AFCA committee talked substitution proposal, to mixed results

Coaches across the country felt blindsided by the controversial NCAA proposal that would allow defense to substitute during the first 10 seconds of a 40-second play clock, diminishing the threat of a no-huddle attack at the line of scrimmage.

But the proposal was a topic at the mid-January AFCA Convention in Indianapolis among the two-dozen or so coaches in a rules committee meeting, and the results were mixed.

One coach involved in the meeting said Air Force coach Troy Calhoun, one of the two coaches primarily listed in the NCAA press release Wednesday, broached the subject with the group composed of head coaches from all divisions.

The room was torn on the matter, the coach estimates, probably to an even split. The group was not told that day whether the plan would become an NCAA proposal, the coach said.

“I looked to (the coach next to me) and said, ‘they can’t do this,’” said the coach, speaking on condition of anonymity. "There was disagreement."

Arkansas coach Bret Bielema, a well-known proponent of tweaking fast offenses for safety reasons, also spoke on the safety issue at the meeting.

Officials coordinator Rogers Redding told colleague Dennis Dodd that there’s no “hard data” supporting increased injury risk due to no-huddle offenses.

USA Today reported on Thursday that Bielema and Alabama coach Nick Saban, also a public detractor of the no-huddle, were at the NCAA meeting this week.

Based on the AFCA meeting, Calhoun was taking the lead on the substitution proposal.

Cincinnati coach Tommy Tuberville said though the substitution idea might have come up in a meeting, usually matters of such importance are put to a straw vote among the entire membership. That was not the case last month, he said.

The AFCA rules group is “responsible for making recommendations to the NCAA Rules Committee based on input from the AFCA membership,” according to its web site.

The proposal still must get passed, about which many coaches are skeptical. Also, the NCAA oversight committee could ask for more information on the proposal, Tuberville said.

Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott and MAC commissioner Jon Steinbrecher are among members of a panel that approves all NCAA rules changes.

Even some coaches with defensive backgrounds don’t want the change because defenses can sub whenever an offense subs. Officials were better in 2013 about making sure defenses don’t miss substitution chances, partly contributing to the first decrease in 1,000-play offenses since 2008. Twenty-two offenses hit the 1,000 mark last season compared to 23 in 2012.

“In our league, they stand over the ball,” Arizona State coach Todd Graham said. “When you sub, they give you more than enough time. The present rule addresses (defensive concerns). I’m a defensive guy, and the current rule forces you to coach, and communicate with guys faster.”


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