Since the introduction of the replay system of reviews of penalties and other situations in Southeastern Conference (and all other major conferences), there have been two notable consequences, neither of which was intended:
Based on coverage of Alabama games in these seasons since replay officiating was begun in 2005, the level of on-field officiating has deteriorated. On-field officials appear to be not worried about a call knowing that the review will correct it. About 25 per cent of reviewed plays are overturned – including perhaps the most critical, targeting fouls.
The other effect is replay consultations make football games last longer. In the past, stadium jumbotrons have been able to show the play being reviewed, but not the same views that the replay officials get. One improvement coming this year is that the stadium crowd will get to see those views.
And so will three officials in a viewing room at SEC headquarters in Birmingham.
Another layer has been added to the replay system. The SEC will implement a collaborative process for instant replay beginning with the 2016 season, following a unanimous vote of the league's athletics directors and approval by the SEC Executive Committee and finalized at this year’s spring meeting in Destin, Fla.
In February, the NCAA Football Rules Committee approved a request submitted by the SEC to allow conferences to use a collaborative process for instant replay on an experimental basis. Under this experiment, personnel operating from SEC Headquarters will assist the in-stadium Instant Replay Officials when replay decisions are made.
The technology needed to support the collaborative replay process and deliver the games in real time to the SEC Video Command Center was successfully tested during an SEC spring football game in April.
"Our goal is to continue to use the best-available resources to support correct outcomes when instant replay is used," said SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey. "We believe the collaborative effort, which will involve additional officiating experts during replay reviews, will enhance the Conference's football officiating program. I believe this update to the instant replay review process will better support football officiating in the SEC through the use of technology."
Here is a series of questions and answers provided by the SEC regarding the introduction of a collaborative replay system:
Q-1: What is the goal in altering the way instant replay is conducted in the SEC?
A: By increasing the number of trained personnel focused on a given play, the goal is to increase the accuracy of the replay process and enhance football officiating.
Q-2: Will the new collaborative replay system slow down the instant replay process when a game is stopped for instant replay review?
A: The goal is to improve consistency and achieve a higher level of accuracy without slowing down the instant replay process.
Q-3: Will the process be centralized or collaborative? What is the difference?
A: While there will be an element of both, the model will be collaborative in nature. There will be a centralized video room dedicated to instant replay that will have real-time direct communication to the in-stadium replay booths of all 14 member institutions.
Q-4: Where will this centralized video room be located?
A: The collaborative replay system will be operated from the SEC Video Center at SEC Headquarters. Three individuals from the SEC officiating program will be in this Video Center focused solely on supporting the collaborative replay process.
Q-5: In what games will this new collaborative replay system be utilized?
A: This newly created replay process will be used at all contests played at SEC campus stadiums (both conference and non-conference), as well as the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta and SEC games played at neutral sites, which include Texas A&M vs. Arkansas in Arlington and Florida vs. Georgia in Jacksonville.
Q-6: How does the instant replay process or booth protocol change at the SEC institutions?
A: The replay official at each venue will still have primary responsibility to stop a game for review and will conduct the replay process as before. The difference moving forward will be the added element of the replay official being in constant contact with the three replay officials at the SEC Video Center during the review to assist in determining the correct outcome for the play in question based upon football rules and replay protocol.
Q-7: Who will serve in the instant replay official roles at the SEC Video Center?
A: All SEC on-field and instant replay officials are eligible to fill these positions. There will be some variance week to week among the individuals assigned to the replay role.
Q-8: Will targeting calls and decisions be subject to review in the SEC Video Center via the newly established collaborative replay system?
A: All reviewable plays, including targeting, will be subject to this new instant replay process.
Q-9: Who will make the final instant replay decision if the replay official at the stadium and the three officials in the SEC Video Center are not able to agree?
A: The instant replay official at the playing venue, based upon information developed in collaboration with the replay officials in the SEC Video Center, will ultimately make the final determination of a play's outcome.
Q-10: Will the SEC Video Center replay officials have the ability to stop a game for a review?
A: The three officials in the SEC Video Center will be able to immediately alert the replay official at the venue if they believe the game should be stopped for further review of a play. It will still be the responsibility of the instant replay official at the venue to alert the officiating crew on the field to stop the game for a review.
Q-11: What will be the role of SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey and SEC Coordinator of Football Officials Steve Shaw in the new replay process in the SEC Video Center?
A: Commissioner Sankey and Steve Shaw will not participate in the instant replay process that takes place at the SEC Video Center or at the football-playing venue. Commissioner Sankey will continue his regular travel to games during each week of the football season. Coordinator Shaw will continue to oversee and evaluate all elements of the SEC Officiating program on a weekly basis, including the new collaborative replay process.
Q-12: Are there guidelines or restrictions for serving as an instant replay official in the SEC Video Center?
A: The same guidelines that govern on-field and instant replay officials will be used in determining the instant replay officials in the SEC Video Center. Any perceived conflicts of interest (alma mater, etc.) will deem that individual as ineligible for assignment to officiate a game where the conflict of interest is deemed to exist.
Q-13: What role will the SEC Video Center play in this new instant replay process?
A: The SEC Video Center will continue to serve as the main viewing, evaluation and observation location of all SEC football contests that take place, and will continue to fulfill an important role in the game day communications, social media and event management areas of SEC Football. The three replay officials and the replay equipment will be integrated into the current structure of the SEC Video Center.
Q-14: What sort of technical enhancements must be made to the 14 school instant replay booths and the SEC Video Center to support this new process?
A: Each SEC stadium will receive a complete technology upgrade this summer. Improved technology will be added to the SEC Video Center to support the collaborative instant replay process and enable the three instant replay officials in the SEC Video Center to view games in real time. Instant replay officials in the SEC Video Center will have views from every available camera angle for use in making decisions, which will be consistent with camera angles available for viewing by the in-stadium replay official.