HOOVER, Ala. - When Gary Pinkel coached in the Big 12, up-tempo offenses were far from revolutionary.
Each week, the Missouri coach was preparing for another hurry-up, no-huddle offense. Pinkel said no conference plays faster than the Big 12. For seven years, college football games in the Great Plains have looked like fast breaks on turf.
So Pinkel has certain credibility when it comes to the argument of whether no-huddle offenses play too fast for player safety. After hearing his SEC coaching peers argue for more than a year, Pinkel gave his verdict before the rest of the conference Wednesday.
"I don't know where all this started with," Pinkel said. "I just know this, OK, never once in all those years in the fastest league, I think, that plays football - in the Big 12 - did I have my team doctor, my trainer, any of my coordinators walk into my office and say, 'I'm concerned about the health of our football team.' It didn't happen ever. Didn't happen last year or the year before.
"I think it's fiction. Fiction based on that. Never even came up before."
Pinkel, like almost everyone else, surely knows where all of this started. His comments were a direct response to Arkansas coach Bret Bielema's continuous attack of up-tempo offenses.
Bielema has raised eyebrows and garnered headlines for believing the hurry-up, no-huddle threatens player safety. He's called for a rule requiring teams to wait 10 seconds before snapping the football, an idea that failed to gain traction this offseason.
But Bielema isn't backing down in his fight.
"I'm probably more of a reality-based movie guy more than fiction, I guess," Bielema said when told about Pinkel's comment. "I think I deal more in what I know, what I see, what I believe. . I have seen a couple of good fiction movies, though. So I know good fiction when I see it."
Bielema was asked if he's "softened" his stance against up-tempo pace of play, the kind many teams have turned to in order to find an advantage. He repeated a familiar refrain, saying his concern isn't about no-huddle offenses but player safety.
Then he made it clear he's not going to backtrack.
"The answer would be no," Bielema said.
Changes are coming, though not what Bielema would prefer.
SEC coordinator of officials Steve Shaw explained a significant shift in how games are regulated, adding an eighth official whose exclusive duty is to spot the football between plays. Shaw said the goal is to have consistent pace of play, not faster or slow.
It'll be interesting to see how the eighth official changes the pace of play this fall. One thing is already becoming apparent. The more the battle over tempo continues, the more coaches are supporting hurry-up, no-huddle offenses.
"It's another form of football," Pinkel said. "I think it's great that that's another component to football and being creative, but I don't buy the health issue in any way. It's never happened. No one has ever come to me all those years and said, 'Gosh, I'm really concerned about the health of our teams playing these fast-paced offenses.'"