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.