AUBURN, Ala. — Gus Malzahn has always been defined by his relentless, attacking style.
That didn’t change Tuesday, as Auburn’s coach came out swinging against criticism that the hurry-up, no-huddle offensive system he and others around the country favor poses a safety hazard to defensive players. Malzahn said he has spoken to Air Force coach Troy Calhoun — who serves as the chair of the NCAA’s football rules committee — “numerous times since last Thursday.”
In those conversations, Malzahn has made one point perfectly clear.
“This is not a rule-change year,” Malzahn said. “For a rule to be changed, it has to be under the umbrella of health and safety. And the fact (is) that there’s zero evidence, documented evidence, that it is hazardous on the pace of play, only opinions. What I asked him to do is move this to next year where it is a rule-change year.”
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When asked what Calhoun’s response has been during their discussions, Malzahn declined to lend any insight.
“Right now, we’re instructed to place our comments to the NCAA (proposal) committee,” he said. “So that’s what we’re in the course of doing.”
Malzahn also said Calhoun has been the only person he’s reached out to since the rule change proposals were announced last Wednesday. The rules committee recommended that defenses be given the chance to substitute within the first 10 seconds of the 40-second play clock — with the exception of the final two minutes of each half. In turn, this would mean offenses can’t snap the ball until the play clock hits 29 seconds. If they snap the ball before that, they would be flagged five yards for a delay of game penalty.
The fact this proposal surfaced last week caught Malzahn off-guard, as the topic was never discussed during the AFCA convention last month. Going forward, he hopes to see those on each side sit down and vigorously discuss the issue.
“I really feel like it’s important that next year, when it’s a rule-change year, that a healthy debate with both sides and both opinions. I think that would be very useful,” he said. Once again, I don’t think we need to lose sight of the fact that the only way you can change a rule is the health and safety of our players. And it’s got to be documented, and there’s got to be proof. And there’s not.”
The proposal now heads to the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel, which is set to review it March 6. If the panel ratifies it, the change would be in place for the 2014 season.
Would this force Malzahn to alter his offense?
“We're not going to change our approach,” he said. “ It goes back to what I said earlier. Any rule change regardless (of what it is), you always prepare and once it happens you have to coach it differently.”
As one would expect, Malzahn said he “would like to think” the proposal won’t pass, and that it will be tabled until further deliberation can take place next year. But make no mistake: Malzahn said he would “do everything in my power” to defend his coaching philosophy. And he’s not just doing so for himself.
If the proposal goes through, Malzahn believes football as we know it will change forever.
“It changes the dynamics of traditional football in a lot more ways than anyone would think,” he said. “Not just if you get behind by a couple touchdowns and it’s late in the game, (because) you couldn’t properly come back. But the way you coach your quarterbacks. (And) because it wouldn’t just be 10 seconds. You got a 5-yard penalty. It would just change the dynamics of football.”