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Gazette Premium Content Proposed rule change has landed Air Force coach Calhoun in national spotlight

By Brent Briggeman Updated: February 18, 2014 at 6:10 pm

Two years ago, when Troy Calhoun took over as chair of the college football rules committee, his wife, Amanda, had one question for him - why would you do that?

On Tuesday, as Calhoun faced national media over what has become a firestorm of controversy over the "10-second rule" that his committee has proposed, it was easy to tell he wished he had listened to his wife.

The rule would prohibit the offense from snapping the ball until 10 seconds had run off the play clock. The justification for the rule is that it would allow defenses an opportunity to sub for exhausted players, therefore reducing the risk of injuries.

Coaches of uptempo offenses have launched into an uproar this week, as the rule has entered the discussion phase before facing a review from the NCAA's playing rules oversight panel on March 6.

Though most teams don't snap the ball prior to that 30-second mark, the threat of the snap limits how defenses can prepare - and changing that rule could take away what has become a key strategic component of the game.

Calhoun, however, said strategy was not considered as part of the discussion - though in-person testimony from non-committee members like Alabama coach Nick Saban, an outspoken opponent of the hurry-up offenses, has led many coaches to question the sincerity of the proposed rule. No pro-uptempo coaches spoke to the committee and only one trainer, from Army, represented the medical community.

"Is there a legitimate safety concern? If not, there should be no rule," Calhoun said. "Let's find something that's definitive in regards to safety and make sure it's not popularity driven or anything like that."

Calhoun said other options were considered to address safety for defenses facing hurry-up offenses - including adding timeouts, implementing the rule only on certain downs and adding "substitution timeouts" that would be shorter than typical timeouts and not lengthen games.

Most of the rules that have been adopted during Calhoun's tenure have been safety related, most notably the targeting rule which now results in an ejection.

Calhoun admitted to sounding "like a broken record" on Tuesday, but he said that rules would continue to be made if conclusive data suggest that player safety can be enhanced. He said the 10-second rule was sent forward only with the understanding that more information would be brought forward from a group from the University of North Carolina over the next two weeks that could shed more light on the issue.

The rules meeting took place just days after a California player died during a workout and Calhoun said he is still influenced by the death of 49ers linemen Thomas Herrion that occurred shortly after a game against Denver during Calhoun's time on the Broncos' staff.

Calhoun took issue with coaches who would not consider player safety as the top priority.

"If as a person that's really, really not in your makeup then you're going to struggle big-time as a leader in whatever capacity that may be, especially as a coach," he said.

Opponents say health isn't a factor in this case.

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn told The Associated Press that there's "zero documented evidence" that uptempo offenses lead to more injuries and has asked Calhoun to push this discussion off until next year when more studies can be completed and a "healthy debate" can take place.

Calhoun has one more year left in his term as rules committee chairman. It has clearly become a powerful position - one that has brought scrutiny.

"Why change our sport at the peak of its popularity?" Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy asked on Twitter.

Calhoun said issues like this aren't necessarily black and white.

"There's no perfect science to it because one of the neat things I do think as a part of college football is the various ways that people operate," Calhoun said. "There are some unique and special aspects that are involved with college football that need to be preserved, and I don't think more and more rules are the way to go. To make more rules for the sake of making more rules, no sir."

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