Edsel Of Ideas

I've always believed that if you want to do something, you should pay enough to do it right. Invest enough money and time to properly support and supply a new idea–and properly train those who will use it–and chances are good it will succeed. Otherwise, your new idea could wind up in the scrap heap, next to New Coke, Crystal Pepsi and the Edsel.

I sure hope there's room on that heap for the Big 10 Conference's latest idea–instant replay.

Done properly, instant replay can give college football a major boost of accountability.

Done the way the Big 10 wants to, it will set a very, very poor precedent for the rest of college football and replay's future as a whole.

Maybe you haven't heard about this convoluted plan; if so, hang with me for a short refresher course.

For the past five years, the Big 10 has toyed with instant replay in its games; last season, for example, it tested an instant replay system in 68 league games. The league says it reviewed 42 plays, only 23 of which would have resulted in call changes. Out of 10,800 total calls, the conference says, only 12 would have impacted the outcome of games.

According to press reports, the system will consist of a single "technical advisor" who can stop play and call for a review–only if he has video evidence that a change could be made.

He won't have exclusive camera angles, either. He'll only get the angles whatever TV network is covering the game chooses to show, be that one or two or three or four.

And, like the NFL, he has only until the snap of the next play to stop for a review.

If the ball is snapped and ESPN shows a receiver's foot out of bounds at the back of the end zone, changing the Big 10 title, well ... tough cookies, eh?

"If it's conclusive, they will change the play," Michigan Coach Lloyd Carr recently told the Michigan Associated Press sportswriters' convention. "But if the guy gets distracted ... reaches for a cup of coffee ... he might miss something. And nobody else can call it to his attention."

Wow, great system, huh?

In this system, coaches have no input on when a review can be made, unlike the NFL. Iowa's Kirk Ferentz or Ohio State's Jim Tressel can't throw a red flag on the ground for a challenge like their pro counterparts.

It's a dangerous system. If by some miracle of technology the system works, other college conferences–like the Southeastern Conference–will line up to adopt the plan for their games, changing the face of college football.

And that's a scary proposition. I have no problem with instant replay, if used properly.

Every Sunday, I plop myself in front of the tube for NFL football. I've seen countless games changed for the better thanks to referees staring into those bizarre hooded cameras, deliberating while TV shows us the split-screen of anxious coaches waiting for the verdict.

The NFL refs get the play right eventually, 95 percent of the time.

That's because the NFL invested countless millions of dollars in time, testing and tweaking of the system. Instant replay even went dark for a while before returning in its current, limited-challenge, time-limit form.

The Big 10 appears unwilling to make such a huge investment. It is relying on television for its angles instead of popping for multi-million dollar video systems replete with high-tech, high-speed equipment and 12 video screens.

Heck, any living room with a big-screen and a TIVO system beats the stuffing out of what they've got.

The league says schools can't afford the equipment, which rings mighty hollow to me. Anyone who has seen a Division I university's film room knows how much money is invested in tape, film and video machines designed to customize game film for any member of the roster.

But they can't get a decent replay machine in Ohio Stadium? Yeah, right.

Please, Big 10 officials, spend some decent money and do it right. The first time one of your "advisors" muffs a call, your coaches will be all over you and the system, stumping for changes that you can't make until season's end.

I want instant replay to work–it can enhance college football and make it a more enjoyable game. But if this cheap, bastardized system works in the Big 10 and spreads through college football, it could ruin replay forever.

Why not come correct, right from the start?

If you're going to do replay, Big 10, do it right.

The college football world will thank you later.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Greg Wallace is the Alabama beat reporter for the Birmingham Post-Herald and writes this column for BamaMag.com

BamaMag Top Stories