College football has a slew of big-picture problems that will not be easy to solve. But one issue that can be addressed and solved in a timely manner is the problem of defensive players faking injuries in order to slow down up-tempo offenses. This has been a problem for several years, and unlike many of the other issues facing the NCAA, it’s one that could be solved without much hassle.
Up-tempo offenses have taken over college football in recent years. They took off in large part because of Oregon’s success under Chip Kelly. For the most part, they’ve been good for the game. They lead to more scoring and help to reduce the time in between snaps.
Meanwhile, defensive coaches have tried everything they can think of to slow down these offenses and get them out of rhythm. One of those strategies is to have players fall to the ground with injuries or cramps in order to break up the flow of the offense and give all the defensive players a much-needed rest. At the same time, they break up the flow of the game and cause games that already extend well beyond three hours to last even longer.
To be fair, this is a crafty and effective tactic that defensive coaches employ. Unfortunately, it’s also against the rules to fake an injury. Perhaps more importantly, it’s also completely against the spirit of the game. It’s a practice that does not benefit the game and turns fans off to college football. It’s also something that the NCAA needs to crack down on.
The problem is that football has become hypersensitive to injuries, and rightfully so. The downside of that is that referees are hesitant to call players for feigning injuries. Accusing a player of faking an injury when he’s not actually injured would be a public relations nightmare for both the officials and the NCAA. This enables coaches to continue to use injuries as a strategy for slowing down offenses that are on a roll. It also means the practice will not cease unless the NCAA steps in and does something about it.
“Anytime it comes down to injuries or anything like that they’re going to always side (with) the players and they’re not wrong in doing that. We need to protect the game.
“The way you protect the game is by protecting the players. I think those teams will be able to do that over and over and over again.”
Dino Babers, Syracuse head coach
The solution to the problem, while not completely fool-proof, is a rule that states that any injured player must sit out the remainder of the current drive, or perhaps even the rest of the quarter or half. Under the current rules, players can sit out just one play and then return. This makes it easy to fake an injury to slow up the opposing offense and return to the field just one play later.
— Josh Martin (@JoshMartinTV12) September 9, 2017
Such a rule change wouldn’t prevent players from faking an injury, but it would offer slightly more of a penalty if they were to do so. Players would no longer be able to sit out just a single play before returning to the game. If nothing else, it would make defensive coaches think twice before imploring players to sit on the field and fake a cramp in order to slow down an offense that has found a rhythm.
“There’s nothing the officiating community can do about it, and there may be nothing the rules committee can do about it. But it’s a matter of integrity in the game. One reason there’s a statement in the rule book about feigning an injury is to make people aware of the need for integrity among sportsmen.”
Rogers Redding, National Coordinator of Officiating.
Medically, this new rule could be justified. With football becoming oversensitive about injuries, it makes sense to hold out players longer than one play to make sure they’re fit to return to the game. To be frank, if you need the help of a professional trainer to get off the field, it seems unlikely that you would be ready to return after missing just one play. The hypersensitivity to injuries throughout football more than justifies being able to force a player to sit out the rest of the drive.
Admittedly, this is not the perfect solution to preventing players from feigning injuries. It’s up to the coaches and players themselves to respect the game enough to not fake injuries regardless of the tactical advantage they may gain.
But until players decide to stop faking injuries on their own, the NCAA needs to step in with a rule that can at least curb this growing problem. Of all the problems facing college football, this is actually one that can be fixed.