Poll: 93 coaches against proposal


Only 25 of the nation's 128 FBS head coaches are in favor of a rule proposal that would slow down the college game, according to a survey conducted by ESPN.

Of the 25 in favor, only 11 are coaches at "power five" conference schools (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC, plus Notre Dame). Of the 128 coaches overall, 73 percent (93) are opposed to the proposal while 19.5 percent (25 coaches) are in favor of it. Seven percent (nine coaches) are undecided.

One coach refused to participate, indicating he "did not wish to be part of the conversation on this topic."

If passed, the proposal would prohibit teams from snapping the ball until at least 10 seconds run off the 40-second play clock, which would allow defenses time to substitute. The exceptions would be in the final two minutes of each half or if the play clock began at 25 seconds. If the offense snaps the ball before the play clock is at fewer than 30 seconds, it would be penalized 5 yards for delay of game.

Under current rules, defenses aren't guaranteed a chance to substitute unless the offense also subs.

While some coaches already have publicly indicated whether they favored or opposed the proposal, ESPN asked each coach how he would vote based on his vote being confidential.

Of the 65 power five conference programs (based on 2014 memberships), nearly three-fourths are opposed to the proposal. That's a higher percentage than the 63 non-power programs from the American, Conference USA, Mid-American, Mountain West and Sun Belt conferences, plus Army, BYU and Navy.

Of the power five coaches, 74 percent (48) were against the proposal, 17 percent (11) were for it and 9 percent (six) were undecided or didn't vote. Of the non-power schools, 71 percent (45 coaches) were opposed, 22 percent (14) were in favor and 6 percent (four) were undecided.

Coaches who have publicly indicated they were against the proposal include South Carolina's Steve Spurrier, Auburn's Gus Malzahn, Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin, Arizona's Rich Rodriguez, Washington State's Mike Leach, Georgia's Mark Richt, Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy, Washington's Chris Petersen, Florida's Will Muschamp, Louisville's Bobby Petrino, Illinois' Tim Beckman, Mississippi's Hugh Freeze, Marshall's Doc Holliday and Bowling Green's Dino Babers.

Alabama's Nick Saban spoke to the rules committee in favor of the proposal. And Arkansas' Bret Bielema has been the most outspoken coach in favor of it. He has said the inability to substitute an injured player between plays could lead to injury or even death and referenced the recent death of Cal player Ted Agu during a training run. Bielema later apologized for his "unintentionally hurtful" remarks about Agu, maintaining he was "very passionate about the serious nature of protecting the well-being of student-athletes."

Air Force coach Troy Calhoun, the NCAA football rules committee chairman, said last week "it's only speculative" that more plays resulted in more injuries -- a claim made by proponents of the proposal. Calhoun added that if there wasn't specific data, it should not be a rule "because now it's not a safety concern."

The NCAA's 11-member playing rules oversight panel will vote on the proposal March 6. No coaches are on the panel.

A coach in favor of the proposal told ESPN it was because he "would be for a change that allows the defense to substitute."

"It's more about being able to substitute and match personnel than it is about [waiting a] specific time [to snap the ball]," another coach in favor said.

Another coach, also in favor of the proposal, added: "The most outspoken guys are unbalanced offensive guys."

No conference had more than one-third of its coaches favor the proposal, although none were unanimously against it. Among the biggest concerns for a coach opposed to the rule was that "the reason of player safety was being given without any legitimate data. If legitimate data existed, I could feel differently," he said.

Added another coach: "I'm all for anything that promotes student-athlete safety, but this isn't the rule to do it."

Because the proposal would allow the ball to be snapped in the first 10 seconds only in the final two minutes of each half, a coach opposed to the rule suggested it could eliminate comebacks.

"So if you're down by 15 with four minutes to go and you can't play fast?" he said. "Game's over."

Muschamp probably summarized the coaches' voting preferences best.

"You're talking four to six plays [in a game that would be affected]," he told ESPN.com's Edward Aschoff. "Come on. It's not that big of a deal.

"It's not about player safety. To me, it's funny that everybody wants to argue whatever their point is. It's not really about what's good for the game. It's about, 'What's good for me at the end of the day.'

"All these hurry-up guys want to snap as fast as they can snap it, and the guys who don't hurry up want the game slowed down."

The 11-member oversight panel consists of six Division I representatives (Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott, MAC commissioner Jon Steinbrecher, WAC commissioner Jeff Hurd, Northeast Conference commissioner Noreen Morris, UAB senior associate athletic director Derita Ratcliffe and Michigan State senior associate AD Shelley Appelbaum), two Division II representatives (Armstrong Atlantic State AD Lisa Sweany and Arkansas Tech assistant AD Kristy Bayer) and three Division III athletic directors (Shenandoah's Doug Zipp, Smith's Lynn Oberbillig and Fitchburg State's Sue Lauder).

A simple majority vote is needed for the proposal to become a rule for the upcoming season.