When your last name morphs into a verb or an adjective, it’s generally a bad sign.
“So, you want to talk about the ‘Saban Rule’?” South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier asked an inquirer from USA Today. “That’s what I call it. Looks like it’s dead now, hopefully.”
While the University of Arizona’s Rich Rodriguez or Washington State’s Mike Leach may not have the pull to pull off something like coining the “Saban Rule,” Spurrier possesses the age, experience, and success to publicly ridicule the University of Alabama head coach. The proposed rule associated with Saban’s name would delay the offensive snap for ten seconds after the start of the play clock. Normally, a rule change passing the rules committee is a fait accompli. But the uproar over slowing down fast-paced football–as popular with fans as it is unpopular with defensive-minded coaches such as Saban–means that the oversight committee may take the unusual step of blocking a change passed by the rules committee.
Even rules committee chairman, Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun, seemed partially swayed by the onslaught of criticism by coaches who claim the football legislation is intended as protection for defensive-oriented teams rather than downed players. At a news conference earlier this week Calhoun conceded that he hadn’t encountered any data showing that hurry-up offenses result in more injuries.
Proponents of the Saban Rule have stuck back. “Death certificates,” the University of Arkansas’s Bret Bielema told the Associated Press as the justification for the change. “There’s no more anything I need than that.” But over the past two seasons, as the blur offense has gained in popularity and grown in efficiency, college football hasn’t experienced any collision deaths in games or practices–let alone one occurring because a game’s tempo has made it impossible to substitute for an injured player. Detractors regard the appeal to safety as not only a cynical way to leech on to public prejudices against football, but a rationalization for the legislation during an off-year in which non-safety-related changes are prohibited.
“When you snap the ball has always been a fundamental edge for the offense,” Rodriguez tweeted last Wednesday. “[W]hat’s next–3 downs like Canada? #LetsGetBoring.”