The NCAA proposed a rule change yesterday that would kill the strength of the modern hurry-up offense by giving defensive players 10 seconds to freely substitute. Although no evidence has been found to support the claim, University of Louisiana-Monroe Coach Todd Berry argues that the rule provides common-sense injury prevention.
Coach Kevin Sumlin added his input today on ESPN's Scott Van Pelt show:
"When it comes to player safety, I don't think you could find a coach in college football who doesn't make that paramount. There is no evidence out there that suggests this is a player safety issue. Everything is done within the rules of the game. Coaching and creativity matter. To be able to limit the amount of creativity that goes into the game - I think that's bad for the sport."
This change is bad for the sport. I don't know about the coaching and creativity side, but from a fan's perspective I'll argue that this further adds to the wussification of the sport we know and love.
Coach D.X. Bible, who led the Aggies to victory over the Centre Colonels, and was the catalyst for the 12th Man legend, had been elected to the NCAA rules committee in 1921. Like Sumlin today, Bible had his own opinions on what was best for the game, including a substitution change that he spearheaded:
"Much more emphasis will be laid upon the importance of coaches doing their big work before the game and depending less upon the opportunity of coaching during the progress of a game ....
...The substitution rule has been changed to read 'a player taken out in one half can not return to the game in the same half, but can go back any time during the next half'"
- D.X. Bible, Galveston Daily News, 4/2/1922
Effectively, he wanted the penalty of today's targeting rule applied for substituting out of the game for any reason, including for injury. In the days of iron man football, players were asked to play through injuries on every snap, and to never take a break while playing both sides of the ball. These types of rules caused a reporter to take a special note that Texas A&M back Bull Johnson, who was knocked out in the '22 Dixie, didn't miss the next snap.
The game was a bit intense back then, and we've certainly come a long way, but there's a point when the injury argument doesn't hold up to the history of the game. Smart coaches like Kevin Sumlin and Nick Saban are debating this rule change like Bible did. They're judging what impact it has on the play of the game and the coaching, and not using the players as a scapegoat.
I can't help but think about what ol' D.X. would think about other coaches' arguments:
"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. I had a player, an asthmatic kid, I couldn't get the kid out. We didn't have any timeouts." - Todd Berry on proposed NCAA rule change
The child survived.
If this rule change fails (please) it'll be because of Todd Berry's argument that we need to allow the defense an opportunity to sub out while their offensive counterparts haven't. This will now be called the asthma argument.
Football has always been a game of adapting to your opponent, and this situation is no different. It seems like these guys finally figured out how to stop getting beat by the HUNH offenses, and that's to effectively take the game back in time and remove them completely. I don't think they should stop pumping their inhalers there though, let's take football back to its roots with a historical all-caps review:
REAL MEN DONT SAY A DAMN THING. YOU HEAR THAT SHERIFF? NO MORE ICE CREAM, NO MORE BUTTERSCOTCH BETTY, AND NO MORE DAMN OMAHA.
GET YOUR MSA-30X ON AND HEAR THIS BRANDON WEEDEN, BECAUSE I'M NOT POSITIVE BUT I THINK THIS MEANS YOU CAN'T EVEN THROW THE BALL BECAUSE ITS GOTTA BE NEAR A DUDE.
HONESTLY I'M KINDA CONFUSED BY THIS RULE.
HOPE YOU GOT YOUR HEAD SHOTS READY FOR YOUR NEXT JOB AS A FREELANCE STAGE SCREAMER, HARBAUGH.
YOU WANT TO BE A BETTER COACH? IT WOULD BE BETTER IF YOU JUST COULDN'T COACH.
SOME ISH NEVER CHANGES.
Obviously there are real arguments for changing the rules, but taking the game backwards by removing offensive strategy doesn't seem like the right answer. Changing rules to prevent a nonexistent problem definitely isn't. The one thing that hasn't changed in 100 years is the football code:
"The first obligation of the football player is to protect the game."