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Malzahn wants ‘healthy debate’

AUBURN, Ala. -- Auburn’s Gus Malzahn has joined a long list of college football coaches opposing the proposed 10-second rule.

“It changes the dynamics of traditional football in a lot more ways than anyone would think,” Malzahn said. “Not just if you get behind by a couple touchdowns and it’s late in the game, you couldn’t properly come back. But the way you coach your quarterbacks. Because it wouldn’t just be 10 seconds. You got a 5-yard penalty, so it would probably be more of the four or five seconds into that.”

The NCAA football rules committee proposed a new rule last Wednesday that would force offenses to wait 10 seconds before snapping the ball to allow defenses time to substitute. Snapping the ball before the 40-second clock reached 29 seconds would result in a 5-yard penalty for delay of game.

Malzahn said he’s spoken with Air Force coach Troy Calhoun, chairman of the committee, numerous times since Thursday. Calhoun cited player safety as the main reason for the proposed rule -- more plays mean more chances for an injury.

“The bottom line: 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 that there’s absolutely zero evidence, documented evidence, that 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, that we can hear both sides and have a healthy debate on moving forward with the rules.”

An article by College Football Matrix contradicted the assumption that hurry-up offenses cause more injuries. In compiling data from the 2012 season, CFBMatrix found that the 20 fastest teams in college football, those averaging 83.12 plays per game, lost a total of 143 starters to injury. The 20 slowest teams, averaging 65.85 plays per game, lost a total of 151 starters to injury.

“I’ve been running a fast-paced offense since 1997, I’ve never felt like on either side that it was a health and safety issue on offense or the other side,” Malzahn said.

While not voting members, Alabama coach Nick Saban and Arkansas coach Bret Bielema, both outspoken critics of uptempo offenses, attended the meeting. Saban spoke to the committee.

Gus Malzahn's Press Conference

Many coaches were caught off-guard by the proposed rule change, and have expressed outrage.

Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez called it “ridiculous.” Baylor coach Art Briles called it “insane.” Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury called it “crazy.” Washington State coach Mike Leach called it “shameful” and “manipulative” for coaches that are pushing for this rule to hide behind player safety.

Malzahn said he was also caught off-guard, and believes the issue deserves a healthy and open debate.

“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.”

The NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel is scheduled to consider the rule on March 6. If it passes, it would be in effect for the 2014 season. Malzahn said he and other coaches are submitting comments to the panel.

More from Malzahn’s meeting with the media Tuesday:

On if he would welcome a gay football player at Auburn...

“No doubt”

On cornerback signee Kalvaraz Bessent...

“Nothing has changed. We are still gathering information and once I make a decision I will let you know.”

On OL Jordan Diamond, who recently underwent arthroscopic surgery on his knee...

“That was a carryover from the year and we just felt like it was important to go ahead and do that now, so he could be healthy for summer and healthy for the season. He battled through the season not at 100 percent and so we just felt like it was important to do that.”

On the battle at left tackle this spring...

“Coach Grimes, is going to open it up to the two guys -- Shon Coleman, Patrick Miller, Leff will get an opportunity. Whoever wins the job. Avery Young. I'll just say this: we're going to have competition at every spot. Spring is a great team for coaches to kinda mix and match, and put people in different positions. The good thing is we have some depth up front going into this year, which is always good, especially coming off a year that we were pretty good up front.”

On filling the support staff positions...

“Right now we do have a little flexibility. There will be some of those spots filled. I don't know at this point if I'll fill them all, but I'm very encouraged and happy for the guys that moved on. They did a wonderful job here, helped us get to the national championship game. They're all very good people and they're very good coaches, so we wish them nothing but the best.”

On late cornerback signee Joseph Turner...

“He's a very talented young man that has the ability to play corner, play safety, good cover skills, can run. He is a guy that we feel like has a lot of potential.”

GUS MALZAHN VIDEO INTERVIEW

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