Nick Saban Speaks Publicly for First Time on 10-Second Rule, Player Safety

By DJ Byrnes on March 1, 2014 at 12:48p

Bert Bielema has taken his fair share of criticism in recent weeks, especially when he used Cal's recently deceased Ted Agu as a prop to defend his role in a proposal to add a 10-second "defensive substitution" period to each play.

Nick Saban, however, was also reportedly involved in securing the proposal from the NCAA Rules Committee. It's not expected to pass, but Nick Saban still thinks it's a good idea. He spoke publicly for the first time today in Columbus, Georgia, while talking to the Georgia Minority Coaches Association:


And here's the full transcript:

Q: What are your thoughts on the 10-second rule proposal?

Saban: "I really don't necessarily have an opinion on the 10-second rule. I think there are three issues that need to be researched relative to pace of play, the first being player safety. When you look at plays that are run, and a team averages 88 plays, and we average 65 at Alabama, that's 20-something plays more a game over a 12-game season, that adds up to four more games a year that guys have to play. I think it's wear and tear and tougher to prepare players when you have to play against a hurry-up offense because of the way you have to practice. 

I don't know that there's any particular scientific evidence that you could say, more guys get hurt in this offense versus that one, or hurry-up, or whatever, but everything that we've ever done in the NCAA is about exposure. How many exposures does a player get? We've always tried to limit spring practice, we limit fall camp, we limit the number of days you can hit now. We have acclimation days: so many days in shorts, so many days in shoulder pads. The NFL even limited their practice even more, but really found that they got more guys hurt in the games. The ratio of guys that get hurt in the game is 7 to 1 that guys get hurt in practice. So we're limiting practice, and playing more plays in the game. College football is the only game in the country, of any kind, that the college game is longer than the pro game. And the disparity in plays run is like 59 to 72 in the NFL - 59 for the lowest-average team, 72 for the highest. You know, in college, it's more like 61 and 90. Alright, so there's a large disparity. But that's just something that people need to look at.

The second thing is, can officials officiate the game? They're not in position when the ball is snapped, just like defensive players aren't in position when the ball is snapped, so that's a game administration issue that people should probably look into.

And the third thing, to me, and the last thing, which is not the most important, I think the first is most important, is there any competitive imbalance created by the pace of play.

So I think those are all issues that people need to look at. In the NFL, what they did is the officials stand over the ball until the officials are ready to call the game. Alright, that's how they control the pace of play. The coach at Philadelphia ran 83 plays a game at Oregon, and ran 65 a game in Philadelphia. So why do they control the pace of play in the NFL? I mean, I'm just asking.

But anyway, there's just a lot of issues that need to be looked at, but I think the bottom line is, was football intended to be a continuous game?

Soccer is a continuous game, rugby is a continuous game, but for the physical elements that are involved in playing a football game and the number of plays that you play, I don't know that it was ever intended to be a continuous game."

Q: Bret Bielema last week mentioned player safety being No. 1 for him, and even brought up the Cal player who passed away in February during a conditioning drill. His proof is death certificates, that these hurry-up offenses could lead to some player safety issues and the last thing he wants to see is a player, one, get injured and maybe even worse in the future. What are your thoughts on that?

Saban: "I think player safety is the No. 1 thing, and that was my No. 1 issue as well. I think when players get tired they're more susceptible to get injured if you can't substitute players when they're tired or if they're injured and you can't get them out of the game. Or if a player has a pre-existing condition, whether it's sickle cell, asthma or whatever it is and the trainer says that guy needs to come out. The only way to get them out of the game is to call timeout, so the other way, we could, you know alleviate -- there's a lot of solution to the problem. I don't think coaches should be making this decision. I don't think I should make it, I don't think any coaches should make it. I think somebody outside all of us should decide what is in the best interest of the game, whether it's player safety, game administration, whatever it might be. That's sort of the concern that, I think, we all have."

Q: Gus Malzahn mentioned he doesn't necessarily want to nix this right away, but he would like there to be a year to where everybody can kind of discuss and maybe do some research to gather data about it. Are you OK with that?

Saban: "I think one thing people don't understand is they don't have all the facts about this. The reason -- I had nothing to do with the idea of the 10-second rule, but the committee decided the 10-second rule because they took 12 games of three fastball teams: Oregon, Auburn, Texas A&M and I forget the fourth one, it might have been Baylor, I'm not sure. And they said, OK, how many times did they snap the ball in the first 10 seconds of the play clock? It averaged four times a game, so you're really not changing -- I don't think anybody was trying to change what they do or how they do it, but the fact that they can get on the line and snap it quick, you can't substitute. All right. So, that becomes an eventual player safety issue and I think if you ask the guys philosophically, a lot of them that run the offense, they say we want to wear the defense down and get the defense tired. Well, you get the defensive players tired they are going to be more susceptible to getting injured.

Even though  there is no scientific data to prove this, there was a study at Virgina Tech in 2003. All right, they did sub-concussive head traumas on eight players for 10 games. Those players played 61 plays a game and had 18 sub-concussive hits in a game, so they played 61 plays a game for 10 games. So, I'm saying if you're playing nose guard, three-technique, defensive end, offensive tackle, offensive guard, if you played 88 plays in a game, there's no scientific evidence but there is some logic that says the guy would have more hits. So, that's a player safety issue that I think people need to sorta look at.

Look, I'm all for what's best for the game. The game is what it is, I don't think any coach should determine, just like when they went to Philadelphia in the NFL and they were going so fast, the officials said, 'We control the pace of the game.' The league said, 'The officials control the pace of the game, not a coach.' So, I'm just saying what's best for the game. That's what Nick Saban is for."

Q: The officials controlling the pace of the game, is that something you'd like to see instituted in the college level?

Saban: "They spent a lot of money in the NFL figuring out what's best for the game and what's best for the players and they have a lot invested in it and I think sometimes we don't need to do all the things that they do but I think in some situations the officials controlling the pace of the game in that league has, I think, benefited the players and I would like to see the officials be able to control the pace of the game. I think the officials control the pace of the game in all games, but they don't in college football."



Comments Show All Comments

Hovenaut's picture

I read that in the voice of Bobby Boucher's momma.

"Nick Saban is tha Debil!"

+3 HS
BUCKSOMIES's picture

Saban can kiss my ass.  The ones that are in favor of this chicken shit rule are the one who simply can't defend the hurry up offence.  Except of course Bert.  His team can't defend anybody.

+2 HS
FROMTHE18's picture

"Blah blah blah blah, we struggle against spread teams and my players are prone to injury/struggle in the NFL, blah blah blah, give me another advantage because people are getting onto the fact we sign 500 players per recruiting class and our money laundering scheme is getting exposed, blah blah blah."- Nick Saban

+2 HS
TUNBUCK89's picture

The officials are there to officiate the game and not control its pace. They should not be given that much power. It takes away from the coaches roles on how they want to coach and play the game.

+4 HS
Buckeyeneer's picture

That's what Nick Saban is for.

Speaking in the third person. Really?

"Because the rules won't let you go for three." - Woody Hayes

THE Ohio State University

+3 HS
Seattle Linga's picture

You know Nick makes a good point - he said that there are a few things that need to be looked at in college about these two?

1. Over signing players - and the serious penalties that should follow 

2. Having players come out after they make it to the NFL and say they got paid in college - and the serious penalties that should follow

Next time you interview Nick - try nort to lob him too many softball questions


+4 HS
Kurt's picture

Chris Brown (or whatever his real name is) from Smartfootball pointed out Saban's remark questioning whether football was ever intended to have a semi-continuous flow of play and found that interesting.  It's obviously impossible to answer but points back to football's origins in rugby, which has a more continuous flow.  In some ways when you think about some of the offenses we see today, many garner ideas and concepts from 50, 75, even 100 years ago (the latter being around the period when the game was coming out of its rugby-ish days).  Now when you think about that alongside the question of flow of play, these two factors together (if not more factors) is almost a natural ebb we're experiencing after a very long period of slow pace football and this uptempo play is really nothing new.  

My personal preference is towards a more continuous flow of play.  If anything what the rules committee should be thinking about is how to prevent so many stoppages of the clock that we get with the hurry-up offenses (games drag out 3.5-4+ hours often which is simply too long (of course, tv loves that because of ad money...I watch for football, not ads).

Now if we could throw in rugby helmets as well all would be right.

brandonbauer87's picture

You have to admit, he answered the questions pretty well. I disagree with a lot of it, but he doesn't seem to come across poorly here. 

+1 HS
skid21's picture

When you look at plays that are run, and a team averages 88 plays, and we average 65 at Alabama, that's 20-something plays more a game over a 12-game season, that adds up to four more games a year that guys have to play.

So the rules should be made based on Bama football. Why not limit offenses to 50 plays per games? That is just as ridiculous as this proposed change which isn't in effect in the last 2 minutes of each half when players are more likely to be tired. Douche.

+2 HS
NW Buckeye's picture

Continuous flow?  There is no such thing even close to that in college football  because of all the TV timeouts.  Coaches need to make the most of the time they do have on the field because the rules favoring broadcast concerns stripped away any semblance of continuous flow.  

NFL teams don't average as many plays per game, Kelly with the Eagles was not able to average as many plays there as he did at Oregon?  No shit!  Perhaps it has more to do with the defenses actually being coached to stop hurry up offenses.  Once they get the ball back to their own offense, the play slows down, hence fewer plays.  They don't run fewer plays because of player safety or concerns for parity in the league. 

Something should be done about things that give unfair advantage to offending teams?  Well, the hurry up offense does not create an unfair advantage for any teams.  Their opponents all have the option to run the same hurry up scheme.   How about blatant over signing, only giving one year scholarships, under the table benefits that are structured to prevent any public knowledge of the perpetrators and recipients, etc?  Yeah, they should really go punished Saban. 

Concern for player safety?  How about a coach who blatantly steps over an injured player in practice and continues practice for the rest of the team as said player writhes in pain in the middle of the field?  Sure, Saban, you are really concerned about player safety.

Nick tries to come off as a well spoken proponent of this proposal, but he is just another Bert more concerned about neutralizing opponents through asinine rules.  Take a hike, Nickie.....   

+3 HS
dubjayfootball90's picture

The only way to get them out of the game is to call timeout

They way I read this is that saving a timeout is more important than getting a player out of the game that has sickle cell or some other disease. But then again, I am a bit tipsyyyyy

You can feed a bobcat all the chili it wants. That don't mean it's going to crap out diamonds.

PittBuckeye's picture

Oh Nick, nobody cares about your crap.

Seattle Linga's picture

Maybe we should abolish the forward pass

Oyster's picture

The NFL didn't limit the amount of hitting in practice or even reduce the amount the practices either.  That was the union.   

"Scrolling hurts my finger"

(and FitzBuck was clearly the winner)

c92996p's picture

I have to say, I can at least understand where Saban is coming from with the rule proposal.  I still think its stupid, but I'm glad that he gave a legitimate defense unlike Bert who referenced a death certificate.

+1 HS