UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley looks to pass during the first quarter of… (Victor Calzada / Associated…)
UCLA offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone was perplexed, and more than a little miffed, about a rule change proposal designed to slow down tempo offenses.
The proposal would prevent teams from snapping the ball for the first 10 seconds of the 40-second play clock. It would also allow defenses to substitute even if the offense does not change players.
The proposal goes to the NCAA rules oversight committee and will be put to a vote on March 6.
“Why don’t we just do away with the play clock and wait for the defense to say they’re ready?” Mazzone said. “We could have the quarterback go over to the other team’s sideline and ask if it’s OK to snap the ball.”
Proponents of the rule, including Alabama Coach Nick Saban and Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema, said they have concerns about safety, claiming that up-tempo offenses put players at risk.
Saban and Bielema are not on the NCAA committee that recommended the proposal, but both addressed the committee.
Rogers Redding, the NCAA coordinator of officials, told the Associated Press that Bielema was representing the American Football Coaches Assn. and that Saban asked to speak with the committee.
“It's not routine, but it's not unique, either,” Redding said.
Alabama and Arkansas run more methodical offenses. Saban has expressed concern whether the growth in the number of teams using up-tempo is good for college football.
“Show me the research that says up-tempo offenses increase the chances of injury,” Mazzone said. “I don’t understand why they need to change something that is not a problem.”
Air Force’s Troy Calhoun and Louisiana Lafayette’s Todd Berry are the two coaches from Football Bowl Subdivision schools who are on the committee. Calhoun is the committee’s chairman. Louisiana Lafayette ranked 93rd in plays run last season and Air Force was 104th.
The proposal will be in a comment period, in which coaches can electronically submit their opinions to the NCAA. The issue appears to be divided along philosophical lines, whether a team runs up-tempo or not.
Mazzone was not the only who felt this was more a competitive than a safety issue.
“I don’t see the injury issue,” Boston College Coach Steve Addazio told the Associated Press. “I think we need more data.”
Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy, Texas A&M’s Mike Sumlin, Auburn's Gus Malzahn, Texas Tech's Kliff Kingsbury and Arizona's Rich Rodriguez will oppose the rule change.
“It’s like asking a blitzing linebacker to raise his hand,” Gundy posted on his Twitter.com site Thursday.
UCLA ran 958 plays last season, the 34th most among FBS teams. The Bruins were 20th nationally in scoring, averaging 36.9 points per game.
UCLA has recruited athletes to play an up-tempo style.
Said Mazzone: “What are we going to do? Tell basketball teams that they can’t shoot until the other team sets up its zone defense?”