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SEC Football Coaches “Structure” An Attack On Proposed Slowdown Rule

gfx-they-said-it4If you’ve noticed many of the up-tempo-inclined football coaches of the SEC saying many of the same things regarding a proposed rule change to slow down the game… there’s a reason.  Several of the league’s coaches have been working the media and members of the Football Rules Committee with a similar script.

On Tuesday, Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze had this to say regarding a proposal to allow 10 seconds for defensive substitutions between plays:


“We’ve kind of structured a nationwide attack of how we’ll go about (getting our) voices heard before this is final.  From our conference, Coach (Kevin) Sumlin, Gus (Malzahn), myself and Coach (Butch) Jones ahve led the way the most and Coach (Steve) Spurrier.  We divided up names that we were going to call that we felt like had an interest in this.”


The battle over the rule — a battle that will be won by the no-huddle, up-tempo coaches, by the way — is being fought squarely in the Southeastern Conference.  While the aforementioned coaches are against the rule, Nick Saban and Bret Bielema have made it clear they’re in favor of it.  Saban because of injury risk and officials not being in the proper position to view hurry-up plays; Beilema for every reason under the sun, including “death.”  Literally.

Freeze added: “There’s a very important conference call tomorrow that the rules committee is maybe being instructed to reconvene and be sure their thoughts are all the same after the feedback has been received.  We’ll see if they continue after their meeting or whatever it is tomorrow; if they get together and decide this is going to move forward then we hope and pray that the prop committee see that there’s not adequate evidence under the umbrella of player safety to push that rule through in a non-rule change year.”

Air Force coach Troy Calhoun — the head of the committee — has already said publicly that he does not believe the proposed rule will be approved without “pretty resounding (evidence)” that “it is a safety concern.”  To date, no such evidence has been put forward.  Which is why we don’t think this thing should be of very much concern for fans of no-huddle, up-tempo teams.

Though fighting against a windmill at this point, Saban has finally began pushing the rather obvious point that we have shared in recent weekslogic dictates that playing more plays increases the risk of injury.

“The fastball guys (up-tempo coaches) say there’s no data out there, and I guess you have to use some logic,” Alabama’s coach told ESPN.  ”What’s the logic?  If you smoke one cigarette, do you have the same chances of getting cancer if you smoke 20?  I guess there’s not study that specifically says that.  But logically, we would say, ‘Yeah, there probably is.’”

But without evidence, there will be no rule change this year.

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Auburn’s Malzahn (No Surprise) Opposes Potential Rule Change To Slow Down Offenses

Gus MalzahnIt’s not hard to figure out which coaches will come down on which side of a proposed rule change that would slow college football’s up-tempo offenses.  Defensive-minded coaches like Nick Saban and Bret Bielema back the measure on the basis that playing 100 miles per hour increases the odds that players will be injured.  Up-tempo coaches like Hugh Freeze and Gus Malzahn call “bollocks” and believe the rule to be a weak attempt to slow down a trend that’s put a serious hurt on college football’s defenses.

As a refresher, this writer feels:


*  That the uber-up-tempo offenses are more gimmick than strategy.  Some have responded by saying that the Denver Broncos must’ve “gimmicked” their way to the Super Bowl, but that’s a hollow argument.  No professional team — not even Chip Kelly’s Philadelphia Eagles — sprint back to the line of scrimmage after every play.  A hurry-up is one thing, the up-tempo run by Oregon, Auburn and Ole Miss is wholly different.

*  That the injury issue is obvious, just not in the way that defensive-minded coaches have suggested.  I do not buy the argument that winded defensive-linemen are at greater risk of injury.  There’s no evidence to back that up.  However, playing more plays over the course of a game and season obviously does increase the risk of injury.  If I drive five miles and you drive 500, you’re at greater risk of having an accident.  If you swim one day per year and I swim 365 days per year, I’m at greater risk of drowning.  No evidence required on that front, folks, just logic.

*  That there’s nothing wrong with creating a rule to make a college sport more enjoyable.  Before some of you argue that point I’ve got two words for you: shot clock.  In college basketball, the “strategy” known as the four-corners offense was forever nixed with the addition of a shot clock in the 1980s.  If you feel that use of the game clock — slowing things down or speeding things up — is a strategy and not a gimmick and you oppose rules that impact the way teams are allowed to use that clock, then you must be for the rollback of the shot-clock rule in college hoops.  Pretty simple.  Either you support rules change impacting clock use or you do not.  Personally, I feel the four-corners was a gimmick — like the go-go offenses in football today — and that the addition of the shot clock was a good rule change to make the game more appealing.  Likewise, I feel keeping the scores out of the 100s in football is appealing.


Malzahn, well, he disagrees.  The man who led Auburn to within a whisker of the BCS Championship wants the whole rule tabled for a year so a “healthy debate” can take place.

“There’s absolutely zero evidence, documented evidence, that (it) is hazardous on the pace of play, only opinions,” Malzahn said yesterday.  (Opinions and simple logic, as we pointed out above.)  ”What I asked (Troy Calhoun) to do is move this to next year where it is a rule-change year, that we can hear both sides and have a healthy debate on moving forward with the rules.”

Calhoun — Air Force’s head coach — is the chair of the NCAA football rules committee.  He sounded like a man who agreed with Malzahn while guesting on Tim Brando’s radio show yesterday.  ”If there’s no medical data that can support it, then there’s no way.  There should not be a rule.”

Fair enough.  I also agree with Malzahn that this type of rule shouldn’t be implemented quickly (though it is amusing that in this instance Auburn’s coach is anti-hurry-up).  Let there be debate and data-gathering.

How that data is viewed, however, will be the issue.  Some have already written that “the 20 slowest teams in Year X had more injuries than the 20 fastest teams,” etc.  A better way of determining the impact of playing more plays would be to look at the average number of plays run in the power conferences — those schools having better athletes — and compare them to the number of season-ending injuries.  Are snaps and injuries on the rise in the big boy leagues?  Or is there no connection at all?

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Malzahn Says “No” To Vandy

And in the end, the word was “no.”

Chris Low reports that a source has told that Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn has decided to turn down the Vanderbilt head coaching job.

“Malzahn, in his second season at Auburn, had emerged as Vanderbilt’s top target and was offered a lucrative financial package.  After mulling it over for the last two days, Malzahn decided it was best that he stay put.”

If true, that’s great news for Auburn, devastating news for Vandy.  And it’s bad news for the SEC as a whole, too.  It would have been nice for VU to show the nation that it’s getting serious about football.  Hiring a proven head coach or the hot assistant in the nation would have done just that.

Alas, it looks like that won’t happen now.  Instead, the nation will see only that VU offered a man just six seasons out of high school ball more than $2.5 million per year… and he still said no.  That’s a different kind of message to be sending to America.  (That’s not Vandy’s fault, mind you, but it is the price to be paid for being so far down for so long.)

This has to be particularly disappointing to Commodore fans who had gotten their hopes up.  Their school will have to go back to the drawing board at this point and it will likely have to turn the keys to the program over to an assistant coach who nary a Dores fan had heard of prior to this coaching search.

Vanderbilt officials must have believed they had some sort of deal in place with Malzahn.  You don’t let other coaches fall off your search list unless you’re sure you’ve landed your top candidate (or unless you’ve run a bad search).  Unfortunately, it looks like VU did allow Option 2 and Option 3 to fall of the hook.

Now vice chancellor David Williams will have to rekindle the interest of either Maryland offensive coordinator James Franklin or Stanford offensive coordinator Greg Roman.

Both coaches now have leverage in their corner.  If VU officials decide to woo Franklin, for example, the coach will know that Vandy has already been publicly embarrassed by the Malzahn turn down (and turn downs from Al Golden, Troy Calhoun, etc).  As a result of Vandy wanting to ink a deal quickly, Franklin might be able to coax more money out of Vanderbilt than the school had initially wanted to spend.  Remember, the big offer was allegedly set aside for Malzahn, not a fallback candidate.

If Low’s report is true, the positivity surrounding the potential hire of Malzahn will quickly turn negative in Nashville.  Fair or not, some will mutter, “Same old Vanderbilt.”

A very disappointing outcome for the Commodores.

Especially considering the fact that Vandy got proactive in its decision to fire Robbie Caldwell.  The goal was to get out in front of other schools and hire a coach before several other jobs opened up.  But a number of jobs have opened — and closed — since Vanderbilt canned Caldwell. 

UPDATE — The Birmingham News is also reporting that Malzahn will remain at Auburn.

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Calhoun Stays At Air Force

You can apparently scratch Air Force coach Troy Calhoun from the list of potential coaches at Vanderbilt.  Calhoun was a longshot at best for the Commodores.  Last year, the Falcons’ coach turned down the job at Tennessee.  And he quickly jumped to the top of the list for the Denver Broncos when Josh McDaniels was fired yesterday afternoon.

The Air Force Academy announced today that Calhoun will be back in Colorado Springs next year.  In the release both the coach and the academy’s athletic director stated that Calhoun is dedicated to staying.

While coaches often downplay coaching rumors right up until the time they take a new job, it’s unusual for a coach to be quoted in an official release… and then leave.

Besides, even if Calhoun chose to leave Air Force, it would likely be for the Broncos’ multi-millions and not the Commodores’ ” just plain ‘ol” millions.

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