He's at it again.
Chris Borland's sudden retirement has dominated the NFL news cycle this week - and it's now hit college football. Barry Alvarezissued a statement earlier Tuesday afternoon, and now his college coach has spoken with The Sporting News's Matt Hayes about... the need to curtail hurry-up offenses?
Surely you remember this time last year when Bielema was among a loud and vocal minority of coaches arguing in favor of a mandated 10-second delay between snaps, up until an unfortunate moment when he cited the death of Cal player Ted Aguto support his position. That pretty much killed off all the discussion. Until today.
“We have an obligation to do what’s right,” Bielema said. “I can’t understand how some guys can’t see that.”
Did Borland defend a high number of up-tempo offenses while playing for Bielema at Wisconsin? Well, no, he didn't. Did he do so in his one season with the 49ers? Not especially more than any other NFL defender.
Still, Bielema trudged on.
“We have to protect student athletes to extremes we never thought of before,” Bielema told Sporting News on Tuesday. “I just read a study that said players in the no-huddle, hurry-up offense play the equivalent of five more games than those that don’t. That’s an incredible number. Our awareness as a whole has to increase.”
While Bielema's logic holds - that more plays equals more opportunity for injury - the data doesn't. To date, the most definitive pace-of-play study was done by Dave Bartoo of CFB Matrix. Bartoo found that the Big 12, the most rapid-fire conference in college football, actually had the fewest starts lost to injury of any league, and that the SEC led all conferences with starts lost to injury.
So, yes, Bielema's arithmetic of more plays equals more opportunity for injury makes sense, but so does the counter-point: linebackers colliding with running backs 40 times a game is a greater recipe for injury than a defensive back ankle tackling a wide receiver. Which just so happens to be the style of play Bielema has employed for nine seasons now.
Until Bielema can present hard and fast data to prove his point, he'll continue to look like college football's political opportunist using the topic of the day to push his point of view.