What's perhaps most slimy about the NCAA is its facade of athlete advocacy.
Undoubtedly, hundreds of schools and thousands of coaches really do have athletes' best interests at heart. But the NCAA as an entity is far more concerned about power and money, yet it plays the part of concerned surrogate parents.
The “Saban Rule” is the latest example. Yes, a lesser one, but still. It's the same kind of veiled hustle that exemplifies the way NCAA operates. And if it votes to adopt this proposal, it will again confirm the organization's underhandedness.
The gist: The NCAA Football Rules Committee is considering a rule that requires offenses to wait 10 seconds before snapping the ball. Basically, the offense would be required to allow the defense to adjust.
The pitch: The rule is designed to protect players. Against fast-paced offenses, defenders are playing more snaps. Of course, more snaps is more exposure to injury. And the NCAA is all about preventing injuries.
But if you believe that, I'd like you to donate to my new movie project that is sure to win an Oscar next year.
This is not about player safety. This is about crippling the up-tempo offenses because they level the playing field for the lesser talented. This is about throwing a bone to NCAA powerhouses, such as Alabama, who thrive on defense. That's why South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier dubbed it the Saban Rule, after Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban.
“I really don't necessarily have an opinion on the 10-second rule,” Saban told AL.com, then gave his opinion. “I think there are three issues that need to be researched relative to pace of play. The first being player safety. When you look at plays that are run, and a team averages 88 plays, and we average 65 at Alabama, that's 20-something plays more a game over a 12-game season.
“That adds up to four more games a year that guys have to play. I think it's wear and tear and tougher to prepare players when you have to play against a hurry-up offense because of the way you have to practice.”
The other two reasons he gave for supporting the rule are that it would allow referees to control the tempo of the game and that pace of play creates a “competitive imbalance.”
No, speeding up play helps to alleviate the competitive imbalance. Speeding up the game is often the plan of attack for the overmatched. In basketball, if you're being dominated by a bigger team, you push the tempo. In baseball, if you're facing a dominant pitcher, you want less time between pitches, so you stay in the batter's box between pitches and do what you can to get base runners — speeding up his pace.
In football, when your opponent is bigger and stronger — programs such as Alabama, which gobble up a lot of the top recruits — you spread 'em out and pick up the pace.
This rule would take away a major tool from the programs that don't get the best talent and aren't as deep as the powerhouses. Fast-paced offenses allow for more schools to compete at higher levels, which threatens the dominance of those higher-level schools.
If the NCAA were really concerned about player safety, why is concern for defensive players the only reason given for this proposed rule? And why doesn't it prevent players from playing too many consecutive possessions?
Oh, wait. That doesn't help the powerhouses built on defense and running the ball.
If the NCAA really were concerned about player safety, why did it expand its men's basketball tournament to 68 teams? And with all the extra games created by its conference basketball tournaments, the extended season threatens player safety.
The Saban Rule is not about protecting players. That is never the primary motive of the NCAA, no matter how its leaders spin it.
They say they don't pay athletes because they want to preserve the integrity of the game, as if it has nothing to do with not wanting to cough up some of the billions they make in television deals. They didn't want to switch to a playoff system in football because it adds extra games to the season, as if they weren't trying to preserve the ultra-lucrative bowl system.
It's easy to respect those who are at least upfront about their motives. There's no guessing what 50 Cent is about with an album called “Get Rich or Die Tryin'.” But the NCAA repeatedly hides behind the aura of higher ideals to obscure ulterior motives.