Alabama coach Nick Saban has been cited as one of the driving forces behind the 10-second defensive substitution proposal in college football. However, he said Friday that he doesn't think that coaches should be making the decision about the rules.
"I don't think coaches should be making this decision," Saban told Al.com. "I don't think I should make it, I don't think any coaches should make it. I think somebody outside all of us should decide what is in the best interest of the game, whether it's player safety, game administration, whatever it might be."
The rule pitch, which says that defenses should be given 10 seconds to substitute players before each play to help combat uptempo offenses in the name of player safety, is set to be voted on by the NCAA rules oversight committee on March 6.
Many coaches have expressed their disapproval for the proposal, and an ESPN poll showed that less than 20 percent of FBS coaches supported the change. The most outspoken advocate of the idea has been Arkansas coach Bret Bielema, who has used the February death of Cal player Ted Agu in a conditioning drill as the basis for his support.
"I think player safety is the No. 1 thing, and that was my No. 1 issue as well," Saban said on Friday. "I think when players get tired they're more susceptible to get injured if you can't substitute players when they're tired -- or if they're injured and you can't get them out of the game."
He also said that given the increased tempo of some offenses, teams are playing the equivalent of four extra games per year based off of previous play-per-game rates. And while that is true -- college football teams are snapping the ball more often than ever -- Air Force coach Troy Calhoun, head of the NCAA rules committee, said there needed to be data to support the idea that uptempo offenses are indeed a player safety issue.
And let's also play devil's advocate for a moment: If teams are indeed playing potentially four extra games per season because of faster offenses, why isn't there a movement to cut a game or two from each team's schedule? Oh, that's right. The almighty dollar. Attempting to limit the number of plays in a given game doesn't impact a football program's bottom line one bit. Eliminating a lucrative game or two does.
While that could be a possible resolution to this scenario if total plays and player safety indeed have a negative relationship, we all know that cutting a game from the current college football slate isn't going to happen. Heck, it's more likely a game will be added to the season before a game is cut. Just look at the movement by conferences like the ACC and SEC to go to nine conference games. An extra conference game is likely tougher than an opponent a power program is paying to play, and thus probably results in more plays per season for a power program's main players.
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