The NCAA football rules committee has proposed two fairly significant rules changes, one of which would flag teams with a delay of game penalty when they play too quickly.
One proposal, to mandate a 10-second window to allow defensive substitution before offenses can snap the ball, is likely to be controversial and appeared to take several high-profile coaches by surprise Wednesday. Offenses would not be able to snap the ball before the 40-second play clock hit 29 seconds.
Currently, defenses may substitute only when offenses do. The proposal would allow offenses to snap the ball within the first 10 seconds only during the final two minutes of each half. If an offense snapped the ball too early, it would be penalized 5 yards for delay of game.
In a move that had been widely anticipated, the rules committee proposed eliminating the 15-yard penalty on targeting calls that have been overturned by replay review.
Instituted last year, the targeting rule stipulated mandatory ejection for the offending player. Though the player could be reinstated if a replay review determined targeting was the incorrect call, the 15-yard penalty was still marked off.
Both proposals must be approved by the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel, which is scheduled to consider them March 6. If approved, they could take effect for the 2014 season.
In a statement, the rules committee suggested the proposal to allow time for defensive substitutions wouldn't really slow down offenses, because "research indicated that teams with fast-paced, no-huddle offense rarely snap the ball with 30 seconds or more on the play clock." But several coaches told USA TODAY Sports the threat that hurry-up offenses could snap the football was an important part of strategy.
"If the food tastes good, don't change the recipe," said Baylor coach Art Briles, who has built a program that has traditionally struggled into a winner with perhaps the nation's fastest-paced offense. "We've got a good game. Let's let the fans enjoy it. I just don't see the sense behind it."
Air Force coach Troy Calhoun, chair of the rules committee, said in a statement the proposal was designed to protect players from risk of injury: "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."
But several coaches asked for evidence of increased risk to players.
"Is there any hard data, or just somebody saying that?" Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said. "If there was big concern with that, wouldn't the teams that practice fast be concerned with it? We don't have any more injuries because we practice fast."
In the proposed change to the targeting rule, the committee also made allowances for games without access to instant replay. In those cases, on-field officials would be allowed to review targeting calls during halftime and to potentially reverse the ejection.