Nick Saban

Saban: “I had nothing to do with idea of the 10-second rule”

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While his name has been prominently mentioned as one of what appears to be a small group of coaches in favor of the controversial rule proposal that would somewhat throttle high-octane offenses, Nick Saban has yet to speak publicly on the imbroglio.  Until now.

Prior to speaking at a Georgia Minority Coaches Association event Friday night, the Alabama head coach met with reporters and made it perfectly clear that he “had nothing to do with the idea of the 10-second rule.”  Saban, who was reportedly permitted to speak in front of the NCAA’s Football Rules Committee that forwarded the proposal to the NCAA Rules Oversight Panel for further consideration, added that he doesn’t even “necessarily have an opinion on the 10-second rule” before going on to give his opinion on why the proposal needs further research.

Essentially there are three reasons behind Saban’s call for further research, which some would call nothing more than thinly-veiled support.

The first and most-stressed reason, as the company line goes for those in favor of a proposal that would penalize an offense if it snaps the ball before 10 seconds have run off the play clock, is player safety.  The higher the tempo an offense runs, the theory goes, the more opportunity there is for players — specifically those on the defensive side of the ball — to wear down, thus making them more susceptible to injury.

“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,” Saban said in quotes transcribed by al.com‘s Joel Erickson. “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.”

Three teams at the FBS level in 2013 — Texas Tech (90.3), BYU (89.9) and Cal (88.7) — averaged more than 88 plays per game per TeamRankings.com.  A total of 20 teams averaged more than 80 per game, while 33 averaged 70 or less.  The Tide’s 65.9 plays per game were 116th (out of 125 teams), with Arkansas and Bret Bielema, a vocal foot-in-the-mouth proponent of the proposal, at 121st with their 64.7 plays per game.

Saban said the 10-second proposal was born out of the committee studying “12 games of three fastball teams: Oregon, Auburn, Texas A&M and I forget the fourth one, it might have been Baylor, I’m not sure.”  That study found the new rule would’ve impacted those teams an average of four times per game, meaning that narrow focus group snapped the ball prior to 10 seconds running off the game clock around four times per game.  Saban used that limited data to once again shift the focus to the player-safety issue.

“I don’t think anybody was trying to change what they do or how they do it,” Saban said of the Fast Four, “but the fact that they can get on the line and snap it quick, you can’t substitute. All right. So, that becomes an eventual player safety issue and I think if you ask the guys philosophically, a lot of them that run the offense, they say we want to wear the defense down and get the defense tired. Well, you get the defensive players tired they are going to be more susceptible to getting injured.”

That study by the committee and the rule’s supposed limited impact on uptempo offenses is rather skewed, however, as Baylor, which was fifth in plays per game, was the only one of the four that finished in the Top 30 in the country in that category.  Noted “fastball” teams Oregon, Texas A&M and Auburn were 39th (76.6), 61st (73.8) and 62nd (73.8), respectively.

Most of the opponents of the new rule proposal, including all four of those teams used by the committee, have cited no hard scientific data to support that this is a player-safety issue.  Saban, though, had an answer for that as well.

“Even though  there is no scientific data to prove this, there was a study at Virgina Tech in 2003,” Saban said. “All right, they did sub-concussive head traumas on eight players for 10 games. Those players played 61 plays a game and had 18 sub-concussive hits in a game, so they played 61 plays a game for 10 games.

“So, I’m saying if you’re playing nose guard, three-technique, defensive end, offensive tackle, offensive guard, if you played 88 plays in a game, there’s no scientific evidence but there is some logic that says the guy would have more hits. So, that’s a player safety issue that I think people need to sorta look at.”

In addition to the player-safety issue, Saban also cited officials being allowed to dictate the tempo of the game — he lauded the NFL for allowing its officials to control the pace of the game, not coaches — and “any competitive imbalance created by the pace of play,” the latter of which most people feel is the crux of Saban’s support for the proposal call for additional research.

The NCAA Rules Oversight Panel is expected to vote yea or nay on the proposal this coming week, with most predicting the proposal will be shot down.  At the very least, the proposal will be tabled for further discussion in 2015 as it’s not an issue of player safety and thus not up for immediate implementation.

I think this is more of a style of play issue than a player safety (issue),” Georgia head coach Mark Richt said at the same event. “I think if you could teach offensive players to play six plays in a row, you can teach defensive players to play six plays in a row.”

Following dismissal of Art Briles, how will Baylor handle coaching decision in 2016 and beyond?

ARLINGTON, TX - JANUARY 01:  Baylor Bears head coach Art Briles looks from the sideline against the  Michigan State Spartans during the first half of the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic at AT&T Stadium on January 1, 2015 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Sarah Glenn/Getty Images)
Photo by Sarah Glenn/Getty Images
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Baylor made the decision Thursday to indefinitely suspend head coach Art Briles with the intent to terminate his contract. In simpler terms, he’s fired but likely has a few legal hurdles for Baylor to clear before that is legally finalized. With the coaching decision coming in late May, it looks very likely Baylor is about to embark on a path previously traveled by Ohio State. That ended up working out pretty well for the Buckeyes, so perhaps there is a glimmer of hope for the Bears in the long run as the program looks to crawl out from underneath the dark cloud that floats above it today.

The severity of the consequences facing Ohio State in late May 2011 and the Baylor program today has no comparison, there should be some similarities to what happens next for Baylor. Jim Tresselresigned” from his post as head coach of the Buckeyes on May 30, 2011. At the time, Tressel was facing a two-game suspension for lying during an investigation regarding Ohio State players and impermissible benefits. As a result, Ohio State was faced with a late search for a new head coach with little time to spare for the 2011 college football season. Rather than get involved in an awkwardly timed coaching search, Ohio State named Luke Fickell the interim head coach for the 2011 season, while the national search could continue to lure in the biggest fish possible. That would end up being Urban Meyer, and things have worked out well in the years to follow.

A similar situation also played out at Arkansas when Bobby Petrino, although on another set of circumstances not comparable to the Baylor scandal. Petrino was fired by Arkansas earlier in the spring as well, with his removal as head coach coming on April 10, 2012 after lying about the details of his motorcycle accident and relationship with an Arkansas staff member. Arkansas managed to hire a new head coach for the 2012 season, naming John L. Smith the full-time head coach. However, Smith was let go after a 4-8 season that fall and ultimately replaced by Brett Bielema.

Given the timing of the coaching change in Waco, it would be expected the Bears will name a current member of the coaching staff their interim coach for the 2016 season, even though the findings of an external review of the university and athletics department made some strong accusations of various members of the coaching staff. But Baylor has little choice for what already is taking on the look of a potentially lost season for the Bears. Regardless, football will be played and somebody has to lead the team on the sidelines. Who that interim coach will be remains unknown, but given the information in the report it is also expected Baylor will wipe the slate clean with its next permanent head coach.

Odds are there will be no coach of the caliber of Meyer to come swoop in and restore pride in the program in short time. Baylor has a number of issues to address as a university, athletics department and a football program. The Baylor job may still be seen by coaching candidates as a better job as it once traditionally was, but any coach coming in for the Baylor job will be entering a pretty dark period of time, and that does not even account for any response the NCAA may eventually have on the situation.

Report says Baylor coaches met with sexual violence victims and impeded Title IX procedures

Oklahoma State v Baylor
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The details coming out from the independent review of the Baylor football program are beginning to shed light on a number of concerns floating around the football program, which ultimately led to the decision to remove Art Briles as the head coach of the Bears. Among the damning allegations made by an external review from Pepper Hamilton is the information showing members of the Baylor coaching staff choosing not to report incidents of sexual violence involving football players, meeting directly with those filing complaints of sexual abuse and handled their own investigations outside of university policy to discredit the complainants and denied them the right to a fair investigation by the university.

These two paragraphs from the report put it all together in what is clearly not a good look for the Baylor program;

Baylor failed to take appropriate action to respond to reports of sexual assault and dating violence reportedly committed by football players. The choices made by football staff and athletics leadership, in some instances, posed a risk to campus safety and the integrity of the University. In certain instances, including reports of a sexual assault by multiple football players, athletics and football personnel affirmatively chose not to report sexual violence and dating violence to an appropriate administrator outside of athletics. In those instances, football coaches or staff met directly with a complainant and/or a parent of a complainant and did not report the misconduct. As a result, no action was taken to support complainants, fairly and impartially evaluate the conduct under Title IX, address identified cultural concerns within the football program, or protect campus safety once aware of a potential pattern of sexual violence by multiple football players.

In addition, some football coaches and staff took improper steps in response to disclosures of sexual assault or dating violence that precluded the University from fulfilling its legal obligations. Football staff conducted their own untrained internal inquiries, outside of policy, which improperly discredited complainants and denied them the right to a fair, impartial and informed investigation, interim measures or processes promised under University policy. In some cases, internal steps gave the illusion of responsiveness to complainants but failed to provide a meaningful institutional response under Title IX. Further, because reports were not shared outside of athletics, the University missed critical opportunities to impose appropriate disciplinary action that would have removed offenders from campus and possibly precluded future acts of sexual violence against Baylor students. In some instances, the football program dismissed players for unspecified team violations and assisted them in transferring to other schools. As a result, some football coaches and staff abdicated responsibilities under Title IX and Clery; to student welfare; to the health and safety of complainants; and to Baylor’s institutional values.

The report goes on to say the Baylor football staff took it upon themselves to handle discipline internally rather than let the university take control.

“Football coaches and staff took affirmative steps to maintain internal control over discipline of players and to actively divert cases from the student conduct or criminal processes,” the report says.

The internal discipline process of the Baylor football program is not unique to Baylor, as many programs have their own internal disciplinary system within a football program, but a lengthy list of recommendations made to the university include educating coaches and staff members with reporting Title IX violations and more according to university policy, which itself will surely be revamped as a result of this report. It was also recommended the university and athletics department establish a clear disciplinary consequences for personnel who fail to follow reporting and documentation protocols.

Baylor regents confirm decision on Art Briles and outline Title IX failings

WACO, TX - OCTOBER 17:  Head coach Art Briles of the Baylor Bears looks on as the Bears take on the West Virginia Mountaineers in the second half at McLane Stadium on October 17, 2015 in Waco, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
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“There are significant concerns about the tone and culture within Baylor’s football program as it relates to accountability for all forms of student athlete misconduct,” a statement from the Baylor Board of Regents said in a released statement Thursday afternoon, following the news head coach Art Briles had been dismissed amid controversy. No interim head coach for the Baylor football program has been named at this time.

An independent and external review of Baylor’s institutional response to Title IX and other compliance issues conducted by Pepper Hamilton revealed some key findings to support the decision to remove Briles as head coach of the Big 12 program, and puts many other aspects with the football program and athletic culture moving forward into question.

In addition to confirming the dismissal of Briles as head coach of the football program, Baylor has also removed Ken Starr from the role of president of the university effective at the end of May. Former dean and professor at Baylor David Garland will take on the role of interim president of Baylor until a more permanent replacement can be found. Baylor technically classifies Briles’ status as an indefinite suspension with the intent to terminate contract, which is likely a mere legal procedure. A number of other members of the administration and athletics department have been dismissed as well, but those names will not be named publicly.

According to a released statement from the Baylor Board of Regents, the key findings outlined were;

  • The University’s student conduct processes were wholly inadequate to consistently provide a prompt and equitable response under Title IX; Baylor failed to consistently support complainants through the provision of interim measures; and in some cases, the University failed to take action to identify and eliminate a potential hostile environment, prevent its recurrence or address its effects.

  • Actions by University administrators directly discouraged some complainants from reporting or participating in student conduct processes and in one instance constituted retaliation against a complainant for reporting sexual assault.

  • In addition to broader University failings, Pepper found specific failings within both the football program and Athletics department leadership, including a failure to identify and respond to a pattern of sexual violence by a football player and to a report of dating violence.

  • There are significant concerns about the tone and culture within Baylor’s football program as it relates to accountability for all forms of student athlete misconduct. 

  • Over the course of their review, Pepper investigated the University’s response to reports of a sexual assault involving multiple football players. The football program and Athletics department leadership failed to take appropriate action in response to these reports.

“We were horrified by the extent of these acts of sexual violence on our campus. This investigation revealed the University’s mishandling of reports in what should have been a supportive, responsive and caring environment for students,” said Richard Willis, chair of the Baylor Board of Regents. “The depth to which these acts occurred shocked and outraged us. Our students and their families deserve more, and we have committed our full attention to improving our processes, establishing accountability and ensuring appropriate actions are taken to support former, current and future students.”

“We, as the governing Board of this University, offer our apologies to the many who sought help from the University.  We are deeply sorry for the harm that survivors have endured,” said Ron Murff, chair-elect of the Baylor Board of Regents. “Baylor’s mission to educate men and women for worldwide leadership and service by integrating academic excellence and Christian commitment within a caring community remains our primary imperative. The Board has taken decisive action to ensure the University’s priorities are aligned with our unyielding commitment to that mission.”

You can read the full report of the findings of fact HERE for a more detailed look at what was discovered at Baylor.

Baylor dismisses Art Briles as Bears’ head football coach

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On Memorial Day in 2011, Ohio State stunned the college football world by announcing the dismissal of Jim Tressel as the Buckeyes’ head coach.  Nearly five years to the day later, and with another Memorial Day fast approaching, Baylor has reportedly offered up a stunner of its own.

Under fire for their handling of allegations involving sexual assault allegedly committed by a handful of football players over the better part of a decade, Baylor announced that Art Briles is out as BU’s head football coach. The Briles dismissal comes two days after reports first began to surface that BU president Ken Starr was on the verge of being ousted as well.  Starr will become Chancellor, while Athletic director Ian McCaw has been placed on probation.

The university issued a press release announcing the decisions.

“We were horrified by the extent of these acts of sexual violence on our campus. This investigation revealed the University’s mishandling of reports in what should have been a supportive, responsive and caring environment for students,” said Richard Willis, chair of the Baylor Board of Regents. “The depth to which these acts occurred shocked and outraged us. Our students and their families deserve more, and we have committed our full attention to improving our processes, establishing accountability and ensuring appropriate actions are taken to support former, current and future students.”

“We have made these decisions, because, above all, we must safeguard our students and our campus,” said Willis. “We must set a new course to ensure the leaders of the University place a premium on responding effectively and with sensitivity to those impacted by the tragedy of interpersonal violence.”

“We, as the governing Board of this University, offer our apologies to the many who sought help from the University.  We are deeply sorry for the harm that survivors have endured,” said Ron Murff, chair-elect of the Baylor Board of Regents.

Prior to Briles’ arrival in Waco in 2008, the Bears hadn’t had a winning season 1995 (7-4) and had won 10 or more games just once (1980) in over 100 years of football.  Just in the past five years, Briles’ Bears won at least 10 games four times, including each of the past three seasons.  In the 25 years before Briles arrived, the Bears went to six bowl games; in eight years under Briles, the Bears went to six bowl games.

Overall, Briles finishes his BU career with a 65-37 record — and one gigantic stain on his once-sterling résumé.

Obviously, we’ll have more of this developing story throughout the day.