For this, the SEC is to be commended.
There were plenty of bad calls (like the hair-trigger call of an excessive celebration penalty against Vanderbilt when it scored to draw within a point of Florida last year and was poised to go for a potential game-winning two-point play, or the DeMeco Ryans fumble recovery returned for touchdown against Mississippi State that was blown dead and ruled an incomplete pass), but none that replay could have done anything about.
According to Charles Bloom, the chief spokesman for the Southeastern Conference, there were 66 stoppages in 77 Southeastern Conference games in 2005. Seventeen of the stoppages for review resulted in an overturn.
So this year instant replay is here to stay, in much the same form as the 2005 version. There is only one addition in 2006, coming courtesy of an NCAA rule that will allow the head coach of each team to challenge the ruling on the field once per game.
This is in addition to the SEC replay rules – not in place of them.
The biggest challenge for the SEC officials as far as replay is concerned is in letting everyone know what's going on when and if a play is being reviewed (for that to happen, they must know what's going on themselves).
A prime example of first-year confusion happened in that Alabama-Mississippi State game. Referee Terry Brown looked thoroughly confused twice during that game when he consulted the replay, and it appeared that his crew had marked two difference spots on the field without ever clearly signifying to the crowd or us watching in the press box what the initial ruling was.
The SEC's replay rule explicitly states that no game official may request that a game be stopped and a play be reviewed, but one could have drawn that impression from the actions of the officials.
Bloom wasn't in Starkville and couldn't speak on that specific instance, but said, "The communication of calls to the crowd has become more important for us. That has evolved and I think it's a work in progress and it will be a point of emphasis for us."
The SEC will continue what Bloom referred to as a PR review. He said even when the replay officials (usually retired SEC refs) might be convinced that a ruling is correct, without having to stop play, they will sometimes stop the game to satisfy fans and participants that they've got it right.
"There are so many eyes on the game, it goes a long way in justifying a call was correct," Bloom said.