Officials coordinator: No 'hard data' backing substitution proposal

There wasn't much "hard data" to consider for the now-controversial substitution rule proposed by the NCAA rules committee, the national coordinator of officiating told CBSSports.com on Thursday.

"I think it's fair to say it's one of those things that's been growing," Rogers Redding said. "It hasn't been a huge surge. It's kind of one those things that was floating in the background and it kind of came to a head. ...

"I think it's fair to say there's not really much hard data on this."

Coaches all over the country reacted to the Wednesday proposal that would allow defenses to substitute during the first 10 seconds of the 40-second play clock. Offenses could not snap the ball until 29 seconds were left on the play clock. If the ball were snapped before then, ironically, a delay of game penalty would be called. The rule would not be in effect during the final two minutes.

The proposal's rationale is that defenses would have more time to substitute in this age of hyper-quick offenses. The committee called the change a player-safety issue.

Louisiana-Monroe coach and committee member Todd Berry told CBSSports.com's Bruce Feldman: "On offense you can always have a tired player throw up his hand and sub out, but on defense the only way is if you call timeout. This is about player safety."

Opposition to the proposal is already building

"That's sort of a knee-jerk reaction," said Redding, also secretary-editor of the rules committee.

Baylor's Art Briles said the proposal was "insane." "I'm trying to figure out the merit involved. I'm trying to figure out how they're going to police it with the referees on the field knowing exactly when it hits 29. I just think there's a lot of potential human error involved in it."

Under Briles, the Bears have become one of the most lethal offenses in the land. Last season, Baylor led the country in scoring and total offense. Only Texas Tech (87.4), Cal (87.0), BYU (85.4) and Fresno State (83.6) ran more plays per game than Baylor (82.6). The Bears snapped the ball, on average, every 19.8 seconds.

Briles added that the proposal came "out of the blue."

"If they're going to change anything in my mind, change it to a 35-second [play] clock," Briles said. "People don't want to come sit in the stands and watch the clock move."

The proposal will be submitted to the membership for comment before it lands with the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel (PROP, see roster here). The 11-member panel is scheduled to meet March 6 -- most likely by conference call -- to consider the proposal. A majority vote of those 11 members will decide whether it becomes a rule in time for the 2014 season, according to a PROP member.

"I didn't know [the proposal] was coming," said that member, who did not want to be identified. "It will be interesting to see the fallout."

If adopted, the rule is being interpreted by some as an overt reaction to modern up-tempo offenses. Nick Saban spoke out in 2012 suggesting that pace of play was a player-safety issue.

Redding said an annual questionnaire sent to coaches regarding rules changes came back "split evenly" on the substitution issue on the FBS level. He added the issue was discussed last month by the American Football Coaches Association's rules committee. On its website the AFCA says its rules committee is responsible for making recommendations to the national body based on input from its membership. Some members (coaches) of the NCAA rules committee (roster here) also serve on the AFCA body.

NCAA football changes are allowed every other year. This is a so-called "off" year for the committee. However, if a rule deals with player safety, it can be implemented at any time.

"If you've got a [defender] who's [tired] and can't get out of the game, we don't want to get in a situation where people are saying he's flopping to the ground," Redding said. "This is an opportunity from the standpoint of the rules committee to make it a little more fair."

Redding said the national rules committee considered a change last year that would have implemented the substitution rule only after first-down plays.

Redding described the discussion this way: "For some period of time the referee would stand over the ball where the defense would be allowed to sub without it having it just be reactive. It didn't pass the committee."

The proposal isn't considered one that will be automatically rubber-stamped. The PROP has rejected proposals in the past. The rules committee reacted swiftly after the disastrous timing rules in 2006 that started the game clock upon the kickoff.


Anyone in need of a credential from all the BCS title games? Dennis Dodd has them. In three decades in the business, he's covered everything from the Olympics to Stanley Cup to conference realignment. Just get him on campus in a press box in the fall. His heart lies with college football.
 
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