Saban: Pace of play needs review


Alabama's Nick Saban isn't taking credit for the "10-second rule" that's scheduled to be voted on Thursday by the NCAA playing rules oversight panel, but he is adamant that the pace of play in college football bears a closer look as it relates to player safety.

"I don't care about getting blamed for this. That's part of it," Saban told "But I do think that somebody needs to look at this very closely.

"The fastball guys (up-tempo coaches) say there's no data out there, and I guess you have to use some logic. What's the logic? If you smoke one cigarette, do you have the same chances of getting cancer if you smoke 20? I guess there's no study that specifically says that. But logically, we would say, 'Yeah, there probably is.'"

The proposed 10-second rule would penalize teams for snapping the ball in the first 10 seconds of the 40-second clock.

Only 25 of the nation's 128 FBS head coaches are in favor of the proposal, according to a survey conducted by ESPN's Brett McMurphy.

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.

While an outpouring of coaches have said there's no evidence that player safety is compromised by speeding up the tempo and generating more plays in the game, at least one noted neurosurgeon is genuinely concerned about the length of the college game now and the number of snaps some teams are playing.

Dr. Julian Bailes has been around the game for more than 30 years. He's the chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery and co-director of the NorthShore Neurological Institute in Evanston, Ill.

"I think it's not accurate when people say we have to study this because we don't have any evidence or know anything about it," Bailes said. "I don't think that's true. I think we have some facts and do know something about it. Now, we probably should study it more. But to say we don't know anything about this is disingenuous and inaccurate."

In particular, Bailes points out that studies have shown that players are seven times more at risk to be injured in games than in practice.

"If you play more snaps, you're going to have more exposure. I think that's a fact," said Bailes, who's been a consultant for the NFL Players Association and an advisor to the NCAA. "It bears very serious consideration on whether the game should be slowed down or have fewer plays if you believe exposure equals injury risk or player safety.

"We know if you play another 20 to 25 snaps a game, you're going to have more exposure to all injuries, and you're going to have more potential for concussions, and you're going to have more blows to the head, whether they call them concussions or not."

Saban, whose Crimson Tide have won three of the last five national championships, has been a lightning rod ever since it was revealed that he addressed the NCAA football rules committee last month in Indianapolis. He's on record as saying that he doesn't think football should necessarily be a continuous game. He'd like to see the officials dictate the pace of the game more so than offenses, similar to what happens in the NFL.

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