In recent years the world of college football has been swept off its feet by a slew of schools who have brought in an up-tempo, high paced offense. Traditionally, this offense is employed by schools that are not traditional powerhouses–such as Oregon, Arizona and Texas Tech.
The theory goes that if you can’t pummel your opponent, you may as well run them into the ground by getting to the line of scrimmage as quick as possible and running as many plays as humanly possible. This means that smaller players at positions such as offensive line, offensive tackle and tight end can get an advantage over the opposition because they dictate the pace and style of play the game will be played at, not the other way around.
Well, it looks like all of this innovation on the offensive side of the ball could be washed down the drain now, as an NCAA Competition Committee has passed a rule change that would prohibit a team from running a play until 11 seconds runs off the 40 second play clock. Teams that break this rule would be penalized five yards, all in the name of “player safety”, as if the NCAA doesn’t make billions of dollars off of athletes running full speed at each other in a sport that has been documented to leave athletes with PTSD and numerous brain related injuries.
No, the real reason that this rule is being driven is that the powers that be in the competition committee come from schools that don’t utilize this up-tempo offense, in addition to top schools that don’t use it now. The chairman of the NCAA Competition Committee happens to be Troy Calhoun of Air Force, a school that happened to rank 104th in college football in plays per game in 2013. Another key supporter is Nick Saban, the coach of an Alabama team that has happened to dominate college football teams the last five years by overpowering everyone in sight, and happened to lose out on a third consecutive national championship in 2013 by losing to an Auburn team that used the up-tempo offense.
Of course if you ask these two coaches, and other proponents of the rule change, the excuse would be that players are being put in danger of overworking themselves if you let the up-tempo offense continue to run free. To that, I would put the onus on the coaches to ensure that their players are in good enough shape to run up and down the field, not just to sack the quarterback and lumber off the field. If you are worried about health, you may want to make sure players are in good enough shape to run up the field a time or two, not to know the perfect time to fake a leg injury.
The only thing standing between this rule being implemented for the 2014 season is the approval of the Playing Rules Oversight Panel, which will convene on March 6. Between now and then there should be a big drive from fans around the country to ensure that a small minority of power holders in college football doesn’t weed out a new brand of college football that has driven popularity and given us the likes of Johnny Manziel, Marcus Mariota and Tre Mason along the way.