Clemson's Swinney on NCAA's slow-it-down proposal: 'The whole thing is ridiculous'
CLEMSON - The recently suggested NCAA rule change to prohibit snapping the football within the first 10 seconds of the play clock had to be met with a series of emotions and facial expressions among Clemson's coaching staff.
Smirks. Chuckles. A guffaw, perhaps. Maybe a slight hint of concern, especially if this widely rebuked rule proposal is approved at the NCAA Player Rules Oversight Panel's next meeting, tentatively slated for March 6.
ESPN.com conducted a poll of the 128 Football Bowl Subdivision head coaches, and reported that only 25 were in favor of changing the rule.
A shocking development to absolutely nobody: Dabo Swinney, whose up-tempo offense is led by Chad Morris, was one of the 103.
In 2013, Clemson averaged 79.8 snaps per game, ranking eighth in the nation. Clemson's 81.7 snaps per game in 2012, and 75.4 in 2011, also ranked eighth those respective years.
"That's the dumbest rule," Swinney told ESPN.com. "That rule right there reminds me of public reaction people had when they put in the forward pass. It's just the craziest thing. That makes no sense, and to hide behind player safety is wrong, because it's just not factual."
That is exactly how the NCAA Football Rules Committee first sold the rule proposition on Feb. 12.
"This rules change is being made to enhance student-athlete safety by guaranteeing a small window for both teams to substitute," Air Force coach and committee chair Troy Calhoun said in the NCAA's statement.
"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 it was time to act in the interests of protecting our student-athletes."
In the past two weeks, Alabama's Nick Saban and Arkansas' Bret Bielema have come out as proponents - Bielema went so far to mention California defensive end Ted Agu, who passed away Feb. 7 after a winter conditioning workout, as a reason for slowing down the game. Immediately chastised by Cal's athletic director as well as the public, Bielema backed off his statement.
Swinney argues there hasn't been evidence to prove the hurry-up, no-huddle pace endangers player safety.
"And how about the offensive guys?" Swinney told ESPN. "Most of the time, when you look at defenses, they rotate their defensive line the whole game. We do it, most teams do it. Those offensive linemen play just about every snap. So we're going to sit here and cry for guys who are playing 30 snaps when you've got guys on the other side playing 70? Give me a break.
"It's an agenda, that's what it is. If we're going to talk about player safety, then when they're going to blitz seven and we've only got six, is that extra guy going to hold his hand up before he comes so we know where he's coming from and that kind of stuff? The whole thing is ridiculous."
ACC coordinator of football officials Doug Rhoads is also skeptical there will be any changes for the 2014 season.
"Not speaking for the rules committee, but speaking from an officiating perspective, I think there's concern amongst a number of coaches that there wasn't sufficient data gathered to support whether this was or wasn't needed," Rhoads told ESPN. "That's where we are now in the comment period, coaches saying where is the data that this is a player safety issue? There's not a compelling argument that's the case here, so I think it's going to get extra scrutiny over this comment period before it ever becomes final."
If anything, the Tigers can take solace in that they might not have snapped the ball with 30 or more seconds on the play clock that often anyway - not that they'd support taking away the threat that they could.
On three of its fastest 2013 touchdown drives (vs. Georgia, at Maryland, vs. Ohio State in the Orange Bowl), Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd only took the snap once out of 26 plays with at least 30 seconds remaining on the play clock.
"The committee believes 10 seconds provides sufficient time for defensive player substitutions without inhibiting the ability of an offense to play at a fast pace," the NCAA said in a statement released Feb. 12. "Research indicated that teams with fast-paced, no-huddle offenses rarely snap the ball with 30 seconds or more on the play clock."