Coaches cry foul over proposed rule

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The NCAA football rules committee is proposing changes for the 2014 season that would loosen the reins on defensive substitutions and lessen the penalties for targeting fouls called on the field.

The committee's proposal would allow defensive players to substitute within the first 10 seconds of the 40-second play clock, except for the final two minutes of each half.

Offenses that snap the ball before 29 seconds remain on the play clock would receive a 5-yard delay-of-game penalty.

Current rules state that defensive players aren't guaranteed the opportunity to substitute unless the offense first substitutes. Under the proposal, this policy would remain when the play clock starts at 25 seconds.

The proposal would strike a major blow to up-tempo spread offenses that often run plays before the opposing defense is set. Coaches like Alabama's Nick Saban and Arkansas' Bret Bielema last summer said that up-tempo offenses are likelier to cause injuries for defensive players who can't get off of the field in time.

"This rules change is being made to enhance student-athlete safety by guaranteeing a small window for both teams to substitute," Air Force coach Troy Calhoun, chair of the rules committee, said in a prepared statement. "As the average number of plays per game has increased, this issue has been discussed with greater frequency by the committee in recent years and we felt like it was time to act in the interests of protecting our student-athletes."

The committee, which met this week in Indianapolis, believes 10 seconds of substitution time wouldn't inhibit offenses from operating quickly. It points to research that states that offenses rarely snap the ball before 30 seconds remain on the play clock.

The committee also proposes removing a 15-yard penalty when replay officials overturn a targeting disqualification foul, as long as no other penalty is called on the play. The initial targeting policy stated that even if a targeting penalty is overturned and a player avoided an ejection, his team still would receive a 15-yard penalty.

"This alteration keeps the intent of the rule, but allows replay to correct all of the consequences from a rare missed call," Calhoun said.

The proposal also states that in games where replay isn't available, officials may review targeting fouls in the first half during halftime if leagues and teams agree and video is available in the officials' locker room. Targeting calls then could be reversed and the ejected player could return in the second half.

The NCAA's playing rules oversight panel will discuss the proposed changes March 6. The only adjustments allowed this year -- not designated as a rules-change year -- are those that involve player safety or modify a previous rule change such as targeting.

The proposal to slow down offenses will have a hard time passing if the many coaches who run up-tempo these days have anything to say about it.

"It's ridiculous," said Arizona's Rich Rodriguez.

Rodriguez has also been at the forefront of the fast football trend.

"For me it goes back to the fundamental rules of football," Rodriguez said. "The offense knows where they are going and when they are going to snap the ball. That's their advantage. The defense is allowed to move all 11 guys before the ball is snapped. That's their advantage.

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