Gus Malzahn isn’t happy about a new NCAA rule that will limit teams to using 20 headsets in a game.
Fifteen of those allowed to use headsets can be coaches and support staff.
Malzahn, Auburn's head football coach, thought this new rule could affect the college game in a negative way.
“The 20 headset rule is a joke. There’s no doubt about it,” Malzahn said, speaking at the Southeastern Conference's spring meetings. “That’s got the ability to hurt our game. That’s a really big deal.”
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Malzahn believes coaches across the sport have crafted a certain structure to communicate with each other during games. By limiting this communication, teams will have to figure out different ways to approach in-game coaching.
Asked how many headsets Auburn used in a given game previously, Malzahn grinned and said “a lot.” That seemed to be the theme for most of the other SEC head coaches.
With 20 headsets allowed, it can be assumed the head coach and 10 assistants will all wear one. That leaves four graduate assistants to put a headset on during games.
The remaining five headsets can be utilized by players. Malzahn believes this rule change was made in response to the growing staff sizes seen in college football.
“We have a lot of people who are not football coaches making decisions for football,” Malzahn said. “The fact is if we had more football coaches involved in the decision making it would be better for the game.”
Malzahn isn’t the only coach from Alabama who hates the headset rule. Alabama head coach Nick Saban said a lot of help he receives on game days comes from interns who chart information while listening in on a headset.
Limiting the number of support staffers able to use a headset can stifle the development of young coaches, too, Saban said.
“I don't know who is driving all this stuff but it's kind of like mouse manure when you're up to your ears in elephant doodoo,” Saban said.
While Malzahn and Saban feel strongly about the headset rule, most of the other coaches weren’t too vocal about it. Georgia head coach Kirby Smart wasn’t sure how many headsets his team used in games a year ago but said his program will adjust to the rule accordingly.
“Whatever the rule, we’ll follow it,” Saban said. “I know it’s a new rule now so I think it’s a big deal – everybody’s making a big deal about it. We’ll deal with whatever the rules are that we get and be competitive about it.”
While there is no denying the size of Alabama and Auburn’s staffs, the opposite case can be made for Vanderbilt. Vandy head coach Derek Mason joked that if an opposing team had 16 assistants crammed in a coaches’ box, he had eight.
That said, Mason noted that it will be an adjustment period for everyone when it comes to the new limitations on how coaches can communicate on game days.
Then again, by capping the number of headsets coaches can use, the playing field evens out for everyone.
“It’s going to be a little rough to deal with,” Mason said. “But you know what? It at least puts everyone on the same page. Everyone is dealing with the same issues.”