Alabama's Nick Saban talks 10-second rule, pace of play issues
Alabama coach Nick Saban gave his first public comments on the 10-second substitution rule proposal.
Alabama coach Nick Saban and Arkansas' Bret Bielema have been the two coaches most closely associated with the proposed 10-second rule, meant to limit the pace of play for the offense and give defenses an opportunity to substitute between plays.
Saban did not even address the proposal publicly before Steve Spurrier starting calling it "The Saban Rule."
The Crimson Tide head coach broke his silence on Friday, addressing reporters in Columbus, Ga., before speaking to the Georgia Minority Coaches Association. Saban claims that he "had nothing to do" with the 10-second idea and most people discussing the issue "don't have all the facts."
Saban outlined his general philosophy on pace of play in college football by identifying three areas of concern.
"I really don't necessarily have an opinion on the 10-second rule. I think there are three issues that need to be researched relative to pace of play, the first being player safety. When you look at plays that are run, and a team averages 88 plays, and we average 65 at Alabama, that's 20-something plays more a game over a 12-game season, that adds up to four more games a year that guys have to play. I think it's wear and tear and tougher to prepare players when you have to play against a hurry-up offense because of the way you have to practice.
I don't know that there's any particular scientific evidence that you could say, more guys get hurt in this offense versus that one, or hurry-up, or whatever, but everything that we've ever done in the NCAA is about exposure. How many exposures does a player get? We've always tried to limit spring practice, we limit fall camp, we limit the number of days you can hit now. We have acclimation days: so many days in shorts, so many days in shoulder pads. The NFL even limited their practice even more, but really found that they got more guys hurt in the games. The ratio of guys that get hurt in the game is 7 to 1 that guys get hurt in practice. So we're limiting practice, and playing more plays in the game. College football is the only game in the country, of any kind, that the college game is longer than the pro game. And the disparity in plays run is like 59 to 72 in the NFL - 59 for the lowest-average team, 72 for the highest. You know, in college, it's more like 61 and 90. All right, so there's a large disparity. But that's just something that people need to look at.
The second thing is, can officials officiate the game? They're not in position when the ball is snapped, just like defensive players aren't in position when the ball is snapped, so that's a game administration issue that people should probably look into.
And the third thing, to me, and the last thing, which is not the most important, I think the first is most important, is there any competitive imbalance created by the pace of play.
So I think those are all issues that people need to look at. In the NFL, what they did is the officials stand over the ball until the officials are ready to call the game. All right, that's how they control the pace of play. The coach at Philadelphia ran 83 plays a game at Oregon, and ran 65 a game in Philadelphia. So why do they control the pace of play in the NFL? I mean, I'm just asking.
But anyway, there's just a lot of issues that need to be looked at, but I think the bottom line is, was football intended to be a continuous game?
Soccer is a continuous game, rugby is a continuous game, but for the physical elements that are involved in playing a football game and the number of plays that you play, I don't know that it was ever intended to be a continuous game."
Saban went on to give background on the creation of the 10-second rule -- apparently involving a study of up-tempo offenses like Oregon, Auburn and Texas A&M -- and address player safety concerns raised by Bret Bielema.
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