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Let us in! NCAA football rules committee needs more transparency

Bret Bielema's stance on the 10-second rule has lost some credibility. (USATSI)
Bret Bielema's stance on the 10-second rule has lost some credibility. (USATSI)

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So the rules committee has tabled the 10-second rule. Now they're going to conduct some serious research. Excuse me if I scoff.

The committee may come up with something in the next year. But the backlash has been so fierce and the research so shoddy, that the group has forfeited -- in my opinion -- its privacy. No more meetings behind closed doors.

Going forward, the NCAA football rules committee assemblies must be open to the media. Opening the proceedings to the media, opens them up to the public. That eliminates any perception that Bret Bielema and Nick Saban drove the agenda.

It would have revealed the fact there really was no "hard data" to back up the controversial change.

I'm still wondering how it even got to the proposal stage. ESPN's reporting found that only 25 of 128 FBS coaches supported the measure. During the comment period, the NCAA reported that 74 percent of respondents were opposed to the proposal. Scores of coaches claimed to CBSSports.com and other outlets they didn't know such a proposal was even on the docket.

Maybe that's their fault, maybe not. But we're not talking about United National Security Council or even the NCAA men's basketball committee.

We're talking about the esoterica of rules-making. The media should be there to chronicle the process. The NCAA already conducts mock bracket and mock enforcement sessions for the media. True, the rules-making process isn't glamorous -- more like covering the city council. But those city councils are held accountable because of open meetings.

The same accountability applies here. The issue became the latest flash point in regards to the second-most popular sport in the country. Next to that men's basketball committee, the football rules committee has suddenly become the second-most scrutinized such body in the NCAA.

And now it needs additional oversight. From us.

The 10-second proposal somehow got through the pipeline with other organizations on parallel tracks. The groups should have talked in depth. When you question the similar interests of these groups, the question is ... why didn't they communicate more, or at all?

For example:

American Football Coaches Association: Its rules committee acts in an advisory role to the NCAA group. Some of the coaches knew of the proposal. Some didn't. Why the disconnect?

NCAA governance restructuring: A large part of the discussion at the NCAA Convention was student-athlete welfare. The governance steering committee -- made up of powerful university presidents -- should have been looped in.

The BCS leagues have as one of their autonomy initiatives student-athlete welfare. Perhaps the commissioners need to become more involved in rules making. Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott is a member of the Playing Rules Oversight Panel that would have considered the 10-second proposal -- if it wasn't tabled.

NCAA Sports Science Institute: The NCAA stated in its own release last week the rule committee would consult with the institute."

Why didn't it do so beforehand? By all accounts NCAA chief medical officer Brian Hainline has done a good job 13 months into the job. A January player safety summit addressed full-contact limits.

Head trauma: More than 70 players have sued the NCAA and schools over concussion issues. That player safety summit included an attorney with extensive defense experience in that area. Shouldn't a Steve Pachman or someone like him be in the room?

The rules themselves were already in place: As pointed out here, Oklahoma head trainer Scott Anderson said, "All any [unhealthy] player ever has to do is 'take a knee', or, if down ... stay down. With a downed player ... all play stops! Medical assessment ensues, the player is removed from play."

Last week's NCAA release says, the rules committee, "took note that the current rules of football allow for game stoppage at any time for injuries."

That, to me, ruins any argument from the Saban/Bielema camp. There are already rules to provide for player safety in such situations.

"What's lost," rules committee secretary-rules editor Rogers Redding said, "is the injury timeout is still there."

There are different ways to address pace of play. The committee may consider something like a media timeout (similar to basketball) or a "water break" during quarters used by some state high school organizations, Redding said.

Whatever, the committee needs accountability. The committee needs media in the room.


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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