Not so fast: Spurrier, Richt think Saban may not 'get away with it'

Attempt to change the rules rankles even coaches whose teams don't push the tempo

Georgia head coach Mark Richt and South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier shake hands after South Carolina defeated Georgia 17-6.

Photo by Nathan Gray

Georgia head coach Mark Richt and South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier shake hands after South Carolina defeated Georgia 17-6.

To suggest that Nick Saban is trying to pull a fast one by pushing for rules that would slow down no-huddle, up tempo offenses might be a bit of an overstatement.

Yet there are those who don’t think it’s an overstatement at all.

Coaches who have won four national championships — including three of the last five — wield quite a bit of influence.

But the criticism over a proposed rule change that calls for a delay-of-game penalty against an offense should it snap the ball before the 29 second mark of a 40 second play clock has been overwhelming.

If passed next month by the Playing Rules Oversight Panel, it will be in effect for the 2014 season.

Leave it to Steve Spurrier to actually say what many of his peers are thinking.

Love him or loathe him, South Carolina’s Head Ball Coach is one of the greatest college football bosses to ever throw a visor. In an interview on Thursday with USA Today he ridiculed the proposal — referring to it as the “Saban Rule.”

“(Saban) took it upon himself to go before the rules committee and get it done,” Spurrier told the news outlet. “They tried to change the rules. But I don’t think they’re going to get away with it.”

Saban and Arkansas’ Bret Bielema don’t like the fast pace attack and have crafted the argument that it’s a safety issue.

So has Air Force coach Troy Calhoun, who is chairman of the rules committee.

A lot of coaches don’t buy it — even those who would stand to benefit from the change.

Spurrier pointed out that it doesn’t take a new rule to upset the tempo of an up-tempo offense — just a good game plan.

He told USA Today a prime example is his team’s fifth consecutive victory over Clemson last November.

“Our goal was to stay on the field and run that clock,” Spurrier said. “Hopefully, your offense can stay on the field a long time, and all (the opposing offense) can do is sit on the sideline and look at each other.”

Mark Richt, whose Georgia team was accused of “faking” injuries to slow down the Tigers in the 2013 season opener, defended the style in a Thursday telephone interview with reporters.

“We started going fast at Florida State in 1992 and then in 1993 we were going at breakneck speed until I got to Georgia,” Richt said. “The ACC officials back in the day at Florida State were putting the ball down on the ground and getting out of the way and that wasn’t happening in the SEC. The way it is now I don’t know how many teams snap the ball short of the ten seconds. When I saw that, my immediate reaction was curiosity at how many teams snap it before ten seconds.”

Keep in mind, Spurrier and Richt could both whine and moan about all these breath-defying offenses but instead choose to look at them for what they are — part of the game’s evolution.

And they figure defenses can evolve, too.

“Even to look at our situation, would it affect us in a negative way if we were thinking about going fast, that was one of the first things I thought of,” Richt said. “I feel like if you can train offensive players to play five or six plays in a row you can train defensive players to play that many plays in a row as well so I personally don’t think it’s a health issue.”

The proposal will be considered on March 6.

Spurrier suggests there is enough opposition to prevent its passage. But what if there is enough inside influence to railroad it through regardless?

It’ll provide some major offseason drama in college football, that’s for sure.

And depending on the vote, teams will either have to live with “Saban’s Rule” next September or celebrate the fact that this proposal was overruled by coaches like Spurrier and Richt.

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