SEARCY, Ark. — Bret Bielema made an impassioned case in favor of the much-scrutinized proposal to slow down college offenses on Thursday night.
And the Arkansas coach isn’t about to back down, despite a host of criticism from up-tempo, no-huddle coaches across the country.
Bielema, speaking to the media before a meeting of the White County Razorback Club, said he expects the proposal to prohibit snapping the ball until at least 10 seconds run off the 40-second play clock to pass when the NCAA playing rules oversight panel votes on March 6.
He also reiterated his stance that the proposal is safety-based – saying he wants to be proactive and make a change before a fatal injury.
The former Wisconsin coach pointed to the recent death of California football player Ted Agu during a training run, saying the inability to substitute an injured player between plays could lead to injury or death.
”If one of those players is on the field for me, and I have no timeouts, I have no way to stop the game,” Bielema said. ”And he raises his hand to stop the game, and I can’t do it. What am I supposed to do?
”What are we supposed to do when we have a player who tells us he’s injured?”
A host of up-tempo, no-huddle coaches, including Auburn’s Gus Malzahn, have come out publicly against the proposed rule, which was passed during a meeting of the NCAA Football Rules Committee last week.
Even committee chairman and Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said he has yet to see a medical study linking the rapid pace of an offensive to potential health issues for defensive players.
Bielema, who was at the meeting in Indianapolis last week as a representative of the American Football Coaches Association, countered Calhoun’s assertion by saying more plays lead to more opportunities for injuries such as concussions.
He also offered a direct counter to the claim there’s no hard evidence of increased risk of injury.
”Death certificates,” Bielema said. ”There’s no more anything I need than that.”
Bielema highlighted the recent surge in talk of player safety, mentioning President Barack Obama’s claim that he wouldn’t let his son play football, as a reason to take the issue seriously.
”You have someone pass in the game of football on live TV, (and) see how that affects youth football,” Bielema said.
Malzahn said this week he’d like the proposal to be tabled for a year, to allow for more time to discuss its impact.
Bielema, who was a voting member for two years on the rules committee before this year, said he’s never seen a player safety proposal passed by the committee fail in front of the Playing Rules Oversight Commission.