Arkansas coach argues that slow-down rule is a matter of life and death

Bret Bielema: 'I'm not talking about injuries. I'm talking about death. That concerns me. That's a very serious matter to me'

In this Oct. 27, 2012, file photo, Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy, center, questions an official's call denying Oklahoma State a touchdown during the second half of an NCAA college football game against TCU in Stillwater, Okla. An NCAA committee passed a proposal Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, that would allow defenses time to substitute between plays by prohibiting offenses from snapping the ball until 29 seconds are left on the 40-second play clock. 'The 10-second rule is like asking basketball to take away the shot clock - Boring!' Gundy tweeted Thursday. 'It's like asking a blitzing linebacker to raise his hand.' (AP Photo/Brody Schmidt, File)

In this Oct. 27, 2012, file photo, Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy, center, questions an official's call denying Oklahoma State a touchdown during the second half of an NCAA college football game against TCU in Stillwater, Okla. An NCAA committee passed a proposal Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, that would allow defenses time to substitute between plays by prohibiting offenses from snapping the ball until 29 seconds are left on the 40-second play clock. "The 10-second rule is like asking basketball to take away the shot clock - Boring!" Gundy tweeted Thursday. "It's like asking a blitzing linebacker to raise his hand." (AP Photo/Brody Schmidt, File)

SEARCY, Ark. (AP) — 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.

He also said the committee discussed 15-, 12- and 10-second possibilities for the proposal, adding that he backed the 10-second version — which he felt would "absolutely" be enough time to substitute

Both Bielema and Alabama coach Nick Saban were at the original committee meeting, with Saban voicing his concerns about the up-tempo offenses. Saban and Bielema run methodical offenses and have publicly questioned if the quickening pace of offenses is good for the game.

Bielema said Thursday that he hadn't spoken to Saban or any other coaches before the committee meeting. He said the proposal was first discussed at the same meeting a year earlier, and that it was brought back up during a meeting of the AFCA in January.

Malzahn, Mississippi coach Hugh Freeze, Arizona's Rich Rodriguez and Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy are just a few of the critics of the proposal. All run versions of up-tempo offenses.

"The 10-second rule is like asking basketball to take away the shot clock - Boring!" Gundy tweeted last week. "It's like asking a blitzing linebacker to raise his hand."

Bielema rejected the notion that the proposal has turned into a philosophical battle between old-school and new-school coaches.

"I'm not talking about injuries," Bielema said. "I'm talking about death. That concerns me. That's a very serious matter to me, and I think if we talk to any coach in the country that's going to talk against that, I would doubt very much that they would do it openly.

"I understand the resistance, I understand the pushback. It's not a philosophy with me; it's a matter of safety, life and death."

He mentioned that a half a dozen players with the Razorbacks have been diagnosed with sickle cell trait, and that the team's trainers must constantly watch the players for signs of dehydration or exhaustion.

"I think it's still safety battle," Bielema said. "... I know every one of those coaches probably has a player in that same scenario, but it hasn't happened.

"It's kind of like, do we have to have this happen before we talk about it?"

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.

"Anything that's ever been player-safety driven has never, in my history there, has never been stopped," Bielema said.

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Comments » 14

tigerrob44#291802 writes:

This has got to be the biggest bunch of crap ever said by a coach at any level in any sport. If I were the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees I would instruct the President of the University of Arkansas to fire him immediately. This is embarrassing to their school for the head football coach to claim it's a life threatening situation. That's one of the most ridiculous things I have ever heard said by anyone about anything.

gamecockg writes:

Quit crying (Saban\Bielema] and just play football.

tonyknight80#292533 writes:

He must be the real Billy Madison - "Mr. Bret Bielema, what you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul." That goes for his good buddy Nick Satan too! Oops typo, I mean Saban!

lhaselden writes:

If a player cannot play he should not be on the filed this is on Arkansas medical staff and coaches not on the opposing Offense!
Recruit gut under 300 lbs and the might be able to play 10 straight downs! I would wager that Biliema and Saban averagew over 10 lbs a man more on their OL and DL than their opponents! they both need to man up and get their players in shape to play!

clemvol writes:

Won't be long until sec will stand for: "so everybody's crying"

tigerrob44#291802 writes:

Every comment made on this subject so far is exactly right. My biggest concern is because Saban is the head cheerleader for this the NCAA will cow down to what ESPN tells them to do. Everybody knows the love affair between ESPN and the SEC. It is the kind of love affair that is illegal in about 48 states. And someone please tell me how if you snap the ball after 8 seconds or 12 seconds have run off clock it can cause a death. This is something I need to be educated on. The offense has to be on the field the same number of plays as the defense so why don’t they all drop dead on the field?

clmtgr92 writes:

Bielema was a crybaby loud mouth at Wisconsin, so this isn't surprising. His coaching style is BIG 10 smash-mouth, boring football. He doesn't want to adjust his coaching techniques so he will try to change the game to his favor. Just wait until his wife starts bashing people on Twitter because her hubby doesn't get his way.

tigerrob44#291802 writes:

in response to clemvol:

Won't be long until sec will stand for: "so everybody's crying"

I liked your comment and it is so true. ESPN will cow down to the SEC and the NCAA will cow down to ESPN. Too bad for college football. I hope I am wrong about what I just said. Time will tell.

clemvol writes:

in response to tigerrob44#291802:

I liked your comment and it is so true. ESPN will cow down to the SEC and the NCAA will cow down to ESPN. Too bad for college football. I hope I am wrong about what I just said. Time will tell.

Agree also. Another sad truth is that Football in general will not be reconized in near future. Take a look and see what's happening overall and it will soon just be a remberance of what was.

lhaselden writes:

Spurrier pointed out that if you can stop the opposing offense it does not matter how fast they snap the ball! I think he is not able to pass up an opportunity to rub it in!

TigerFan95 writes:

This guy has to be the biggest blow-hard in the history of sports. "Death certificates"? Really? The player he refered to from California likely died from a heart defect, not the training regime he was participating in. Besides, football is not even close to being the most cardiovascular demanding sport out there. A healthy athlete should have no problem whatsoever at keeping up with the pace these offenses are playing at. Fact is, concussions and spinal injuries are the biggest concern of parents and slowing the game down will do nothing to prevent those type injuries. Bieliema and Saban see the writing on the wall that their style of football is quickly becoming outdated like the wishbone offense did. Their argument about safety is complete BS and they know it.

lbguignard#292428 writes:

in response to lhaselden:

Spurrier pointed out that if you can stop the opposing offense it does not matter how fast they snap the ball! I think he is not able to pass up an opportunity to rub it in!

Spurrier plays more than one team. And he is exactly right - he is on the side of keeping whatever offense you want. His job, his teams job is to play against that offense. Saban and now Bielema are whining because they can't keep up or have to respond in ways they don't like.

They're saying - their job is made too hard if they don't have time to think. Want some cheese with that whine? I've said it before, play rugby, soccer, basketball, lacrosse etc. They don't even have a break between plays.

So to me, it is just a coach wanting his million dollar job made easier.

tigerrob44#291802 writes:

in response to TigerFan95:

This guy has to be the biggest blow-hard in the history of sports. "Death certificates"? Really? The player he refered to from California likely died from a heart defect, not the training regime he was participating in. Besides, football is not even close to being the most cardiovascular demanding sport out there. A healthy athlete should have no problem whatsoever at keeping up with the pace these offenses are playing at. Fact is, concussions and spinal injuries are the biggest concern of parents and slowing the game down will do nothing to prevent those type injuries. Bieliema and Saban see the writing on the wall that their style of football is quickly becoming outdated like the wishbone offense did. Their argument about safety is complete BS and they know it.

What you wrote is about as right as right can be. You hit the problem right in the heart with a butcher knife and then twisted the knife. You are right on the money about every word you wrote. People have died on the field generally during practice and as far as I know about 99% of the deaths were due to an undetected heart problem the player had. And most of the time their problem has been with them since birth and was missed by the doctors for 18 years. This is not unusual but rare nevertheless.

BlueRidgeBengal writes:

its an agenda plain and simple. im also convinced a FB and LB collision on nearly every play in a pro-set offense is the most damaging hit on a football field.

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