This season, the Big Ten will institute a trial of instant replay reviewing of close calls made by on field officials. Other NCAA conferences may choose to adopt the system if the Big Ten trial is successful.
Clearly, JoePa, who had been complaining loudly about blown calls costing the Lions close games, exerted some influence over the decision by the conference.
The replay review will be done upstairs, in the booth. If one of the replay officials sees something on the field that is questionable, heâ€™ll communicate wirelessly with the official timer on the field. There will be no whining for reviews by the coaches on the fieldâ€“this is completely in the hands of the officials. In that way and a couple of others, the NCAA review procedure will differ from that of the NFL. One other big difference is that the review will take place entirely in the booth and will use only the regular TV coverage for replays. On the other hand, both the NFL and NCAA require that a review be initiated before the next play begins. They also both require that the replay official sees indisputable visual evidence before a call can be overturned.
Is this good or bad? Surely, we have all seen bad callsâ€“decisions by officials on the field that adversely affect the eventual outcome of a game that could have, at best, gone either way. I often hear that over time, bad calls even out. This may be true, but over what length of time? Longer than one game, to be sure. Statistical clustering of lots of bad calls that go against a particular team in a single game can certainly change the outcome of that game. In a 13 game season, one game can mean the difference between a national champion and an also-ran or, at the other end of the scale, between getting into a bowl and not getting into a bowl. So, Iâ€™m saying that itâ€™s a good thing, right? Not so fast, you who dine on my cousins on Thanksgiving! Those of you who know the Turkey know that he equivocates.
My main concern about this imposition of technology is the effect it will have on the flow of the game. Already, we have to deal with obnoxiously long and frequent TV commercial breaks. Now, we will add the occasional 90-second (which becomes four minutes) break for a play review. If we feel the pain and boredom sitting on our duffs, just think of how those players must feel standing around during these breaks with sore and cramping muscles. The Big Ten does not think that replay will add signifcantly to the burden. Their pilot program last season yielded the subjective statistics that out of about 10,800 plays, 50 would have been reviewed. This is fewer than one per game. So, I guess it is worth a try. Other conferences will be watching, and I hold no doubt that next year, we will see a broad scale implementation of this system.