Monday, July 25, 2005


Instant Replay Comes to College Football

The inexorable march towards becoming more like the NFL continues

Unfortunately, instant replay is coming to Division I-A college football this season in 9 of the 11 major conferences. (Via The Sports Economist.)

As an avid football fan, I have plenty of experience watching games which feature instant replay. The NFL has had it for the better part of 20 years and the Big Ten implimented it just last year. To say I dislike it is an understatement.

When a controversial call is made in games featuring replay, players and coaches sometimes just stand around watching the stadium video board or waiting for officials to stop the game. Until the next play starts, viewers are left wondering if what just happened actually counted. Even after the next snap, doubt lingers. Replay not only disrupts the orderly flow of the game, it too often destroys one team's momentum at a crucial point. This is especially true during the last 2 minutes of a half, when utterly irrelevant reviews initiated by replay officials cause needless delays.

The replay regime used by the NFL, which plays too big a role in game-day strategy, and that used by the Big Ten, both seem as if they were designed primarily to repel or minimize bad publicity. The Big Ten acknowledges as much:
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 problem is that neither system examines every officiating call (or non call) and nothing is actually corrected immediately, as both are practally impossible. In fact immediacy - the most appealing quality (for me, anyway) of live sports - is greatly diminished, if not quite destroyed, by the mere existence of replay.

Replay has proven beneficial in that it has shown that mistakes and missed calls by both college and professional officials are remarkably rare. Though replay can and does correct the odd mistake, no system is ever perfect since compromises must be made. As far as I'm concerned, the general intrusiveness of replay compromises too many other important aspects of the game. It simply isn't worth the cost.

Alas, I know I'm in the minority. Replay is exceedingly popular and thus here to stay. If it has to exist, it should only be initiated by designated officials located in a properly equipped replay booth who have 45 seconds to reslove the matter. This would keep its impact on play and stragegy to a minimum.


The Sport Economist and College Football Resource weigh in.


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