Bret Bielema sounds off on 10-second substitution rule, ‘death certificates’ and ‘flopping’

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn and Arkansas coach Bret Bielema are on opposite sides of the debate over the proposed 10-second defensive substitution rule. (Todd Van Emst/Auburn University)

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn and Arkansas coach Bret Bielema are on opposite sides of the debate over the proposed 10-second defensive substitution rule. (Todd Van Emst/Auburn University)

INDIANAPOLIS – The most outspoken critic of hurry-up style offenses in college football fired off on Thursday.

Arkansas coach Bret Bielema, the proponent of what he calls “Normal American Football,” spoke publicly for the first time since a proposed NCAA rule change that would allow defenses 10 seconds to substitute on every play was announced Feb. 12.

In talking with reporters in Searcy, Ark. at a meeting of the White County Razorback Club, Bielema said he was confident the proposed rule, which he reportedly lobbied for during a meeting of the NCAA rules committee, will pass its March 6 vote. The Associated Press reports Bielema said the inability to substitute an injured player between plays could lead to injury or death.

“If one of those players is on the field for me, and I have no timeouts, I have no way to stop the game,” Bielema said, according to the AP. “And he raises his hand to stop the game, and I can’t do it. What am I supposed to do?

“What are we supposed to do when we have a player who tells us he’s injured?”

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn is among the leading voices in opposition to the proposed rule. On Tuesday, Malzahn said there is “absolutely zero evidence…only opinions” that pace of play jeopardizes player health and safety. Malzahn has asked NCAA football rules committee chairman and Air Force coach Troy Calhoun to delay a vote on the rule until 2015, a rule change year, to allow for a “healthy debate” among college football coaches.

Asked what evidence he has to support the notion that up-tempo offenses are a threat to player safety, Bielema referenced the recent death of California football player Ted Agu, who had sickle cell, during a training run.

“Death certificates,” Bielema said, per the AP. “There’s no more anything I need than that.”

Lastly, Bielema took a veiled shot at Auburn as well, appearing to reference the alleged “fake” injury of linebacker Anthony Swain during the game between the Tigers and Razorbacks last season.

Last year’s meeting also had the “swinging gate-gate” video controversy, an alleged discrepancy between Auburn’s game tape and the TV broadcast of an extra point attempt.

Auburn hosts Arkansas in the season opener on Aug. 30.