A mini firestorm was generated within the college football community last week, when the NCAA Football Rules Committee proposed legislation forbidding offenses from snapping the ball until at least 10 seconds had elapsed on the play clock, thereby allowing defenses to make substitutions. The rationale was connected to player safety, though many coaches lashed out against the potential change.
Count Maryland Coach Randy Edsall among those in opposition. When he noticed the proposition last week, he thought to himself, “Where’d that come from?” None of his colleagues had been talking about it and there wasn’t any scuttlebutt on the recruiting trail. Under the new rule, offenses that snap the football with more than 29 seconds left on the play clock would receive a five-yard penalty. Given that the Terrapins run an up-tempo, no-huddle offense, Edsall’s position makes sense.
“I would propose, if they’re looking to cut down on the number of plays, let the offense go ahead and run those plays, but don’t stop the clock when you get a first down to move the chains,” he said Friday. “If you want to cut down on the number of plays, do that.”
Like many coaches, new Maryland offensive line assistant Greg Studrawa balked at the idea that research exists to support the new rule. In his first meeting with reporters after accepting the open job last month, Studrawa was firm.
“I don’t like it,” he said. “Plain and simple. I don’t like it. If there was evidence that showed that was the case, obviously player safety is number one. Obviously you don’t want your players to get hurt. You want to make it through the year with your best guys. But I don’t see any evidence of that to satisfy saying we need to change that rule.”
Edsall also expressed concerns over logistics, asking whether the umpire would hover over the football until the window expired or back away and let the offense go under the threat of penalty.
“My thing would be, let the people go as fast as they want to go,” Edsall said. “Then if you want to try to slow it down or take plays out of the game, don’t stop the clock when you get a first down. That’ll take more time off the clock, do kind of the same thing if you’re trying to cut down plays. Ultimately, if you’re talking player safety, you’re basically talking about I think cutting down the number of plays. There’s others ways, if you want to cut down the number of plays, you could do it and it would be kind of a bit more logical.”
The proposal, which will be reviewed on March 6 by the Playing Rules Oversight Panel, is open for comment by coaches until March 3. Many who have come out against the rule have said that player safety is simply a smokescreen for attempting to curb the success of fast-paced offenses. It would not be applied for the final two minutes of both halves.
“Don’t take away an advantage that people want to say they have for injuries when they really want to say it’s difficult for defenses to adjust,” Studrawa said. “Look at the guys who are talking about it. I don’t agree with that at all. What [Edsall] said is smart.”