Rulebook Wednesday: A Replay Rule That Must Be Reviewed

If you watch college football on a regular basis, you probably understand the use of instant replay in college football, but let’s “review” it anyway:

In the game of College Football, every play is supposed to be reviewed by an official up in the instant replay booth which is located up in the pressbox of every stadium. The basic idea of instant replay is as follows:

“The Replay Official may interrupt the contest by paging the game officials to stop the game before the next play starts. The criteria are:

  • There is reasonable evidence to believe an error was made in the initial on-field ruling.
  • The play is reviewable.
  • Any reversal of the on-field ruling, which can only result from indisputable video evidence, would have a direct, competitive impact on the game.

Once per game, each head coach may also call a timeout and challenge the ruling on the previous play before the next play starts. A coach must have at least one timeout remaining in order to challenge (teams receive three timeouts per half). If the challenge is successful and the on-field ruling is overturned, the team keeps its timeout and is allowed only one more challenge. If unsuccessful, the team loses its timeout and is allowed no more challenges.

After reviewing the play from available video angles, the Replay Official decides if the call should be upheld or overturned. If the call is overturned, the Replay Official provides the proper information to restart the game, such as the team in possession, the yardline where the ball should be placed, the correct down and distance, and the correct time on the stadium clock. Should there have been an official score change, the score will be changed again, resulting in the original score.”

Personally, I really wish the NCAA would adopt the NFL system, which allow coaches to challenge twice during any given game, provided they have a timeout to do so and are outside of the 2 minute mark of either half. Inside of the 2 minute mark, the replay booth will make the determination as to whether the play deserves a second look (as it does in every play of college). If the coach wins both challenges he gets a third challenge. As a recent addition, all scoring plays and plays which result in a turnover will be reviewed by the booth as well. With that said, I would love to see this adopted, but it seems like recent conversation within the football community has trended towards the NFL actually adopting the NCAA rules of replay, which in my opinion (due to personal preference within the general concept of each system) is worse.

So why not do that? Why isn’t the power of instant replay solely in the coach’s hands until the last 2 minutes of the game? I simply don’t understand giving the coach 1 challenge, when every play is supposed to be reviewed! I don’t disagree with giving the coach power, in fact if you’re understanding me I want them to have even more in this situation, but I’ve only ever seen 2 or 3 coaches actually make the call to challenge a play in college football, because most coaches feel a debatable call should and will be reviewed under the current setup without having to risk a timeout.

I mean I get it. The NCAA doesn’t want their officials to be scapegoats anymore. Before the replay system was readopted into the game there were far too many games being decided by blatantly bad calls that simply couldn’t be challenged, reviewed or questioned. The game without instant replay is subject to the human element, which includes make-up calls, general bad judgement, influence by the crowd, player or coach, a bad angle that doesn’t allow you to see the play clearly and any number of other variables. Replay is a must! It allows the game to be called with those variables in play and to correct obvious mistakes on the field that change the course of a ballgame. However, putting the ability to challenge or not challenge a play in the coach’s hands is more apt to prevent extra time added by the use of unnecessary replay, not to mention gives the coach all the power and nobody to blame for a missed replay opportunity.

Time and time again I see the clear-as-day play being reviewed when it simply doesn’t need to be reviewed. Get on with the game already! That same clear-as-day play becomes even more aggravating as a fan and I imagine as a coach, when a play that should be reviewed is ignored by the replay booth. A coach can feel screwed by the system if a play is called clearly incorrectly and he bets on the replay booth buzzing down instead of throwing his own challenge flag. Again, why throw away the timeout, if it’s close the booth is supposed to get it! I could go on and on, but the main thing here is I don’t like the way it is now. But that part of instant replay isn’t changing, probably ever. There are counter points to what I think about the situation so I’m going to step off of that soapbox.

But still replay can be better where it’s at now, so here’s a major tweak to instant replay that I think we really  must add beyond the shadow of a doubt in its current collegiate form: The ability to challenge a play after a spike ball to stop the clock within the final minute of any game, and when the offensive team has the ball with no time outs remaining. It just has to be dealt with. The rules state that a play is irreversible after the next play is run, no matter the situation in the game, but because of the failure of the booth to receive any replay opportunity of the previous play when the clock is ticking down towards zero, many plays that should absolutely be reviewed get missed because the rule closes the door. *As a side note here, there is no reason the defense shouldn’t get the same consideration for replay when the offense has the ball without a timeout remaining.

Here’s the thing: The team running out of time does not have the benefit of waiting to see if a referee made a mistake, they have to get the clock stopped. However it is the duty of the NCAA to uphold the spirit of the rules in a situation which compromises its own ability to attend to a missed call in a game changing situation. After all, the reason that the rule is in place is to make sure that their officials get the call right! There are many examples throughout college football that have made my point for me, but I have chosen this specific play from last season’s WSU/UTAH game.

At the 1:29 mark of this video, Washington State’s Marquess Wilson makes a flying catch on top of the goalline with time running out and WSU has no time outs remaining (which means they can’t call one to give the replay booth time to look at it and buzz down for a review). This obviously puts WSU at a competitive disadvantage due to the nature of the call, because the play is blown dead inside the one yard line and thus the clock continues to run, even though it may very clearly have been a game winning touchdown. They have to stop the clock, but the replay booth is supposed to review that type of play without question, every time. Once the next play commences, the officials are bound by the ridiculous rules of replay, even though the Cougs stop the clock in a must do situation by downing the ball.

It’s worth mentioning that I absolutely disagree with the call on the field, but don’t think it could be overturned unless there is a better angle to see the play. It also bears mentioning that if Utah had made the same exact play I would say all that I am saying without hesitation for their side. In my opinion, Wilson’s catch occurs across the plain of the goalline, making where he lands an absolute non factor in the play, as long as it is confirmed that he maintained full possession throughout the process of the catch. The ball is the only deciding factor in plays concerning the goalline, unless a part of the body which would make a player down touches the ground before the ball crosses the goalline. Also, if the play is called a touchdown, it gets called to replay 100% of the time. Again, in this situation, without a better angle they could not overturn either possible call without a better angle to confirm.

So ok, we know there was a chance it was a touchdown, so why didn’t we review it? Because the rules are not equipped to handle that particular situation. Yet, they should be, they have to be. If the referee missed the call on the field, the Cougars (or any team in a similar situation) fairly won the game and had it stolen. If the referee was correct, that’s fine too. Just leave the clock where it was after the downing of the ball and send them back out for the play that eventually happened anyways (which in this case was a game tying field goal). In any case t least we would’ve known that the play was fairly looked upon, preserving the spirit of the rule, and the decision was more than a split second miscue on the part of an official who clearly didn’t have a good look at the play. We need this for the betterment of the game.

Signed,

The Ref

 

 

 

 

 

 

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