Monday, February 20, 2006

Let's Go to the Tape | by Jay

Did you see this release from the NCAA last week? They standardized instant replay rules across all conferences. Booth officials will still have the power to review any close play, but they also added the ability for each team to challenge a call once per game.

After allowing instant replay to review a game official's call on the field for two seasons on an experimental basis, the committee approved one procedure for all institutions and conferences that choose to use it. The procedure, which was used by the majority of Division I-A conferences last season, calls for the replay official in the press box to review all plays on the field and stop the game. The official may only stop play if the play is in the list of reviewable plays and has a direct, competitive impact on the game...

The committee also decided to allow each team one challenge during the course of the game. The head coach may request a review by signaling for a timeout. If the challenge overturns the call on the field, the coach retains the right to challenge later in the game and is not charged a timeout. If the call on the field is not reversed in the challenge, the team is charged a timeout and the coach does not have the ability to challenge again in the game.
I like it. Seems to straddle the divide between the system we used in most of our games last year, where coaches were powerless to call for a replay (except by calling a timeout so the booth official could, you know, think it over for a while), and the NFL's system, where the entire onus is on the coaches to throw the red flag and make a challenge. This way, the booth will still be calling the majority of the challenges, but there will be a recourse in case they miss something. (And we know Charlie is a big proponent of the replay challenge.)

For consistency, a script the referee will use when reporting the results of a replay stoppage was included as part of the rule. Additionally, a visiting non-conference institution is not able to opt out of using replay if the host institution chooses to implement the system (that means you, Poodle).

With all this standardizing of referee activity going on among the conferences, you kind of wish the NCAA would just bite the bullet and do away with conference-affiliated referees altogether. There's a pretty interesting thumbtacked post over on NDN from a former college ref on some of the inside dirt of officiating a game; item #1 on his to-do list is the elimination of conference ties:
For obvious reasons, these men work in conferences that are located near where they live. In other words, there aren't any guys living in Los Angeles that work football games for the SEC. Does this create bias? Hell yes it does, especially in a non-conference game. It's a simple case of not biting the hand that feeds you.
(Speaking of eliminating bias, here's a proactive move that ND and Kevin White could accomplish all on their own. Next time we play say, USC at home, don't hire Pac 10 refs to work the game. This habit of getting home-conference refs to work games for their own conference teams at ND Stadium is absolutely infuriating. Even if the refs were 100% unbiased in their calls, at the very least you still have the appearance of impropriety, especially on close calls that go in the other team's favor. I don't think the Bush Push would have been called by any conference crew, but just the fact that it was Pac-10 refs on the field makes the moment all that more bitter and tainted. Eliminate the conference affiliation by hiring neutral-party refs. But I digress.)

The rules committee also agreed on a few more changes this year in an effort to shorten games:

• Shortening halftime from 20 minutes to 15 minutes (both teams can still agree to keep it at 20 minutes if they choose, to account for band shows and such). While this won't affect the Jim Collettos of the world (who once famously said, "Halftime adjustments are overrated"), for guys like Charlie it's closer to the rush-rush break of the NFL than 20 minutes of luxury he's gotten over the past year.

• Starting the clock on kickoffs when the foot of the kicker touches the ball, not when the returning team touches the ball.

• Shortening the length of the kicking tee by one inch, which hopefully will result in fewer touchbacks.

• Starting the clock when the ball is ready (instead of the snap) on change of possession.

Still, they missed the easiest way to keep the clock running: after first downs and out-of-bounds, start the clock when the ball is set (as opposed to the snap), as they do in the NFL. This would entail adopting the 40-second play clock that the NFL uses (which starts at the end of the previous play), and probably some rule about stopping the clock in the final two minutes of the game (currently the NFL stops the clock on out-of-bounds with two minutes in the half and five minutes in the game).

In any case, the average NFL game has about 20 fewer plays and runs about 3:06; college games go 3:26, with some going over the four-hour mark. The bowls are interminable: with extended TV timeouts and halftime, the Fiesta Bowl was the shortest at 3:41...but if the NCAA were really serious about shortening the games, they'd reduce the number and length of TV timeouts. And you didn't see any mention of that in the NCAA release, did you?