The driving force behind the 10-second rule: Bret Bielema
House of Cards is one of my favorite shows. I think it's amazing television.
For those of you who haven't seen it (and considering it airs exclusively on Netflix, that's the vast majority of you) here's House of Cards in a nutshell: Kevin Spacey plays Frank Underwood, a Congressman from South Carolina that ruthlessly outworks and outmaneuvers his rivals in an effort to arrange Washington's political chessboard in an effort to serve his most important constituent: himself. Underwood is a master at playing people right in front of their faces without them even suspecting they've been played.
With season two of House of Cards debuting tomorrow, I've been thinking about Underwood a lot lately. It turns out Underwood has a college football counterpart, and his name is Bret Bielema.
The Arkansas head coach is all-in against the tempo offenses that have engulfed the sport in the past two years. Wednesday's proposed rule change has been dubbed by some as the Saban-Bielema Rule, but Bielema has beaten the drum harder than anyone.
He proposed a 15-second substitution period after every first down to the NCAA last June. "Not to get on the coattails of some of the other coaches, there is a lot of truth that the way offensive philosophies are driven now, there's times where you can't get a defensive substitution in for 8, 10, 12 play drives," Bielema said at the time. "That has an effect on safety of that student-athlete, especially the bigger defensive linemen, that is really real."
He was at it again during SEC media days in July. "All I know is this: there are times when an offensive player and a defensive player are on the field for an extended amount of time without a break," he said. "You cannot tell me that a player after play five is the same player that he is after play 15. If that exposes him to a risk of injury, then that's my fault. I can't do anything about it because the rules do not allow me to substitute a player in whether I'm on offense or defense.
"The problem that people have is you look at it just from an offensive or defensive point of view. I'm looking at it from a head coach's point of view, that the personal well-being and safety of my players is paramount."
Like a Capitol Hill veteran, Bielema has framed his war against tempo offenses as a safety issue. Player safety is the "our children are the future" issue of college football, partly because it is an important issue, and partly because no one can disagree with it without risking political suicide. And Bielema has been very good about transitioning the conversation to his version of player safety, a version that just so happens to benefit him competitively.
Bielema has built his career on his brand of ground-and-pound football, and anything that slows down the wave of tempo offenses - on the field and in recruiting - is good for him. The rest of the SEC is getting faster by the year, but morphing to match everyone else is not a realistic option for Bielema. He's dug in. So he has to change the rules. In the adapt-or-die nature of college football, this is his path to survival.
Fast forward to Monday. Arkansas held a Monday morning press conference to introduce new defensive coordinator Robb Smith. The press conference was in the morning because Bielema had a flight to catch.
Bielema on early Smith presser:"I have a plane to catch. (NCAA) rules committee meeting in Indy that takes place the next three days."— Thomas Murphy (@TomMurphyADG) February 10, 2014
Hold on a minute. There are two FBS coaches with voting privileges on the NCAA's football rules committee , Air Force's Troy Calhoun and Louisiana-Monroe's Todd Berry. Bielema was in Indianapolis purportedly to represent the interests of the AFCA.
Let's recap what we have here. A coach that's submitted legislation before and has been outspoken about formatting the game to fit his style - Arkansas was 118th in total plays in 2013 - is not on the rules committee but manages to get a seat behind closed doors with the committee.
So who was Bielema ultimately stumping for in Indianapolis?
Cincinnati's Tommy Tuberville said about pace-of-play proposal: "This came out of left." Said it was never discussed at AFCA. Not for it.— Ralph D. Russo (@ralphDrussoAP) February 13, 2014
Voila. Bielema's master plan worked.
Can confirm Nick Saban & Bret Bielema were in the room (but not voters) for the rules committee discussion that produced 10-second proposal.— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) February 13, 2014
The NCAA Football Rules Committee formally recommended assessing a five-yard penalty for any team that snaps the ball before the 29-second mark on the play clock on all snaps except in the final two minutes of each half.
The rule is still a ways away from formal adoption, but this was Bielema's Frank Underwood moment. In a world that was bending away from his worldview, Bielema campaigned and lobbied to bend it back. For the coach of a 3-9 team, this was the only move he had to play. And, so far, he's played it to perfection.
Business is booming in college football. Here's why
For those in the media and advertising industries, Nielsen is the Bible. Nielsen's media research and television ratings are gospel across the media industry, and their figures direct billions of dollars in advertising cash flow as large corporations attempt to reach the audiences they want to influence. That's why networks can afford to shell out billion-dollar contracts.
Last week, Nielsen released its annual year-end media report for sports, and it's packed full of information that everyone in college football should know. Business is booming in college football, and this report details why.
Let's start with the most obvious, television viewers for each major American sport's largest event from the past year.
Super Bowl XLVIII: Seattle Seahawks vs. Denver Broncos - 112.2 million
NBA Finals Game 7: Miami Heat vs. San Antonio Spurs - 26.3 million
BCS National Championship: Florida State vs. Auburn - 25.6 million
NCAA Basketball Championship: Louisville vs. Michigan - 23.4 million
World Series Game 6: Boston Red Sox vs. St. Louis Cardinals - 18 million
Daytona 500 - 16.7 million
Kentucky Derby - 16.2 million
The Masters - 14.7 million
Stanley Cup Finals Game 6: Chicago Blackhawks vs. Boston Bruins - 8.6 million
What does this tell us about American culture? First, Americans love them some NFL. The Super Bowl drew more viewers than the biggest events of the NBA, college football, college basketball, Major League Baseball and NASCAR put together. The NFL also crushes the Oscars, the Emmys, the Grammys, American Idol and whatever else the entertainment industry can muster. The NFL is an entire continent full of 800-pound gorillas.
Aside from that, Americans like winner-take-all sporting events. LeBron, Tim Duncan and the drama of a Game 7 edged out the BCS championship for the second spot, and Louisville's thrilling win over Michigan came in fourth. Other than the win-or-go-home aspect of the NFL playoffs, those were the only sporting events to crack 20 million viewers.
Outside of the BCS National Championship, bowl games were the most-watched games in 2013.
2. Rose Bowl: Michigan State vs. Stanford - 18.6 million
3. Sugar Bowl: Oklahoma vs. Alabama - 16.3 million
4. Orange Bowl: Clemson vs. Ohio State - 11.4 million
5. Fiesta Bowl: Central Florida vs. Baylor - 11.3 million
Earlier this week, the NCAA reported that the SEC was once again college football's highest-drawing conference. And, once again, the SEC was also college football's top draw on television.
1. SEC - 9.7 million average viewers
2. Big Ten - 7 million
3. ACC - 5.3 million
4. Big 12 - 4.2 million
5. Notre Dame - 4 million
6. Pac-12 - 3.9 million
Nielsen also provided a nice look at which schools had the largest local fanbases, a term they defined as a percentage of the population that attended, watched or listened to a game over the past 12 months.
1. Ohio State (Columbus) - 66 percent
2. Alabama (Birmingham) - 65 percent
3. Arkansas (Little Rock) - 58 percent
4. Tennessee (Knoxville) - 56 percent
5. Oklahoma (Oklahoma City) - 55 percent
Each of those five schools has something in common. They're large state institutions without much local professional competition (three of the five have no local NFL competition at all) in mid-sized markets. It's much easier for Oklahoma to dominate Oklahoma City than it is for Stanford to own San Francisco.
Next, let's look chunk of fresh meat advertisers lock their teeth on, Twitter. According to Nielsen, here are the total tweets pecked out from each of America's largest sporting events.
Super Bowl XLVIII: Seattle Seahawks vs. Denver Broncos - 25.3 million
BCS National Championship: Florida State vs. Auburn - 4.4 million
NBA Finals: Miami Heat vs. San Antonio Spurs - 3.81 million*
NCAA Basketball Championship: Louisville vs. Michigan - 3.3 million
Kentucky Derby - 3 million
The Masters - 800,000
World Series: Boston Red Sox vs. St. Louis Cardinals - 716,000
Daytona 500 - 500,000
Stanley Cup Finals: Chicago Blackhawks vs. Boston Bruins - 466,000*
* - averaged on a per game basis
Again, the NFL is completely untouchable but, other than that, nothing drew more social engagement than the BCS championship. The BCS National Championship inspired more tweets over its three-and-a-half hours than all six World Series games combined. College football is a community event, in person and on television, and that's valuable to advertisers.
Speaking of advertisers, here were the five biggest advertisers for college football.
2. Taco Bell
4. Verizon Wireless
5. Home Depot
AT&T, Taco Bell and Verizon spread their spending out evenly across the sporting landscape, but Aflac and Home Depot invested their largest advertising dollars on college football. Home Depot basically funds College GameDay's entire budget. In the days of massive television contracts that foot the bills for new facilities and eight-figure contracts, these companies indirectly pay many coaches' salaries.
Lastly, here is a demographic breakdown of college football viewers for the 2013-14 bowl season. When advertisers look at which sports to buy, this is their scouting report.
Let's take a look at that last part, because that's what every advertiser is after: money. And college sports fans have a lot of it. In fact, college sports has more fans earning $100,000 or more a year than any sport other than golf and hockey. Add in the fact that college football's audience dwarfs golf, hockey and college basketball, and you can see why Saturday football is the most valuable advertising real estate on the market outside of the NFL.
NHL - 33 percent of fans earning $100,000 or more a year
Golf - 27 percent
College basketball - 27 percent
College football - 25 percent
NFL - 25 percent
Major League Baseball - 21 percent
Soccer - 20 percent
NBA - 18 percent
Motor sports - 14 percent
No huddle coaches weigh in on the new NCAA rules proposal
The newly proposed rule change to allow defenses 10 seconds to sub after every snap really struck a chord with a lot of coaches, especially within the no huddle coaching community, last night.
Rich Rodriguez took to Twitter to vent some of his frustration, and to be honest, I have to agree with everything that he put out there.
So I hear the football rules committee wants to slow the game down and make you wait ten seconds to snap--and penalty is delay of game!#wow— Rich Rodriguez (@CoachRodAZ) February 12, 2014
When you snap the ball has always been a fundamental edge for the offense- what's next-- 3 downs like Canada?#LetsGetBoring— Rich Rodriguez (@CoachRodAZ) February 12, 2014
Fundamental advantage for defense- pre snap movement- maybe that should be reviewed? #WhoMakesTheseRules— Rich Rodriguez (@CoachRodAZ) February 12, 2014
None of the coaches I've talked to knew about the new rule proposal regarding waiting ten seconds to snap the ball --wondering#HiddenAgenda?— Rich Rodriguez (@CoachRodAZ) February 13, 2014
Rodriguez and Hugh Freeze both added that if it is infact a safety issue, show coaches some data to support it. And if that is the case, Rodriguez makes the case that no huddle teams should be getting hurt more in practice? That's obviously not the case.
Mike Leach also brought up a good point in an ESPN article published last night, saying that football has always been a game of creativity and strategy, and the best coaches throughout history have always found a way to adjust.
"First off, I doubt it will pass, second, it’s ridiculous. All this tinkering is ridiculous." Leach explained.
"I think it deteriorates the game. It’s always been a game of creativity and strategy. So anytime someone doesn’t want to go back to the drawing board or re-work their solutions to problems, then what they do is to beg for a rule. I think it’s disgusting.”
Then, Leach provided a suggestion for coaches who are in favor of the rule change.
“My suggestion is rather than spending a bunch of time coming up with a bunch of really stupid rules, spend that time coaching harder. Worry about your own team and try to make your product better rather than trying to change the game so you don’t have to do anything.”
This will be a hot button topic all offseason, and considering the widespread impact it could have on the game, we'll continue to keep you updated on the various stances and opinions. As it sits right now, I'm standing firmly behind Rich Rod, Leach and the rest of the no huddle community and don't see that changing.
A lot more quality content on the subject from Rich Rod, Freeze, Leach (and others) in ESPN's column, which can be read here, and we've included a few more quotes from coaches on the subject below.
The only thing risking injury in an up tempo football game is the defense's pride! Nut up, it's football!— Bob Stitt (@CoachBobStitt) February 13, 2014
Baylor's Art Briles on the proposed rule change to limit hurry-up: "If the food tastes good, don't change the recipe."— George Schroeder (@GeorgeSchroeder) February 12, 2014
We got pulled over shortly after and was issued a delay of game for going to fast..#Tempo— Chad Morris (@coachchadmorris) February 13, 2014
Nebraska wants you to experience their whole season in 4 minutes
2013 was an exciting year for Nebraska.
The Huskers finished the season 9-4, capped the year off with a Gator Bowl victory against Georgia, and the season included a 99 yard passing touchdown, a 98 yard kick return for six, and a 4th and 15 conversion to set up a hail mary bomb to beat Northwestern as time expired.
That's a lot to digest, but Nebraska packed all that excitement into a video for fans, and future recruits, to live over and over again.
Video: How far will you go for respect?
Peru State, an NAIA program in Nebraska, goes through their intense off season workouts just like everyone else, but twice a week, for the first few weeks, they put 80 seconds on the clock and amp up the intensity.
When that 80 second clock starts, they start their first set of ten reps. When the clock ends, the 80 seconds immediately resets and they immediately start their second set of ten. All in all there are nine lifts done in that manner, with 3 sets of 10 as the goal.
Including "supersets", some of the lifts end up with 270 reps in 20 minutes total. We are told that the players absolutely love the challenge that it presents.
That's taking tempo in the weight room to the next level. Take a look at the tempo and intensity in the well done, movie-themed trailer, below.
NCAA proposes rules changes for 2014
For an organization that can't take one step forward without tripping over its own shoelaces, Wednesday was another perfectly acceptable day at the office. The NCAA's Football Rules Committee met in Indianapolis over the past two days, and has recommended two rules changes that could change the way games are officiated and coached beginning this fall.
Let's start with the good news.
The rules committee has recommended reversing without a doubt the worst rules alteration since its clock adjustments in 2006 (which, by the way, also lasted only one season). In 2013, when a targeting penalty was overruled by video review, the 15-yard penalty attached to the foul remained even when the flag was picked up and the defender in question got to remain in the game. It made absolutely no sense at all and, to their credit, the committee recognized that. To be clear, there will still be plenty of 15-yard flags even when a targeting foul is overturned. For instance, a linebacker flagged for targeting on a supposed above-the-neck shot that has his ejection overturned could still be flagged for unnecessary roughness. That part will have to be explained to players and fans alike.
Now, to the controversial part.
The rules committee has recommended giving the defense a 10-second substitution period after every snap, with the exception of the final two minutes of each half. Defensive coaches - led by Nick Saban and Bret Bielema, chiefly - lobbied hard over the summer and fall that hurry-up tempo offenses had an unfair advantage on defenses to the point where the game became unsafe for defenders. Whether or not you agree depends on what side of the ball you fall, but the committee agrees with them. Should the rule pass, offenses will be assessed a five-yard penalty for snapping the ball before the play clock hit 29 seconds.
"The committee discussed the issue thoroughly before coming to the conclusion that defensive teams should be allowed some period of time to substitute," Greg Johnson wrote in the NCAA's explanation. "The committee believes that 10 seconds provides sufficient time for defensive player substitutions without inhibiting the ability of an offense to play at a fast pace. Research indicated that teams with fast-paced, no-huddle offenses rarely snap the ball with 30 seconds or more on the play clock. This rules proposal also aligns with a request from the Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports that sport rules committees review substitution rules in regards to player safety."
Offensive coaches will fight this and do their best to kill the rule like a filibustering senator trying to kill a bill. Their lobby is bigger than their defensive counterparts. They'll have help from their friends in the national media.
Coaches: "The proposed changes are being circulated for membership comment." Better let your AD/compliance know your thoughts.— Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer) February 12, 2014
Prepare Big 12 coaches meltdown MT @Jonathan_Biles NCAA rules committee proposing 5yd penalty for snapping ball w 30/+ seconds on play clock— David Ubben (@davidubben) February 12, 2014
Here's a thought, Team is down by 14 points with 5:30 minutes to go in the game...is this considered a two minute situation? #JustWondering— Herb Hand (@CoachHand) February 12, 2014
................................................................................................ #NCAAFootballRulesCommitteeAndItsProposals— Matt Zemek (@MattZemek) February 12, 2014
The good news is that this isn't approved and rubber-stamped just yet. Blowback has hampered other changes. But I am enraged.— Jerry Hinnen (@JerryHinnen) February 12, 2014
But the committee has made its recommendation. The rule is on the table. For once, defense appears to be one step ahead of offense.
Here's the official NCAA statement:
By Greg Johnson
The NCAA Football Rules Committee proposed an alteration involving the instant-replay review on targeting fouls during its Feb. 11-12 meeting in Indianapolis, which includes the ejection of the player committing the foul along with a 15-yard penalty.
Last season, the targeting rule was implemented and any player committing the penalty would be ejected and his team assessed a 15-yard penalty.
The committee recommended that if the instant replay official rules that a disqualification should not have occurred, and if the targeting foul is not accompanied by another personal foul, the 15-yard penalty for targeting should not be enforced.
However, if the targeting foul is committed in conjunction with another personal foul, the 15-yard penalty for that personal foul remains. For example, if a player is called for roughing the passer and targeting the head and neck area, but the instant replay official rules that targeting did not occur, the player flagged would remain in the game, but the roughing the passer penalty would still be enforced.
All rules proposals must be approved by the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel, which will discuss the football rules changes March 6. The proposed changes are being circulated for membership comment.
“Overall, the targeting rule was successful and has had the intended impact of making play safer,” said Troy Calhoun, head coach at the Air Force Academy and chair of the committee, which met Monday through Thursday in Indianapolis. “This alteration keeps the intent of the rule, but allows replay to correct all of the consequences from a rare missed call.”
In games where instant replay is not in use, the committee recommended an option to permit on-field officials to review targeting calls during halftime that were made during the first half. This is a permissive rule by conference policy or mutual consent of the teams and is the responsibility of the home team to provide the parameters for the use of video. The review must be conducted by the referee in the officials’ locker room.
Officials could then reverse the targeting call and allow the player to compete in the second half. The committee noted that many Football Championship Subdivision, Division II and Division III games are not played using instant replay so this modification gives those teams greater flexibility to review targeting fouls during a game.
The committee also recommended a rules change that will allow defensive units to substitute within the first 10 seconds of the 40-second play clock, with the exception of the final two minutes of each half, starting with the 2014 season.
“This rules change is being made to enhance student-athlete safety by guaranteeing a small window for both teams to substitute,” said Calhoun. “As the average number of plays per game has increased, this issue has been discussed with greater frequency by the committee in recent years and we felt like it was time to act in the interests of protecting our student-athletes.”
Under this rule proposal, the offense will not be allowed to snap the ball until the play clock reaches 29 seconds or less. If the offense snaps the ball before the play clock reaches 29 seconds, a 5-yard, delay-of-game penalty will be assessed. Under current rules, defensive players are not guaranteed an opportunity to substitute unless the offense substitutes first. This part of the rule will remain in place in scenarios where the play clock starts at 25 seconds.
The committee discussed the issue thoroughly before coming to the conclusion that defensive teams should be allowed some period of time to substitute. The committee believes that 10 seconds provides sufficient time for defensive player substitutions without inhibiting the ability of an offense to play at a fast pace. Research indicated that teams with fast-paced, no-huddle offenses rarely snap the ball with 30 seconds or more on the play clock. This rules proposal also aligns with a request from the Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports that sport rules committees review substitution rules in regards to player safety.
In the NCAA’s non-rules change years, proposals can only be made for student-athlete safety reasons or modifications that enhance the intent of a previous rules change.
American releases 2014 home/away opponents
The actual dates and ordering of the 2014 American football schedule is still a mystery, but the conference released its home/away opponents for this fall.
As a reminder, the conferences loses Louisville to the ACC and Rutgers to the Big Ten, but gains East Carolina, Memphis, Tulane and Tulsa from Conference USA. Coupled with the remaining programs - Central Florida, Cincinnati, Connecticut, Houston, South Florida, SMU and Temple - the AAC will have 11 teams in 2014. Navy comes aboard in 2015 to allow the conference to split into two divisions and hold a championship game. But for now, that's still a year away.
Each team will play four home and four away games in 2014, meaning that each team will also miss two conference opponents.
Video: Clemson offensive linemen hold a cannonball contest
The Clemson diving team held its final meet of the year on Saturday, and the Tigers' offensive line took it upon themselves to provide the halftime entertainment by holding their own cannonball contest.
As a guy who's won a cannonball contest or two in my day, I have to say most of these Tigers have some pretty terrible form. Offensive line coach Robbie Caldwell clearly needs to spend some time in spring ball teaching technique.