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February 17, 2014

Brown opposes propose change to slow offenses

As a member of the hurry-up no-huddle club, Kentucky offensive coordinator Neal Brown is opposed to a proposed rule that would prevent an offense from snapping the ball within the first 10 seconds of the game clock.

"Yeah, I'm definitely an opponent," Brown said. "I think you're going to find most guys who are in my chair will be an opponent."

But not just because of the on-field change that would give defenses a guaranteed 10-second window in which to substitute players -- a vital "threat that keeps defenses on their heels," Brown said.

It's because the NCAA Football Rules Committee justified the proposal by citing player safety without providing concrete evidence that faster pace of play jeopardized it.

"Research indicated that teams with fast-paced, no-huddle offenses rarely snap the ball with 30 seconds or more on the play clock," the NCAA release said. "This rules proposal also aligns with a request from the Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports that sport rules committees review substitution rules in regards to player safety."

But, national coordinator of officiating Rogers Redding told CBSSports.com, "I think it's fair to say there's not really much hard data on this."

Proposals this year can only be adopted if they are for safety reasons or to build on a previous rules change.

"I don't see the reasoning behind it," Brown said. "You know, I see a lot of people that are proponents of the potential rule change talking about the risk of injury. But I don't think there's ever been any data. I think that's all just speculation. I don't think we should ever change a rule based on pure speculation."

Brown said he and coach Mark Stoops "really haven't had much discussion about" the proposal because of ongoing recruiting efforts, and he won't talk with Kentucky's quarterbacks about it "until the rule actually comes to fruition."

If it does, the bottom-line number of plays affected by this rule will be small. Kentucky threatened to snap the ball within 10 seconds of the play clock only a couple of times last season, although Brown noted that UK played at a much slower pace last year than his offenses historically have.

"You're wasting your time even looking at stuff last year," Brown said. "We didn't have the depth or the ability to play like we wanted to last year."

But as he said, the rule is more important in that it prevents offenses from lining up and threatening a quick snap -- and it guarantees defenses the ability to make personnel substitutions, which takes away a fundamental advantage to running a hurry-up offense.

Brown noted that offenses already have more restrictions in place -- such as being allowed one man in motion, while the defense can move all 11 -- and the rule would impose another.

"Here's how I see it," Brown said. "It's like in basketball, if a team gets a run-out fast break and the official stood in front of them and let the defense get aligned."

The committee that proposed the rule features two FBS head coaches -- Todd Berry (Louisiana-Monroe) and Troy Calhoun (Air Force) -- four FCS head coaches, four athletic directors and two conference commissioners.

"If you're snapping it with 27-28 seconds remaining, you are super fast," Berry told CBSSports.com. "What you don't want is that tired defensive player who is a liability in the game and you can't get him off the field. He's gonna get injured. That's what's driving this thing. We all knew that there was gonna be a firestorm created but that's OK. We feel pretty good about it."

Only three of the 10 coaches or athletic directors serve at a school that ran more plays per game than their division average, according to Jon Solomon of AL.com.

Two defensive-minded SEC coaches who are not on the committee -- Arkansas' Bret Bielema and Alabama's Nick Saban -- attended and spoke at the meetings, according to Sports Illustrated's Stewart Mandel.

"You know, I think there was some -- I don't know if lobbying is the right word -- but there was some push from defensive coaches," Brown said. "If the offense plays slower, it's a positive for the defense. It's easier to get lined up, it's easier to make adjustments.

Ultimately, the rule is still a proposal. The NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel will decide on its approval on March 6.

Brown said he thinks the "overwhelmingly negative" public feedback will hurt its chances. He was "shocked" when he first saw the rule and sees no reason to change the fast-paced, high-scoring offenses that have been crucial to college football's soaring popularity.

"I really feel like it's not going to pass," Brown said. "I think the college football fans and the member institutions will be heard. I don't see this proposed rule taking place."

And if it does?

"Whatever the rules are, we're going to play as fast as they allow us to," Brown said. "We'll be ready to snap it at the 11th second."


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