Ever since the NFL adopted instant replay in 1986 the college football community, including administrators and coaches in the Big Ten, have asked the question: Could an NFL-style replay system help the college game? And each time the question was asked, the answer generally has been: "Yes, but…."
COSTS AND FAIRNESS:
Two important factors that limited serious discussion about implementation of college football replay. The NFL has spent millions of dollars in hardware, software and labor to institute replay at the professional level, revenue that is simply not available to all institutions playing college football. Outcomes aside, there were many purists who believed that technology should not interfere within the human element of competition: mistakes will continue to be made by coaches, players and officials, and are simply an intrinsic part of the game, they would say
But in an era with so many games televised-The Big Ten Conference has had 90 percent or more of its intraconference games televised each of the last five seasons-and with mistakes and missed calls put under the microscope and scrutinized and replayed multiple times, there is now more incentive than ever to get the call right. If a television replay shows indisputable evidence that an official's call (or non-call) was in error, then there should be a mechanism in place to immediately correct the error. The Big Ten in February 2004 gained approval from the NCAA to experiment on a one-year trial basis with such a procedure.
The goal of the Big Ten's football television replay plan? To:
See-----Review-----Change (if warranted).
Only specific plays are reviewable (see elsewhere in this publication), and only those plays where the absolute standard of indisputable video evidence is met can a play be overturned.
The Big Ten Conference replay system will allow for specific types of officiating mistakes to be immediately reviewed and corrected once the standard of indisputable video evidence is met.
The replay system will not guarantee that all officiating mistakes are identified and corrected.
The Numbers from Last Year
In May 2003, the Big Ten Administrators Council unanimously approved the collection of data during the 2003 Conference football season using television replay under mechanics developed by Coordinator of Officials David Parry.
During the 2003 season, data was collected from all 68 televised home football games. The Conference averaged approximately .65 replays per game - 42 replays in 68 games. The rate of reversal was 54%, 23 of 42 reviews resulted in overturn. In 54% of the games where data was collected, no plays were deemed reviewable. On a base of 10,800 plays, 8-12 (of the aforementioned 23) could have been viewed as having a significant effect on the game.
REPLAY IS NO PANACEA:
Instant replay is not intended to be an instant, infallible answer to correcting officiating mistakes. It is, however, an example of how technology can help officials make sure that mistakes made on the field are corrected in a timely manner.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT INSTANT REPLAY
Q. Will the instant replay procedures used by the Big Ten be the same as those of the NFL?
A. Even though the desired outcome of replay is the same-getting the play right-the manner in which football replay will be used in the Big Ten is significantly different than any method the NFL has previously used. The mechanics of Big Ten replay will be explained in further detail elsewhere in this publication, but simply stated: Neither game officials nor coaches will have the ability to stop game action in order to have the immediately completed play reviewed. All such stoppages and reviews will be conducted by a Technical Advisor in a secure area of the press box.
Q. What is the intended purpose of the replay system?
A. To provide the Technical Advisor with the wherewithal to immediately review plays, and where there is indisputable video evidence, correct specific types of officiating mistakes. What the replay system will NOT do is guarantee that all officiating mistakes are identified and corrected.
Q. Which games will have instant replay?
A. The NCAA last winter voted to allow the Big Ten to experiment on a one-year basis instant replay in Big Ten intraconference games only. Home interconference games may also have replay upon the approval of the visiting team.
Q. What calls are subject to review under instant replay?
A. The following plays are subject to review under instant replay:
| a.Scoring Plays, including a runner breaking the plane of the goal line. |
| b. Pass complete/incomplete/intercepted at sideline, goal line, end zone, and end line.|
| c. Runner/receiver in or out of bounds.|
| d. Recovery of loose ball in or out of bounds.|
| a. Pass ruled complete/incomplete/intercepted in the field of play.|
| b. Touching of a forward pass by an ineligible receiver.|
| c. Touching of a forward pass by a defensive player.|
| d. Quarterback (Passer) forward pass or fumble|
| e. Illegal forward pass beyond the line of scrimmage.|
| f. Illegal forward pass after change of possession.|
| g. Forward or backward pass thrown from behind the line of scrimmage.|
| a. Runner ruled not down by defensive contact.|
| b. Forward progress with respect to first down.|
| c. Touching of a kick.|
| d. Number of players on field.|
Q. Who can initiate a review of an official's call?
A. Only the Technical Advisor serving as the review official for the game. Neither the game officials nor the coaches may ask for a review.
Q. Who will be making the decision if a call is overturned or not?
A. The Technical Advisor will have the sole authority to change a call, or no call, on the field. Unlike the NFL model, officials working Big Ten games will not have the ability or capacity to view the replay(s).
Q. How will the Technical Advisor know that on-field call by an official will need to be changed?
A. Unless in the judgment of the Technical Advisor there is indisputable video evidence that the call on the field was incorrect, then no stoppage of play will occur. If there is indisputable video evidence that an official's call on the field was incorrect, then the Technical Advisor will notify the referee to shut the play down while the call is further reviewed and corrected.
Q. What will be the source of the video for replays?
A. All reviewable video will come direct from the television network broadcasting the game (ABC Sports, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN Plus Television) and no other source. The Big Ten has had 90 percent or more of its 44 intraconference games televised during the past five seasons. If an intraconference game will not be televised, then the Big Ten will arrange for video exposure of the game in order to provide the same, consistent coverage throughout the Conference season.
Q. Who are the Technical Advisors?
A. Technical Advisors are former college and/or NFL officials who observe, evaluate and rate game officials' performances and mechanics during games. They report and are rated and evaluated by Dave Parry, the coordinator of officials.
Q. How long will instant replay be a rule?
A. The NCAA Football Rules Committee has approved instant replay review as a one-year experimental rule for use in the Big Ten Conference only. Following the 2004 season, the Football Rules Committee will review the success of the rule and decide whether it should be added as a permanent rule change.
Q. Can other conferences or independents use instant replay this year if both teams agree?
A. No. The NCAA Football Rules Committee approved the experimental rule for use in Big Ten stadiums only.
Q. Will the length of games be affected?
A. Big Ten games averaged about 3 hours and 12 minutes last year. Big Ten postseason research showed an average of one play per game may be reviewable. Even at an average of 90 seconds per review, the average game would still be less than 3:15, and some reviews may take place mostly or entirely during commercial breaks that would have taken place anyways.
Q. When can a play be reviewed?
A. Only until the ball is put into play on the next play. At that point, the previous play cannot be changed.
Q. Is there a time limit on how long a play can be reviewed?
A. There is no time limit…only the standard of 'indisputable video evidence'. If the television replay does not allow the Technical Advisor to apply this standard in a manner that changes the call on the field, then the game plays on.
Q. Briefly describe the mechanics of how a play is reviewed?
A. The Technical Advisor will signal the officials on the field that he is reviewing a play, and that game action should be halted. The Technical Advisor will then view replays for as long as necessary to determine whether indisputable video evidence exists for the ruling on the field to be acknowledged as incorrect. Once reviewed the Technical Advisor will notify the referee of the correct call, and time, down and distance, who will announce such to the crowd. Communication between the Technical Advisor in the press box and the referee on the field will be by radio (with a backup phone line).
Q. What if a team is using a hurry-up offense and the Technical Advisor doesn't have enough time to view a replay to decide whether or not the play is reviewable?
A. The decision to stop the game must be made before the ball is snapped. Similar to the NFL, if a team is in a hurry-up offense, it may curtail the ability to completely review some plays.
Q. Is the Technical Advisor limited to the number of plays that can be reviewed?
Q. Will there be sufficient camera angles to review plays from anywhere on the field?
A. The replay process will be limited to what is viewable on television. Sometimes a particular angle that might be better will not be immediately available.
Q. What happens if TV comes back from a commercial break after Team A kicks a PAT and shows a better replay that the Team A runner actually did fumble the ball before he crossed the goal line?
A. The play still stands as called on the field, since there was no indisputable video evidence to the contrary at the time the touchdown call was made. However, if Team B has called a timeout prior to the PAT, and TV returns from a commercial break with the better replay showing the Team A runner fumbling before crossing the goal line, then the play would be subject to review by the Technical Advisor.