only be implemented if it has to deal with player safety.

            I agree the study is not entirely conclusive, but it is way more than the ‘more plays cause more injuries’ crowd has going for them and is based on factual numbers, not suppositions.

          • tideman89

            As I understand it, the purpose of rule being discussed as an option, is to enhance player safety. I don’t think that that kind of discussion is ever a bad idea and calling it cowardly is simply unfounded. There are way too many factors/variables to account for in determining what causes any specific injury. The author of the statistical report acknowledges that as well. That’s a significant part of the reason the statistics are inconclusive. He leaves us to draw our own conclusions (if any), which he, the author of the statistical report, smartly, did not.

          • S Cleckley

            I agree player safety is very important. I, however, disagree about the cowardliness. Backing a rule change that has no statistical evidence that the rule would improve a player’s safety is ridiculous. When the vast majority of evidence available is inconclusive (although that data largely side against the rule) or point to the rule being largely useless (a minute percentage of snaps across all divisions of college football actually are snapped before 10 seconds), there more than likely is an ulterior motive involved.

            Some will likely want to respond ‘why fight the rule change if it doesn’t effect anyone?’ The better question is why limit the creativity of the game if no danger to player safety is involved. If this was a normal rule change year, then at least the argument to balance the game would have some traction, but disguising this rule change as a player safety issue is belittling to the players and in my opinion cowardly.

    • Adam

      Paul u are an idiot. Out coached? Are you serious. That’s a stab in the dark. Yes it is part of football. It is a damn gimmick part of football. A gimmick play to try and catch the defense off guard. To not let them get ready. That’s what shitty teams that are not winning do. If you can’t play with us and nothing is working you run trick plays gimmick plays. Line you asses up and let us line up and play us. You are a typical barner. An idiot.

  • ndotken

    Dump the “10 second rule.” The clock stops after a first down to move the chains, so just have the umpire not set the ball down “ready for play” until the chains and all of the officials are in place. How hard is that?

  • S Cleckley

    Here is some research for you. The Big 12 averaged more snaps from 2009-2012 on offense and defense than any other major conference and still had the lowest injury rate. http://cfbmatrix.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/The-CFBMatrix-Pace-of-Play-Summary-Report.pdf

  • Greg Cole

    bama and saban got humiliated and now wants to change the rules. I bet in Monopoly Saban’s rules are he gets $500 for passing go.

  • djbillyd

    Fact is, Saban was talking about this gimmick football when he was beating the snot out of all of rest of the league. He lost 1 game to A&M, who ran the goofy offense, then lost 1 game to LSU, who runs a similar offense to Bama. So, it isn’t Saban fearing the offense. He just doesn’t like the way it stresses players. I know you goof balls don’t see it, but when Saban starts to dominate ALL offenses again, this year, you will have to find something else. He cheats right?
    Goof balls…