Cal AD blasts Bielema for referencing player death
California Athletic Director Sandy Barbour says it was "beyond inappropriate" for Arkansas coach Bret Bielema to reference the death of Golden Bears player Ted Agu while defending his position on the NCAA rule proposal to slow up-tempo offenses.
Bielema brought up Agu while speaking to reporters Thursday night and in an interview Friday with SI.com. Bielema supports the proposal to require offenses to wait until 10 seconds runs off the 40-second play clock before snapping the ball. He says not allowing defenses time to substitute can put players in danger, especially those with the genetic condition sickle cell trait, which can which can alter red blood cells during strenuous exercise and cause muscles to break down.
Agu, 21, died during a conditioning workout Feb. 7. No cause of death has been released. There was a memorial service held for Agu in his hometown of Bakersfield, Calf., on Friday. Burial services were scheduled for Saturday.
"Bret Bielema's comments about our Ted Agu are misinformed, ill-advised and beyond insensitive," Barbour tweeted Friday. "Using the tragic loss of one of our student athletes as a platform to further a personal agenda in a public setting is beyond inappropriate."
California and coach Sonny Dykes use an up-tempo, no-huddle offense.
Arkansas released a statement from Bielema soon after Barbour's tweet was posted.
"It was brought to my attention that remarks I made yesterday evening while discussing a proposed rule change were unintentionally hurtful," Bielema said. "I am very passionate, as we all are, about the serious nature of protecting the well-being of student-athletes, and earlier today I was interviewed by SI.com writer Andy Staples to explain my stance on the proposed rule. In my press conference last night, I referenced information about the tragic loss of a life of a student-athlete. My comments were intended to bring awareness to player safety and instead they have caused unintended hurt. As a head coach who works with young individuals every day, the passing of Ted Agu is a reminder to us all how short and precious life is. I would like to extend my deepest condolences and sympathy to the Agu family, Coach Sonny Dykes and to the University of California family."
Bielema has publicly questioned whether the hurry up, no-huddle offenses are good for the game, and he was at the meeting in Indianapolis last week when the NCAA football rules committee passed the proposal that has caused many coaches who are against it to cry foul. Bielema is not a member of the rules committee, but he was representing the American Football Coaches Association at the meeting. Alabama coach Nick Saban also spoke at the meeting in support of slowing down the pace of the game, though he is not on the committee.
The backlash has been severe. Numerous coaches, including South Carolina's Steve Spurrier, Arizona's Rich Rodriguez, Washington State's Mike Leach and Auburn's Gus Malzahn, have come out against the change and have questioned whether the proposal has more to do with trying to contain fast-paced offenses than player safety.
This is a non-change year for NCAA football rules, but exceptions can be made for rules having to do with player safety. A 5-yard penalty would be assessed to offenses that snap the ball before 10 seconds ran off the 40-second clock.
The rule is currently in a so-called comment period. Coaches can electronically give their opinions on the proposal to the NCAA.
NCAA coordinator of officials Rogers Redding said Friday he and the committee members will likely dig into the comments next week. At times, comments have caused the committee to change a proposal.
The proposal is scheduled to be discussed March 6 by the NCAA playing rules oversight panel, which must approve all rule changes.
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